The Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) has been in existence for several years now. The command falls under the Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD). The commando units that fall under ANASOC control have proven to be the most effective combat forces of the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF). The special operations command is advised by special operations forces (SOF) personnel from the NATO Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan (NSOCC-A) / Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan (SOJTF-A). NSOCC-A / SOJTF-A is based at Bagram Air Base located an hour’s drive north of Kabul (the capital of Afghanistan).
ANASOC is a divisional level command with over 11,000 personnel authorized. There are two Special Operations Brigades and ten Special Operations Kandaks (SOKs) under ANASOC’s command. In addition, ANASOC has responsibility for the Commando school located at Camp Commando just outside of Kabul.
These SOKs are the most proficient and well-developed units within the ANDSF. Since they are so effective the SOKs tend to be overused by the regional Afghan National Army (ANA) corps commanders – affecting their operational utilization cycle. In addition, the SOKs are utilized many times in non-SOF missions for which the conventional ANA units would be more appropriate. Nine of the SOKs are aligned with the regional ANA corps while the 6th SOK is based in the Kabul area functioning as the ANA’s national mission unit. In addition to the 6th SOK, the Ministry of Interior has several national mission units. ANASOC is supported by the Special Mission Wing (SMW) which provides aerial insertion by helicopter as well has rotary-wing gunship support.
Some possible changes are on the horizon for ANASOC. The Afghan Ministry of Defense is in the process of developing a new National Mission Brigade from elements of the 6th Special Operations Kandak of ANASOC and the Ktah Khas. The Ministry of Defense has recently requested that ANASOC take part in the training of the Afghan Local Police (ALP).
The primary mission of Resolute Support command (approximately 9,800 U.S. personnel and three thousand personnel from other nations) is Security Force Assistance (SFA). This means that the main purpose of Resolute Support is to ‘train, advise, and assist’ the ANDSF. For the most part this training and advising effort is taking place within the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, in the national level educational and training institutions, and at the ANA corps level. However, the SOF advisors are working with their Afghan counterparts at the tactical level – especially with ANASOC’s kandaks.
The combat units of the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) have been one of the few effective components of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. The retention rate of the units in ANASOC is extremely high. Morale is equally high within the ANASOC formations. The SOKs remain one of the bright spots and a good news story about the Afghan security forces.
Image by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Leistikow, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan, January 13, 2012.