A special investment in Afghanistan
30 November 2017
Entering the headquarters of the NATO Special Forces mission in Afghanistan is a humbling moment.
The walls are lined with photos of the fallen, including those from Australia.
The tributes are a silent reminder of the sacrifices that have been made for the future of Afghanistan, while the busy specialist staff serving in the building are a reminder of the ongoing Special Forces commitment to the nation.
The NATO Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan started its training and advisory capacity mission after the NATO Special Forces combat mission came to an end in late 2014.
A small number of ADF personnel are deployed to the headquarters in roles such as future plans, logistics and security force assistance.
Colonel Stuart Davies serves as the command’s plans director and senior Australian representative in the headquarters.
“The mission is about denying a safe haven to terrorists in Afghanistan and building capacity of the Afghan Special Forces so they can contribute to improved stability and security,” he said.
The command is working to expand the Afghan Special Forces from about 20,000 to 33,000 and double its combat and special policing capacity by 2020.
Besides doubling the number of commando companies, the expansion will also add three extra National Mission Units.
They will be prepared to conduct high-risk arrests and respond to high-profile attacks in key population areas.
“It’s just one line of effort being pursued as the Government seeks peace and reconciliation with elements of the Taliban,” Colonel Davies said.
“It’s the notion of investing in what works.
“We’ve heard from chatter and reports that when the Taliban and other threat groups recognise the Afghan Special Security Forces are coming, they disperse and don’t stay to fight.
“They are a capable fighting force and there are opportunities to build on their success.”
A capability enhancement program is also seeking to improve command and control for greater operational tempo along with improved intelligence and sustainment.
Afghan Special Forces are trained by their own instructors while planning and executing independent missions, while under NATO’s train, advise and assist mandate, specialist international advisors provide mentorship and assistance from the strategic to the tactical levels.
In addition to overseeing independent operations, some missions are supported with critical enablers and, in certain circumstances, are undertaken as partnered operations.
While the Afghans are proficient fighters, Colonel Davies said Afghan Special Forces are still developing their abilities to plan and execute more complex operations with technical enablers.
“The Afghan Special Security Forces have not suffered a strategic defeat on the battlefield to date,” he said.
“The Taliban do fear them and by expanding the Afghan Special Forces we’re ensuring the enemy has no sanctuary or safe haven where they can train and plan to execute missions.
“So we need to develop the Afghan Special Forces’ capacity to plan, execute and manage operations, both as an organisation and as part of the broader Afghan Security Forces effort.”