Pentagon: US Forces Participate In Only 10 Percent Of Special Ops Against The Taliban

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Military advisers actively participate in only around 10 percent of Afghan special forces operations against the Taliban, according to a U.S. spokesman for the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

A vast majority of Afghan special operations against the Taliban are “completely independent of NATO,” Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland told reporters during a press briefing Thursday. Cleveland is head of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, and is stationed at Ft. Bragg.

“They do it by themselves,” added Cleveland, saying, “they don’t need any assistance, whatsoever.”

While Cleveland’s assertions are largely reflected in the data, approximately 20 percent of those operations do have some kind of NATO assistance. Half of them are referred to as “enabled operations,” where NATO forces aid in mission planning, logistics, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The remaining 10 percent are referred to as “advise” operations, and involve NATO, as well as U.S. forces, accompanying the Afghans.

“Those are the examples where you may NATO members that go outside of the wire … and then do accompany Afghan forces as they move towards an objective,” said Cleveland.

Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Thompson, a Green Beret who was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) Tuesday, was participating in an “advise” operation when he was killed.

Afghanistan’s special forces have been particularly busy as of late, which has required them to travel extensively across the country to fight off Taliban threats on a nightly basis. The month of August represents the height of the Afghan fighting season, the time when the country’s typically brutal weather conditions are ideal for Taliban-led, guerrilla-style combat. Currently, Taliban forces are engaged in the so-called “Operation Omari,” a mission to seize territory in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, which holds special significance in Taliban lore.

Cleveland explained that the Taliban’s goal is to seize and hold terrain in Helmand in order to develop a sanctuary from which they can operate. Taliban forces were slow to take advantage of the fighting season, according to the general, but they have recently caused serious problems for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in several provinces, including Helmand, Nangarhar and Kunduz.

All three provinces have been major flash points since the U.S. invasion 15 years ago.

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