Afghanistan’s Special Forces have been taking on a lion’s share of the fighting against the Taliban and other insurgent forces in the country. Now the military is planning to double the size of the 17,000-man force to double the number.

While Afghanistan’s military now numbers over 300,000 personnel, the small Special Operations part of the force is conducting over 70 percent of the offensive combat operations. It is an operational tempo that will be hard to maintain and leaders from both the Afghan and US government are worried that the strain will begin to affect operations.

The buildup will help alleviate the over-tasking of its troops which will increase to Corps level size once the troops are added, trained and equipped.

“There has been an increase in our operations, but we will keep up our efforts,” said Fawad Kamal, a special forces commander. “There hasn’t been any interruption.”

When they reach the battlefield, newly trained troops will likely be conducting offensive operations, from tracking militant cells to clearing towns seized by insurgents.

“There is a huge need for the number of commandos and special forces to increase in the country,” said Mohammed Arif, a new commando recruit. “As long as they are well equipped, they can defend the country very well.”

Afghanistan’s international allies regularly praise the performance of the special forces, but there is also concern that the workload places them under too much strain.

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Last year, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, discussed plans to strengthen and regenerate the force over the winter months.

At the special forces base, NATO trainers work alongside Afghan instructors, teaching a range of courses from basic shooting and room clearance for new commandos, to advanced leadership courses for the more experienced.

US Special Forces Brigadier General Charles Cleveland called the Afghan Special Ops troops the best of the region but said that they were stretched too thin. Eventually, the NATO coalition would like to see the conventional Afghan forces reach the same level of training and proficiency as their SF counterparts but they still have a long way to go.

The entire article and interview from Reuters can be found here:

Featured photo: NATO