The more things change, the more they stay the same

Adm. Bill McRaven, the head of U.S. special operations, is mapping out a potential Afghanistan war plan that would replace thousands of U.S. troops with small special operations teams paired with Afghans to help an inexperienced Afghan force withstand a Taliban onslaught as U.S. troops withdraw.

While the overall campaign would still be led by conventional military, the handfuls of special operators would become the leading force to help Afghans secure the large tracts of territory won in more than a decade of U.S. combat. They would give the Afghans practical advice on how to repel attacks, intelligence to help spot the enemy and communications to help call for U.S. air support if overwhelmed by a superior force.

If approved by the administration, the pared-down structure could become the enduring force that Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak indicated Tuesday at the Pentagon that his country needs, possibly long after the U.S. drawdown date of 2014.
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Wow this seems like such a cutting-edge and new idea….NOT. This was the model we had in Afghanistan from 2002-2007. During that time we had only one active duty brigade combat team in Afghanistan to conduct kinetic operations. There was also this little group called Task Force Phoenix which was filled with National Guard members whom were charged with “pairing with Afghans to help train an inexperienced Afghan Force”. They were called ETT members which stands for Embedded Training Team. It is also what US Army Special Forces have had as a main mission for years, but there will be more on that later.

The difference being back then they were truly inexperienced as compared to now where the Afghans have been working with, fighting with, receiving medical support from, receiving logistics support from and receiving close air support from American and Coalition forces for 10 years.

This “high-speed” special operations war plan is what the National Guard soldiers of TF Phoenix did for years and did with much success, until TF Phoenix was dissolved in 2009. We always said when I was there that we performed a Special Forces mission without Special Forces resources. This is what the mission is, a Special Forces mission. It is not a Special Ops mission, or Navy Seal Mission or anything like that. It is called FID, or Foreign Internal Defense. This has been the classic SF mission since SF was established. It calls for partnering with local national defense forces, training them, mentoring them and providing assistance during combat operations when needed.

So there is nothing “new” or “shiny” or “cutting-edge” about this new war plan, it is a war plan that we have had and executed very well for years.

1 thought on “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

  1. I start PMT in June for an SFAT mission in October with the Texas and Hawaii National Guard. So far, from everything that has been briefed to me, we will be doing exactly what you described above. Certainly not an ideal situation for an Infantryman, nor anyone else for that matter. As best I can tell, our primary objective is not to get shot in the back or blown up in our sleep.

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