US to keep SOF in Afghan even after pullout

Washington: The US plans to keep its Special Operations forces that hunt insurgent leaders and train local troops in Afghanistan despite an earlier announcement to end the NATO-led combat mission in 2014, a media report has said.

The plan, if approved by President Barack Obama, would amount to the most significant evolution in the military campaign since he sent in 32,000 more troops to wage an intensive and costly counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan, The New York Times reported citing senior Pentagon officials.

Under the plan, American conventional forces, focused on policing large parts of Afghanistan, will be the first to leave, while thousands of American Special Operations forces (SOF) remain, making up an increasing percentage of the troops on the ground; their number may even grow, the paper said.

The evolving strategy is far different from the withdrawal plan for Iraq, where almost all American forces, conventional or otherwise, have left.

The emerging plan is to use Afghanistan`s most elite troops to counter any residual terrorist threat over the coming months as well as to devote the military`s best trainers to the difficult task of preparing Afghan security forces to take over responsibilities in their country.

The plan would put a particularly heavy focus on Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets. They would be in charge of training a variety of Afghan security forces.

Green Berets, created by President John F Kennedy in the 1960s and conducting quiet missions in dozens of nations around the world, are known for what is as called "foreign internal defence" using combat, mentoring, language and cross-cultural skills to train local forces in rugged environments, the NYT said.

At the same time, the elite commando teams within SOF would continue their raids to hunt down, capture or kill insurgent commanders and terrorist leaders and keep pressure on cells of fighters to prevent them from mounting attacks.