More than 100 Army Ranger Commandos have deployed to Afghanistan for operations in the eastern and southern regions there.
[Photo Credit] U.S. Army Cpl. Anthony Gomez (left) shakes the hand of a young resident of Tarok Kolache while Pfc. Roy Heggernes (right) interacts with a young boy during a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new village mosque in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, on April 1, 2011. DoD photo by Sgt. Breanne Pye, U.S. Army. (Released)
The new deployment comes at a critical moment for the increasingly unpopular war. The Obama administration deployed 30,000 new U.S. forces to Afghanistan in 2009 as part of the surge and wants to begin bringing some of them home this July. Senior military officials are working to lessen the impact of the looming drawdown by keeping as many elite troops there as possible.
Although it is rarely discussed in Washington, the Afghan conflict has morphed into a shadow war that pits small teams of so-called “hunter-killers” from the Rangers, the Army’s Operational Detachment-Delta, the Navy’s Seal Team Six, and other secretive U.S. units against plain-clothed militants from the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and other Islamist fighting organizations…
Petraeus sees the elite troops as a critical part of his effort to reverse the Taliban’s battlefield momentum and kill enough of the militants to bring the armed group to the negotiating table. It is an approach modeled on Iraq, where Petraeus worked with then-Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal—who headed the Special Operations Command there—to bring the country back from the brink of civil war by killing or capturing thousands of Shiite and Sunni extremists.
Petraeus and McChrystal, who remain in close contact, helped oversee a revolution in Special Operations tactics that allowed commandos to strike a target, quickly analyze whatever intelligence was recovered on site, and then immediately launch follow-on strikes against other militant havens.
“The basic concept is that you don’t give these guys an opportunity to rest or bed down for the night in the same place,” said Jeffrey Dressler, a military analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. “You constantly pressure them until they start to break down, stop fighting, or disregard commands from their leaders in Pakistan.”…
What we’re finding now is that the guys who are doing the fighting on the ground in Afghanistan are questioning the leaders living comfortably in Pakistan,” Dressler said. “You’re seeing tensions emerge between the different echelons of the insurgency, and the Special Operations raids are a key reason why.”