Insider attacks: How US and Afghan troops see the mission now
The US has halted some police training and the Afghan military has dismissed hundreds of recruits in a bid to stem insider attacks. But joint missions go on.
(Page 2 of 2)
“They trained with us but never wanted to combine units and conduct joint missions the way the US and ANA [are] doing it right now.”Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
He insists that if the US can teach the ANA before it leaves how to better their special forces, the transition will be successful.
“I am also in favor of unrestricted night raids by US forces.” Jan says. “I could noticeably see the difference in my area of operation when the Taliban were afraid to get attacked at night where now they can openly rest and recuperate while we still lack some of the special forces capabilities and training that US forces enjoy.”
Still, the danger for US troops has risen during the transition period – an outcome of combining trained militaries with a recently established force with little leadership and planning experience.
Many junior officers find themselves in delicate political spots, becoming cross-cultural diplomats and carefully having to weigh the risk of exposing their own troops to danger or jeopardizing the delicate Afghan-US partnership.
A US platoon led by 1st Lt. Saylor took on a support role during an Afghan-led two-day clearing mission in Paktia Province in eastern Afghanistan. Though the Afghan military leader outranked the younger US platoon leader, the platoon leader had more experience in these types of missions.
The mission turned into a comedy of errors, Saylor says. After going from house to house, the Afghan leader went the wrong way, refused to follow a map or compass, and his decisions, such as taking a four-hour lunch, seemed to the US platoon leader incomprehensible and dangerous to its US counterparts.
“My Afghan platoon commander decided to do his own thing. He is not following the original plan and halted 1,000 meters before our objective and started searching houses,” says Saylor.
The mission ended a day ahead of schedule, but rather than come back to the protection of the base, the leader was unsure what to do. Instead of taking advice from the younger US soldiers with him, which would be considered an embarrassment, he decided to keep the platoon out for the night and have the troops stay in an old farmhouse, one that had been overrun by the Taliban a year earlier. It made the US troops nervous and angry.
Saylor radioed to his superior on base. Since it was an Afghan-led mission, the rules of engagement required the US troops to stay put, establish a security perimeter, and hope that the Taliban mortar team in the area would not target them, he was told.
When asked about risks for his soldiers in this transition phase, the battalion commander of the 3-509, Lt. Col. Shawn Daniel, emphasizes, “Our soldiers just cannot tell Afghan soldiers what to do. We have to take a step back. We cannot impose our values.”
“We have been making progress, but we have to let them make mistakes!”
IN PICTURES - Inside Afghanistan: Remnants of America's longest war