Obama expands combat role for U.S. in Afghanistan as ban on night raids is lifted

President Obama has quietly authorized combat operations for the American military in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 deadline.  They will likely participate in operations known as "night raids," which were discontinued two years ago because they were so controversial.

New York Times:

The government of the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has quietly lifted the ban on night raids by special forces troops that his predecessor had imposed.

Afghan National Army Special Forces units are planning to resume the raids in 2015, and in some cases the raids will include members of American Special Operations units in an advisory role, according to Afghan military officials as well as officials with the American-led military coalition.

That news comes after published accounts of an order by President Obama to allow the American military to continue some limited combat operations in 2015. That order allows for the sort of air support necessary for successful night raids.

Night raids were banned for the most part in 2013 by President Hamid Karzai. Their resumption is likely to be controversial among Afghans, for whom any intrusion into private homes is considered offensive. Mindful of the bad name that night raids have, the American military has renamed them “night operations.”

American military officials have long viewed night raids as the most important tactic in their fight against Taliban insurgents, because they can catch the militant group’s leaders where they are most vulnerable. For years, the Americans ignored Mr. Karzai’s demands that the raids stop.

Two Afghan army generals in some of the country’s most active combat zones — Helmand and Kandahar Provinces in southern Afghanistan — said in interviews on Saturday that they welcomed the lifting of a ban on night raids, and the possibility of American support for them, adding that they expected the raids to resume in 2015.

Some 200 Afghan special forces troops have recently been transferred to Kandahar and have begun training in night raid techniques, according to Maj. Gen. Abdul Hameed, commander of the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps in Kandahar.

General Hameed welcomed a continuation of intelligence sharing, air transportation and close air support from American forces past the end of the year.

“We need strong backing of foreign forces during night raids, the helicopters and night vision goggles, GPS equipment, and better guidance,” he said. “Now we have noticed free movement of the Taliban, they are moving around at night and passing messages and recruiting people for fighting, and the only solution to stop their movement is night raids.”

The president finally listened to his generals on the ground in Afghanistan, who have been telling him that the new Afghan government won't last long against the Taliban without American and Western support.  As American forces have withdrawn, the Taliban has grown stronger – especially in the northern province of Kundujz:

The Kunduz crisis is unfolding late in a year that has already included numerous Taliban advances. A number of provinces, including Nangarhar, Helmand and Kapisa, have become testing grounds for a changing war, where the Taliban have been more willing to gather in large groups to confront Afghan forces now that coalition air support has been scaled back.

The result has been a huge rise in Afghan casualties. In new figures released this week, the Defense Ministry said that 950 soldiers had been killed from March to August, the worst rate of the 13-year war. The police, the first line of defense against most attacks, have registered even more devastating numbers: 2,200 dead during the same period, also a record.

Kunduz Province is a vital but chaotic crossroads in northern Afghanistan, and even when the Taliban have posed a lesser threat, criminal networks have kept it tumultuous.

But security there deteriorated significantly in 2008 and 2009, amid a heavy Taliban push as coalition forces concentrated their efforts in the south and east. In a regional troop surge that began in 2010, the United States deployed about 3,500 troops in northeastern Afghanistan and kept up operations there through 2011.

But the gains made during that period seem to have all but evaporated in the past few months.

The Afghan army will have to stand on its own two feet eventually, but you have to wonder how ready they are to assume security for the entire country.  The steep rise in casualties may show that they're willing to fight, but how good are they?

President Obama wants to negotiate with the "good" Taliban and bring them into the government.  That's not working out too well.  President Ghani does not want to play the role of Kerensky to Mullah Omar's Lenin.

It looks like the Afghan army and police have their work cut out for them.

President Obama has quietly authorized combat operations for the American military in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 deadline.  They will likely participate in operations known as "night raids," which were discontinued two years ago because they were so controversial.

New York Times:

The government of the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has quietly lifted the ban on night raids by special forces troops that his predecessor had imposed.

Afghan National Army Special Forces units are planning to resume the raids in 2015, and in some cases the raids will include members of American Special Operations units in an advisory role, according to Afghan military officials as well as officials with the American-led military coalition.

That news comes after published accounts of an order by President Obama to allow the American military to continue some limited combat operations in 2015. That order allows for the sort of air support necessary for successful night raids.

Night raids were banned for the most part in 2013 by President Hamid Karzai. Their resumption is likely to be controversial among Afghans, for whom any intrusion into private homes is considered offensive. Mindful of the bad name that night raids have, the American military has renamed them “night operations.”

American military officials have long viewed night raids as the most important tactic in their fight against Taliban insurgents, because they can catch the militant group’s leaders where they are most vulnerable. For years, the Americans ignored Mr. Karzai’s demands that the raids stop.

Two Afghan army generals in some of the country’s most active combat zones — Helmand and Kandahar Provinces in southern Afghanistan — said in interviews on Saturday that they welcomed the lifting of a ban on night raids, and the possibility of American support for them, adding that they expected the raids to resume in 2015.

Some 200 Afghan special forces troops have recently been transferred to Kandahar and have begun training in night raid techniques, according to Maj. Gen. Abdul Hameed, commander of the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps in Kandahar.

General Hameed welcomed a continuation of intelligence sharing, air transportation and close air support from American forces past the end of the year.

“We need strong backing of foreign forces during night raids, the helicopters and night vision goggles, GPS equipment, and better guidance,” he said. “Now we have noticed free movement of the Taliban, they are moving around at night and passing messages and recruiting people for fighting, and the only solution to stop their movement is night raids.”

The president finally listened to his generals on the ground in Afghanistan, who have been telling him that the new Afghan government won't last long against the Taliban without American and Western support.  As American forces have withdrawn, the Taliban has grown stronger – especially in the northern province of Kundujz:

The Kunduz crisis is unfolding late in a year that has already included numerous Taliban advances. A number of provinces, including Nangarhar, Helmand and Kapisa, have become testing grounds for a changing war, where the Taliban have been more willing to gather in large groups to confront Afghan forces now that coalition air support has been scaled back.

The result has been a huge rise in Afghan casualties. In new figures released this week, the Defense Ministry said that 950 soldiers had been killed from March to August, the worst rate of the 13-year war. The police, the first line of defense against most attacks, have registered even more devastating numbers: 2,200 dead during the same period, also a record.

Kunduz Province is a vital but chaotic crossroads in northern Afghanistan, and even when the Taliban have posed a lesser threat, criminal networks have kept it tumultuous.

But security there deteriorated significantly in 2008 and 2009, amid a heavy Taliban push as coalition forces concentrated their efforts in the south and east. In a regional troop surge that began in 2010, the United States deployed about 3,500 troops in northeastern Afghanistan and kept up operations there through 2011.

But the gains made during that period seem to have all but evaporated in the past few months.

The Afghan army will have to stand on its own two feet eventually, but you have to wonder how ready they are to assume security for the entire country.  The steep rise in casualties may show that they're willing to fight, but how good are they?

President Obama wants to negotiate with the "good" Taliban and bring them into the government.  That's not working out too well.  President Ghani does not want to play the role of Kerensky to Mullah Omar's Lenin.

It looks like the Afghan army and police have their work cut out for them.