News: Afghan Commandos Add Special Forces
By Petty Officer 3rd Class Kirk Putnam
Afghan national army commandos graduated as the first Special Forces team at Camp Moorhead, May 12, and now are the most highly-skilled soldiers in the Afghan national army. They are trained to handle any combat situation.
"This begins a new chapter in the history of the ANA as they are the first and will serve as the model for the future of the ANA Special Forces," said Afghan Brig. Gen. Dadon Lawang, brigade commander for the new team. Dadon is a 25-year veteran of the Afghan military.
Afghan commandos already spend 12 weeks training with the best NATO weapons, optics and the best gear, patterned after U.S. Army Rangers. They've distinguished themselves all over Afghanistan and have served shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S Special Forces in difficult combat missions. Now these graduates add their own Special Forces tabs above their already impressive commando patch.
Commandos began distinguishing themselves nearly three years ago in their first raid. A Department of Defence press release from Sept. 14, 2007 states: "A new battalion of Afghan National Army commandos today completed its first operation, capturing a well-known Taliban facilitator and two suspected Taliban extremists.
Working with a contingent of Afghan national police advised by coalition forces, the commandos led a two-day mission 30 miles southwest of Jalalabad in the Sherzad district of Nangahar province. During the mission, the commandos captured and detained Haji Shir Khan, a known improvised explosive device maker, who is responsible for numerous IED attacks on Afghan and coalition forces in the province."
Even before the Afghanistan "surge" with increased numbers of NATO-led trainers on the ground, ANA commandos, without Special Forces training, were distinguishing themselves.
Another example from spring of 2008; the Afghan commandos conducted raids using U.S. combat aviation assets and were precision effective, intelligence revealed that the Taliban thought Afghan commandos were NATO Forces.
Also in February, 2008, the first ANA Commando Battalion killed 29 Taliban fighters in operation "Say Laab" in Helmand Province. Killed was Mullah Abdul Bari, a skilled Taliban commander, along with 29 other Taliban fighters. Bari was a former Helmand Province governor during Taliban rule.
Earlier this year, ANA commandos led the February attack in Marjah and played a major role in squelching the Jan. 18 attack in Kabul. Several days later at a subsequent commando graduation ceremony, ANA Chief of Staff Gen. Bismillah Khan honoured them for bravery.
Afghan commandos have skills and use techniques that commanders employ for specific benefit on the battlefield. Those trained in reconnaissance observe and report back information without detection. The training of mortar men, for artillery support, is another specialty.
Commando training also focuses on advanced combat marksmanship, small unit tactics, demolitions, direct action, cordon and search, search and attack missions, ambush, and leadership skills.
In the Special Forces course, the commandos' primary focus moves away from the battlefield toward helping villages build and maintain stability. While most ANA missions are designed around a short-term goal, such as clearing insurgents from an area, the Special Forces Commandos mission is one of long-term support, acting as a go-between for village elders and district leadership. This strengthens the "population-centric" approach to the counterinsurgency.
"We have to show the international community and the people of Afghanistan that we are here and we are working for the benefit of Afghanistan," said Lawang.
Taking them to uber-elite status, the new unit of Afghan Commando Special Forces begins a six-month imbedded partnership with U.S. Army Green Berets for shoulder to shoulder training. During this partnership students must prove mastery of techniques to find resources for a community in need and guide Shuras with local tribal elders.
"They are selected from the best, and what is expected from them is the nothing less than the best for Afghanistan," said Lawang. "We hope they can provide a positive influence to the people."