Home Contact Us  
   

Afghanistan - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#5379, 9 October 2017
 
The Future of US Troops in Afghanistan: Assessing Potential Roles
Rajat Ahlawat
Research Intern, IReS, IPCS
Email: rajat.ahlawat27@gmail.com
 

In his new strategy for Afghanistan, US President Donald Trump recently decided on increasing the number of American troops in the country. He said a hasty withdrawal would create a power vacuum for the terrorists, which would pose a serious threat for the struggling Afghan security forces. Many previous reports have indicated that the majority of Afghan forces still lack independent operational capabilities and more ground-level advisors embedded within their units are required to provide advisory and assistance. The US military is also conducting ground and aerial counterterrorism operations against the Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) and Taliban targets.

Given the current security situation in Afghanistan, in what roles are the new US troops expected to be deployed?
 
NATO's Resolute Support (RS) mission is mainly divided into three categories :

  1. The Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A) works throughout Afghanistan assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) with essential functions like planning and budgeting, civilian governance, strengthening the rule of law, and intelligence operations.
  2. The Train, Advise, Assist Commands (TAACs) are divided into six zones: North, South, East, West, Capital, and Air. They work with the Afghan forces on different levels of training, advisory, and assistance especially on the ground.
  3. The Task Forces (TFs) - of which there are two, TF Southwest and TF Southeast - comprise only US troops who conduct functionally-based security force assistance to “enable ANDSF to retain key terrain, disrupt insurgent networks, generate sustainable combat power, and set conditions for future operations.” TF Southwest also comprises 300 marines who were deployed in March 2017, which is indicative of a more combative role for the task forces. 

Under the NATO mission, coalition advisors work on three levels with the Afghan forces:  

  1. Level One: Advisors work in close proximity with the Afghan forces on a continuous basis, usually embedded within an Afghan unit.
  2. Level Two: Advisors work on a less frequent basis, depending normally on the capability of the Afghan forces, threat levels, and coalition resources.
  3. Level Three: Advisors are not co-located with the Afghan forces and communicate from a central location. 

Previous US congressional reports have indicated a requirement for a higher number of Level One advisors, which also indicates that the majority of Afghan forces are still not fully capable of operating independently.  
 
Gen John Nicholson Jr., commander of the US forces and the NATO mission in Afghanistan, noted in his February 2017 congressional testimony that there were adequate US forces for counterterrorism operations, but a few thousand more troops were needed for Train, Advise, Assist (TAA) missions. The limited numbers of Level One advisors was also reported to be the reason behind the brief seizure of Kunduz by the Taliban in September 2015. Understanding this limitation and the dynamics of the Taliban offensive in the region, the NATO mission increased the number of advisor troops in the north to 1600.

As of May 2017 , the NATO mission had a total of 13,576 coalition troops from 39 countries, of which the US contributed 6,941 troops, leaving approximately 4,000 US troops for counterterrorism operations. 

The increase of 3,000 troops is likely to include airborne forces and marines along with additional aerial support such as F-16 fighters, A-10s and B-52 bombers, which are to be based in Qatar. An increase in fighter and bomber aircraft, along with the recent dropping in Nangarhar of the Massive Ordinance Air Blast (MOAB), the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the US arsenal, shows the Trump administration's increasing reliance on air strikes against hostile forces. 

Approximately half of the new troops are expected to be from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT), with 1st BCT troops also forming a major part of TF Southwest . The 82nd Airborne is an elite airborne infantry division specialising in combat assault operations in hostile areas, and is experienced in conducting operations in Iraq. These elite troops can be expected to assist and participate with the Afghan Special Forces in conducting missions against the IS-K and Taliban targets, assisted with an increased aerial support.

The US forces are also conducting counterterrorism operations, independently and with Afghan Special Forces, especially against IS-K and al Qaeda associates. In April 2017, the US lost a member of its Special Forces team and two Army Rangers while conducting operations against IS-K in Nangarhar, highlighting the existence and likely continuation of ground counterterrorism operations.

Though the US is yet to confirm the areas of deployment, most new troops are expected to undertake Level One TAA missions with Afghan forces. This suggests that a majority of the Afghan forces have limited independent operational capabilities. There is also a possibility that some new troops could be deployed to support counterterrorism operations under the US mission, working together with their Afghan counterparts. The accompanying focus on elite troops and airpower suggests that the US is attempting to break the current 'stalemate' in the Afghan security situation.

The new troops’ pattern of deployment, along with the levels of cooperation and assistance to their Afghan partners, could determine the long-term capacity for the development of the Afghan security forces.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.