The Department of Defense has provided to the U.S. Congress a semiannual report that covers the events in Afghanistan from December 2019 to May 2020. A good portion of the report covers the Afghan Special Security Forces of the MoD and MoI.
The report covers several topics – among them the U.S. – Taliban agreement, U.S troop withdrawal process, operational approach to combat operations, CT operations against terrorist organizations, and efforts to enhance the effectiveness of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).
Contents of Report:
- Executive Summary
- Strategy and Objectives
- Threat Assessment
- Overview of ANDSF
- Ministry of Defense and Afghan National Army
- Ministry of Interior and Afghan National Police
- Financing the ANDSF
Withdrawal Agreement. On February 29, 2020 the U.S. and the Taliban signed an agreement to paved the way for the United States to begin withdrawing its forces. The ‘conditions-based’ agreement had several provisions that the Taliban are expected to observe.
Operational Approach. During the earlier part of this six-month reporting period (Dec 2019 to May 2020) the U.S. had attempted to intensify pressure on the Taliban to reduce violence and create the conditions that led to the signing of the U.S. – Taliban agreement. Since February, the U.S. has focused on counterterrorism operations against ISIS-K, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations. It has targeted the Taliban occasionally but only in defense of the ANDSF.
ANDSF Effectiveness. The campaign was revised to increase efforts to enhance ANDSF effectiveness. A ‘Combined Situational Awareness Room’ and ‘Regional Targeting Teams’ were established to develop a cross security pillar network that would prioritize, resource, and enable ANDSF operations. The ANDSF continues to rely on contracted logistics support and funding to sustain combat operations. The Afghan Special Security Forces continue to be the most effective units in the ANDSF – conducting the majority of offensive operations.
Reduction of RS Forces. The overall force level of the Resolute Support Mission now (June 2020) stands at approximately 12,000 personnel, of which 8,600 are U.S. military service members. This has caused advising efforts to be diminished. Resolute Support has a new phrase that describes the advising effort – “point of need” advising. This is indicative of the shift from persistent advising to periodic advising.
MOD Afghan Special Security Forces. The various commands and units of the Ministry of Defense are reviewed in this report on pages 71 to 80. The structure of the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) is described with mentions of the Special Operations Kandaks (SOKs), Mobile Strike Kandaks (MSKs), and Cobra Strike Kandaks (CSKs). Also described is the National Mission Brigade and the Special Forces Kandaks (SFK), Ktah Khas (KKA), and General Support Kandaks (GSK).
The current training status of ANASOC units is discussed with some information on the specialized courses and the activities of NATO Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan’s (NSOCC-A) Special Operations Advisory Group. the NSOCC-A SOAG maintains a ‘train, advise, and assist’ relationship with ANASOC. The SOAG pays particular attention to the implementation of the Operational Readiness Cycle (ORC).
Special Mission Wing (SMW). The Afghan Air Force (AAF) unit that provides support to Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF) is supported and advised by U.S. and NATO personnel. The SMW has been increasing its capabilities and now conducts HAF, A-29 strike support, CASEVAC, resupply, unit personnel rotation, IPB, ISR, over-watch, QRF, and unit staging operations. Most of the operations are in support of CT (90%) or CN (10%) missions.
A recent SMW development is the achievement of full operational capability for the Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System (FRIES) for the Mi-17. Other topics related to the SMW in the report include misuse of the SMW, how COVID-19 has affected operations, modernization, training, sustainment, and specific air platforms.
MoI Afghan Special Security Forces. The report covers the General Command of the Police Special Units (GCPSU) on pages 90 to 93. The components of the GCPSU include the six National Mission Units (NMUs), 33 Provincial Police Special Units (PSUs), and its intelligence detachments. The NMUs operate across Afghanistan conducting counterterrorism, high risk arrests, hostage recovery, and surveillance/reconnaissance operations.
Afghan Local Police. The ALP will soon be going away. NSOCC-A continues to provide TAA to the ALP at the ALP Staff Directorate (SD) level at the MoI. Currently the U.S. funds the ALP – but that funding will stop at the end of FY 2020. The President of Afghanistan is expected to sign a decree to initiate the process of dissolving the ALP. Some members of the ALP will be dismissed while others will be recruited or transferred into other ANDSF units.
Some recent MoI special police developments are the establishing of three new National Mission Units. The ‘Reduction in Violence (RiV)’ established by the U.S. – Taliban agreement and COVID-19 has reduced the OPTEMPO of the GCPSU. The special police units are reliant on NSOCC-A enabled fires and ISR. The report describes the training and sustainment issues of the MoI’s special police units.
Current Security Situation. The terrorist and insurgent groups continue to present a formidable challenge to Afghan, U.S., and coalition forces. The ANDSF controls the major cities, all provincial capitals, most of the district centers, and most portions of the major road networks. The Taliban have sustained high levels of violence against ANDSF checkpoints and convoys. The ANDSF and coalition forces have degraded ISIS-K and the group has lost territory in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.
The Future? The report indicates that the Afghan government and the Taliban are slowly edging their way to an intra-Afghan political solution. This is taking place at the same time that the U.S. and the coalition are reducing troop strength – which, in turn, reduces the operational tempo of advising and counterterrorism efforts.
Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan, Department of Defense, June 2020, PDF, 108 pages.
Access the report online here.
Image: From first page of the DoD report.