US Steps Up Special Forces Operations in Afghanistan

Accused of Disappearances, Torture, Special Forces Remain America's Strategy

The “drawdown” in Afghanistan is primarily a political goal, not a military one. Reducing the number of US soldiers occupying the nation isn’t about a transition to Afghan control. Instead, an escalation of Special Forces deployments aimed to keep effectively the same power on the ground with less people, and in the administration’s minds, less questions.

While every misstep of the regular ground forces in Afghanistan eventually ends up in the media (and then usually denied without a plausible excuse) the Special Forces operate in secret. They do things quietly. They bend and break all the rules of engagement.

Which is setting up a big problem. The demands for a US withdrawal from Wardak Province stemmed specifically from abuse by Special Forces soldiers. Disappearances of civilians became routine, as did torture. Military commanders ignored the complaints, because the Special Forces are supposed to be secret.

They’re not very good at keeping that a secret though, and instead treat their status as a catch-all excuse. Afghan officials announced earlier this week that had one of the soldiers, an Afghan-born American, on video torturing civilians, and had linked him to 15 disappearances or killings.

Officially the US shrugged it off, as they always do. But US soldiers with long beards riding around on four-wheelers hassling villagers is going to attract a lot of unwelcome attention, and like it or not, the transition to Special Forces is going to inevitably mean even more embarrassing behavior from the occupation forces, and more resentment among the occupied.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of