By Barbara Starr
The Obama Administration is considering escalating the role of U.S. Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan between now and 2014, a senior administration official confirms to CNN.
The plan would be to have those forces increasingly take on a combat role and hunt key terrorists, as conventional forces wind down combat and focus more on training Afghans.
(Read also: Special Ops burden of success)
"This is just in the idea stage," the official said. "No decisions have been made." He declined to be identified because the plan has not been approved. No decisions have been made on the number of troops involved.
But the official confirmed that what is being considered is a new, high-level military command in Afghanistan specifically for special operations forces. If approved, the likely commander would be Major Gen. Tony Thomas, currently the deputy commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees military counter terrorism operations. The developments were first reported in the New York Times.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last week said conventional forces would begin wrapping up their combat operations by the middle of next year. Vice President Joe Biden has been a long time advocate of focusing on counter terrorism operations and training Afghan forces as an alternative to the massive ground force presence that has been needed to carry out the current counterinsurgency strategy.
It is expected many of the details will be worked out in the coming weeks so an announcement can be made around the NATO heads of state summit in Chicago later this year.