The Obama administration is considering a shift in military strategy away from the troop-intensive surge as early as next year, scaling back the combat duties well ahead of the 2014 date previously given for a drawdown.
According to administration officials, the early transition would move away from occupying and securing the entire country and towards a much smaller training and advisory role, with targeted counter-terrorism operations.
The latter is probably a reference to the kill/capture raids conducted by elite special operations forces, a tactic the Obama administration has expanded dramatically. But these targeted raids have been known to fuel resentment and undermine the mission to quell the insurgency, often resulting in civilian casualties and wrongful detentions.
High level consideration of this strategic shift is reported to continue until a final decision is made probably after a NATO meeting in May. The news comes even as US officials and commanders admit Afghan forces aren’t ready to fend for themselves.
“Frankly, if we’re going to have fewer troops in Afghanistan in a year or two, then you might as well do it now while we have enough troops to bail them out when they screw up,” one official said.
While the shift would include a drawdown, the US would still be fully engaged in a combat role. “It’s not like we’re going to move to train, advise and assist and just let the Afghans do everything on their own and we’re not fighting bad guys,” a senior official said. It would be wrong, the official added, to think the US was now considering “ending the war in Afghanistan earlier than expected.”