Afghan Special Forces raided a Taliban prison in Khashrood district of western Nimroz province early Saturday morning. They freed at least 20 members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) kept captive by the Taliban, Bilal Sarwary an Afghan journalist, posted on Twitter.

Hours later, the Ministry of Defense released a statement confirming the night operation. According to the ministry, seven members of the Taliban, including Mawali Bashir a key commander, were killed in the operation.

The raid followed airstrikes by Afghan Air Force aircraft that killed 22 Taliban members who had gathered in the district on Friday. 

The operation was led by 215 Corps commander General Sami Sadat, a commander well-known for his aggressiveness against the Taliban.

Sarwary posted a video that apparently showed the freed captives in a vehicle after the operation. 

The Afghanistan National Army Special Forces (ANASF), is severely overtasked. Although they make up only about seven percent of the Afghanistan National Army, they are doing approximately 70-80 percent of the fighting. A DoD report stated that sustained violence and casualties among Afghan forces were impacting attrition and “outpacing recruitment and retention.”

However, as John Black wrote in an earlier SOFREP piece, the training, motivation, and operations among the Afghan SF Kandaks vary greatly. While some of the units (like the one involved in the operation over the weekend) are highly motivated and well-led, many others are not. Then there is the factor that many of these units suffering from high attrition and low morale conduct Green-on-Blue attacks. In the past, they’ve killed and wounded American advisers and troops. 

Are They Ready?

Afghan Special Forces patch. After training by U.S. SOF, the Afghan SF is still a mixed bag, with some very good units and others substandard.

The overuse of Afghan SF has created an over-reliance on having U.S. advisers, and especially U.S. airpower, present during operations. In 2018, the Afghan SF conducted 55 percent of their operations independently. In 2019, although they increased their operational tempo conducting nearly 3,100 missions, only 43 percent of those were conducted independently. Worse still, in the fourth quarter of 2019, only 31 percent of Afghan SF operations were conducted independently. 

With the U.S. finally pulling out after two decades of fighting, it is time for the Afghan troops to stand on their own. Yet, most of the Pentagon generals, who were calling for the United States to maintain a presence in Afghanistan, think that the Afghan forces aren’t ready. While several units show the level of training that the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has helped them achieve, others are sorely lacking.

This was the first night-raid by the Afghanistan National Security Defense Forces after President Biden announced last week the full withdrawal of the 2,500 remaining U.S. troops. 

The Taliban have not yet commented on the operation.