High level meeting focuses on future of special ops in Afghanistan
Adm. William McRaven
March 7th, 2012
04:13 AM ET

High level meeting focuses on future of special ops in Afghanistan

By Barbara Starr

The head of U.S .Special Operations Command recently held a closed-door secret meeting at his Florida headquarters to discuss the future of special operations forces in Afghanistan after the U.S. formally withdraws at the end of 2014.

The Tampa meeting was called by Adm. William McRaven, commander of SOCOM. It involved some of the most senior officers in the military, as well as officials from U.S. intelligence agencies, two U.S. military officials told CNN.

Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan; Gen. James Mattis, the commander of U.S. Central Command, as well as Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were just some of the participants, the officials said.

The officials declined to be identified because what was discussed at the meeting is considered highly private by the participants prior to key decisions being made about the future role of special operations forces.

For McRaven, the essential question is the number of forces Special Operations need and the mission they will perform in Afghanistan as conventional forces added last year as part of a 'surge' of troops are withdrawn by the end of 2012, and all combat troops are removed by the end of 2014. The meeting was not aimed at coming to any decisions, but rather a discussion at the highest levels about how to proceed in the coming months, CNN was told.

The meeting included discussing various options for the command structure to oversee commando operations as well as the need to keep other conventional units in the country to assist them, according to the sources.

For example, even if only several thousand commando troops are kept in Afghanistan, they will still need other troops to provide helicopters, medical evacuation, support at bases, transportation and other key needs, the officials explained. Support forces could range up to three times the number of actual commandos on the ground.

Current military planning calls for special operations forces to remain after combat troops withdraw in 2014 with the primary mission of hunting down terrorists.

If they stay beyond 2014, a new agreement with the Afghan government would have to be reached.

The U.S. and President Hamid Karzai's administration are negotiating a status of forces agreement, but it's been held up over disagreements about handing over control of some prisons to the Afghan government and concerns about night raids, an official in Kabul said.

Officials have previously confirmed plans for a new high level command in Afghanistan to be headed by Maj. Gen. Tony Thomas, currently the deputy commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, which overseas all military counter terrorism operations. But sometime around 2013, if the bulk of the forces fall under SOCOM, then command of the entire war could fall under that element.

There are currently 89,000 US troops in Afghanistan, about 8% are special operations forces. McRaven Tuesday told the Senate Armed Services Committee the number is expected to increase even as the conventional forces are drawn down through 2014.

McRavens' forces not only conduct raids against terrorism targets, but also oversee operations to assist local villages with their security and establishing local Afghan police for those areas. So far, special operations forces have recruited and trained nearly 11,000 local police.

McRaven also told the committee that virtually all raids conducted at night now are led by Afghan forces so cultural sensitivities to foreign forces do not flare up especially in remote areas. The raids, McRaven told the committee, are vital.

"We think the night raids are essential for our task force to go after high value individuals. The high value individuals that we pursue during the course of a 24-hour period or days or weeks generally bed down at night," McRaven said on Tuesday. "They are much more targetable at night and in fact, I think if you look at it tactically, what you'll find is the Afghans are actually much safer if we target an individual at night because there aren't so many people out and about the little villages."

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  16. Yokoyama

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  18. duckforcover

    So we're just "formally" withdrawing from Afganistan. We're not done fighting, just done admitting it.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Reply
  19. Skorpio

    The US should ban the Koran in all military bases:
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  21. Joe

    I give props to all of the SOF troops first of all... But I'm worried about why we are not worried about our active duty force and the budget cuts/force shaping we have seen even during the times of war? Most SOF roles are supported by base Logistics/Communications/Operations/and Maintenance and the government has already hollowed those out... So we want to make sure they have money to get what they need but if they need to dispatch from a stateside base or a functioning overseas base the forces there don't have what they need to empower them? So does it really make any sense to separate these to different types of funding? I understand the increase to ensure recruiting the SOF but what are they to do if they have to have a flight check and the only one on duty is overworked and thinks its a routine job and might affect their mission?

    March 7, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Reply
  22. mipolitic

    covert ops in afghanistan means another bumper crop of poppies along with another billion dollar gift from the usa, and the sad part about this , it is the truth. covert opps on all levels by all players makes afghanistan the corrupt waste land it is.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Reply
  23. Bangash

    Have mercy on American nation and get out of Afghanistan. Why hard earned money of American taxpayers is spent on killing of innocent Afghans and in return American nation is made a symbol of hate for being the nation of killers. Don,t cheat them any more and stop this death merchandise in world politics. Leave before 2014 and bag apology from Afghans for their three decades long sufferings at your hands. They have great heart and will forgive your blunders and you will find safe way to get out of Afghan quagmire otherwise your fate will never be different from your predecessors if prolonged stay with guns in hands.

    March 7, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  24. RetiredVet

    Screw Afganistan and Karzai, lets get the hell out of there and let Karzai take care of Afganistan himself, he will be overthrown once we leave anyway.

    March 7, 2012 at 9:51 am | Reply
  25. jazz

    how about spec. ops in general? A bit too many in a few areas...and apparently not enough in others...

    March 7, 2012 at 9:23 am | Reply
  26. American

    What the h is a zionist anyway? While I agree with some thoughts with the comment above, I think what the Spec. Ops commander needs to review is do you need to be "posted up" in the mid east, or can we go back to obtaining intel and corrob. evidence against a wanted person, and send your group in then. I think we risk watering down our Spec. Ops if they just live there.

    March 7, 2012 at 7:29 am | Reply
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      a zionist is someone who looks like George and acts like billy crystal – someone who sucks pp like a goldstein and lies like Obama. They can be dangerous when they are behind you.

      They originate from eastern europe and the top family is the Rothchilds, who created, hitler, israel and both world wars.
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      but hey,what the heck?

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      March 7, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Reply
      • PirateWench

        LOLOLOL good one... Man, you better seek psychiatric help man, you're way too deep into your rabbit hole. Zionist fever maybe? They hatched and carried out 9-11? LOLOLOLOL Nice – have a great day. (seriously man – look into some mental heath ok?)

        March 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  27. George Washington Warned Us About Getting Involved In Foreign Entanglements

    What crap. C'mon . . . who runs our country?

    Bring our men and women home from abroad. We're broke.

    Let's see these military minds come up with a plan to take back our country from the zionists who have hi-jacked our nation's foreign policy. Let's see a story on these traitor military men offer up some plan to protect our southern border from the drug cartels.

    Nation building is a dead end endeavor in Afghanistan. Besides, the Taliban will be back in power soon.

    What's wrong with these military men? Are they American patriots or just zionist puppets?

    March 7, 2012 at 5:25 am | Reply
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