Elite troops' Afghan role to increase but numbers may not, commander says
Adm. William McRaven speaks Tuesday at a Special Operations symposium in Washington DC. He said Afghanistan will soon become a more special operations forces focused war. Photo by Larry Shaughnessy/CNN
February 7th, 2012
01:54 PM ET

Elite troops' Afghan role to increase but numbers may not, commander says

By CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy

America's elite Special Operation Forces will take a greater role in the fight in Afghanistan but their total numbers will not increase significantly from the current level, the head of Special Operations Command said Tuesday.

As the United States and its allies continue to draw down troops in Afghanistan, the Obama administration is considering escalating the role of Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan between now and 2014, CNN reported Monday. The plan, still in the "idea stage," would be to have those forces increase their combat role in hunting key terrorists as conventional forces wind down combat and focus more on training Afghans.

"I have no doubt that SOF will be probably the last folks to leave Afghanistan. I mean that's at least the way we are planning," Adm. William McRaven said during a speech in Washington Tuesday. "I don't think we will dramatically increase our SOF footprint in Afghanistan, but we're certainly going to be there are long as the president needs us to be there."

McRaven said exactly how the transition would happen remains to be worked out.

"We're exploring a lot of options," McRaven said. "But frankly, no decisions have been made beyond that, so right now we're really in the planning stages and looking at a number of different options," he told the audience, made up largely of people in the special operations.

McRaven oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year and now commands U.S. Special Operations Command.

"We've got to become more not only effective but more efficient on how we do it from a SOF stand point. So the intent is to establish a SOF headquarters" in Afghanistan that will "hopefully improve our collaborations and effective on the battlefield," McRaven said.

President Barack Obama is committed to bring down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 68,000 by the end of the summer. And he says all will be out by 2014.

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