WASHINGTON, March 6, 2012 — Afghan forces now are leading all of the night raids U.S. special operations forces conduct with them in Afghanistan, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command told senators today.
Navy Adm. William McRaven said operations in Afghanistan remain his near-term focus and highest priority. McRaven testified alongside Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, U.S. Central Command commander, before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The special operations leader and Navy SEAL said his forces bring two key capabilities to the transition effort in Afghanistan: the lethal and precise direct approach epitomized in night raids, and the indirect effort to build Afghan security and governance through village stability operations with Afghan forces.
Night raids target high-value insurgents, often after coalition and Afghan troops have tracked them for days or weeks, McRaven said.
Those individuals “generally bed down” and are much more targetable at night, McRaven said, calling the night operations an essential tactic.
The admiral acknowledged the raids’ unpopularity among the Afghan people, but said ensuring Afghan troops are “the first forces through the door” as they lead the raids has helped allay people’s anxiety.
Such raids often are safer than daytime operations, he said, because fewer people are out in the villages.
Meanwhile, McRaven said, special operations forces also work to strengthen programs such as the Afghan local police, which includes about 11,000 Afghans and is set to grow to 30,000 over the next few years. The village-based forces are starting to link together in mutual defense for the first time, he said.
“One village is actually coming to the aid of another village when they’re being attacked or harassed,” he said.
A single road connecting villages makes that cooperation possible, the admiral noted.
“That’s why it’s very important to continue with [infrastructure projects] so they can get from Point A to Point B, see what the other village is doing, create trade with that village … [and] be the safety and security for that village, and vice versa,” McRaven added.
The admiral noted that no International Security Assistance Force special operations troops have been targeted in any of the “green-on-blue” incidents involving Afghan army and police members killing coalition troops.
“We have built these partnerships over many years,” McRaven said. “They’re very strong partnerships. We have great respect for our Afghan partners, and we think this strategy of partnering with the Afghans is absolutely essential to victory in Afghanistan.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)