Af-Pak Hearing: The Special-Operations View
Joining Petraeus and Flournoy is Adm. Eric Olson, the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command, who’s here to explain the irregular-warfare on top of the Af-Pak counterinsurgency strategy. Will he say anything about the drones?
Al-Qaeda’s surviving leaders “have proven adept at communicating and surviving” and “remain a draw” to people in western Pakistan. “They have forced and intimidated a mostly benign populace to bend to their will.” Olson’s pleased to see the “whole of government” approach between military and civilian agencies and partner governments against al-Qaeda in the region.
SOCOM’s role is “as a force provider” for “key roles and missions” as the command has a “long history of counterterrorism, counterinsurgency and irregular warfare,” as well as a history of “interaction with Pakistan’s frontier-corps forces.” Runs from “manhunting” to “veterinary” support for Afghan livestock. Addressing “immediate security threats” while also getting at “underlying instability in the region.” Prepared to do more with Pakistan, training Pakistani trainers (yes) to increase irregular capabilities. Stands ready “to work with Pakistani forces … for the long term.”
“High-tech, high-end efforts” among Special Forces include expanding embeddable forces with “non-commando” Afghan forces. But the use of Special Forces “will not change much” due to the new strategy. “Our strategy in Afghanistan must secure the urban areas and major routes” but since most of the population is rural, security must be taken on in “the hinterlands,” improving security through the population’s eyes. Olson blames civilian casualties on “the enemy’s tactics, not our own.” But he adds, “we must acknowledge the seriousness” of the “challenge” of reducing civilian casualties to earn the trust and partnership of the Afghans.
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