Socom Commander Discusses Progress in Afghanistan

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)