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PublishDate: Sunday, February 16, 2014 11:46

Afghan forces prove to be effective on battlefield

The number of American forces in Afghanistan has declined to about 34000 from a peak of about 100000.

It’s make-or-break time for Afghanistan’s military — and a key test for U.S. strategy here — as the number of U.S. forces in the country declines and government forces are taking on an ever-larger role in the battle against the Taliban. American advisers and commanders here say Afghan forces have performed surprisingly well and are capable of fighting on their own even as critical coalition support has been withdrawn.

Still, commanders warn that Afghan security forces lack the critical but unglamorous capabilities — such as supply, logistics and finance — needed to sustain a large army in the field.

“They’re good warriors,” said Marine Maj. Gen. Lee Miller, who was wrapping up his tour as commander of Regional Command Southwest. “Sustaining themselves they need a lot of ... and we need to be there to help them do that.”

They proved their battlefield prowess last September as the fighting season was drawing to a close.

The battle was part of a series of campaigns that began last spring with elements of Afghanistan’s 215th Corps, based in Helmand. The offensives aimed in the Sangin region would typically peter out before achieving any significant results.

On the fourth campaign Afghan commanders changed the plan at the last moment, infiltrating the soldiers and attacking the Taliban from the rear.

The Afghans effectively used mortars and artillery in conducting the attack, which requires sophisticated planning and execution.

“This time they actually put a hurt to the Taliban,” Miller said.

What has been most surprising to coalition officers is that Afghan forces are performing effectively even as the Americans continue to reduce the amount of support they provide and the numbers of troops here.

The number of American forces in Afghanistan has declined to about 34000 from a peak of about 100000.

“We have been a backstop for these guys for a long time,” said Marine Lt. Col. Thomas Ziegler, an adviser with an Afghan brigade in Helmand.

“When a vehicle broke, we gave them one,” Ziegler said. “We don’t have any more to give.”

Despite the battlefield successes, U.S. officers say Afghan forces will need logistical support for years to come. Without such help, the achievements over the past decade of war risk unraveling.

U.S. officials are planning for an array of options, including having a force after this year that will have enough troops to put advisers only at the top level military headquarters, the corps level.
The Leaf Chronicle

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