Special Forces in Kabul continue Vietnam legacy
BAGRAM AIR BASE: US-led Special Forces hunting Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are using techniques adapted from the ill-fated US conflict in Vietnam, the outgoing commander of Special Forces said on Thursday.
Comprising some 4,000 soldiers from seven nations, the US-led coalition’s special operations teams have established more than 15 ‘A-camps’ in remote locations to recruit and train Afghan forces, Colonel Walter Herd said.
“Each of those camps has various elements of national power,” including diplomatic, military and economic expertise, Herd told reporters at the coalition’s main base at Bagram, north of Kabul.
The A-camps, a concept used in Vietnam War which ended three decades ago, are “scattered across the country,” mainly in the south and southeast where a Taliban-led insurgency is at its strongest, Herd said.
They combine Special Forces with infantry, Afghan security forces and small groups of civil affairs, psychological operations teams and governmental agencies.
The camps “represent the only form of government in much of this war-torn land,” Herd said.
Since taking over command in September 2003, Herd has attempted to change the mission of the Special Forces from simply killing and capturing anti-coalition militia to refusing them a “safe haven”.
“What we’ve tried to do is attack a couple of things — one, attack the insurgent, the enemy, the evil man with a gun. And two is to attack the insurgency, that’s the environment, the chaotic environment that allows that evil to survive here in Afghanistan,” he said.
“The end state is to win the war on terror. In this area what that means to stabilise the country of Afghanistan so that it can’t be used like a parasite uses a host.”
Herd said he did not know whether Al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden or fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar were still in Afghanistan or when they were likely to be captured, if ever.
“We could find him (bin Laden) this afternoon, or we could find him a year from now or we could find him 10 years from now, I certainly couldn’t give you an answer,” he said.
“What I think we can do though is change the conditions so that he is no longer welcome in Afghanistan. And if he spends the next 10 years or 20 years or 30 years running through the mountains looking over his shoulder that’s OK.”
Herd, a senior special forces green beret, said special forces still relied on translators to help gather intelligence and interact with local people but they were slowly learning the local languages of Dari and Pashto.
Special forces “have captured or killed more terrorists per capita than any unit in the global war on terror,” Herd told a ceremony to mark the end of his nine-month stint at Camp Vance, saying the figure was around 100 militants.
Some 20,000 US-led soldiers, marines, air personnel and special operations people are in Afghanistan to beat back the anti-government insurgency blamed on the Taliban, Al Qaeda and fighters loyal to renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, which is concentrated in the south and southeast. afp