NATO May Train Afghan Special Operators in Europe
But experts say training may suffer after Western troops withdraw.
As the United States withdraws forces from Afghanistan, one big question has been how the U.S. and its NATO allies would continue to train the elite Afghanistan special operations forces that have helped counter the Taliban and other violent groups. On Wednesday, the top U.S. commander in Europe said NATO might continue that training mission on European soil.
“We want to work with Afghanistan from a NATO perspective and we're in the process of looking at out-of-country special forces training in certain locations to bring NATO special forces activities out of, out of Afghanistan into a remote location, probably somewhere in Europe,” Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told an audience at the Atlantic Council. That training would be managed by the NATO Office of the Senior Civilian Representative, or OSCR, Wolters said.
Under a program established in 2007, the United States has been training elite Afghan commandos at Camp Morehead, in Wardak Province. In December, acting U.S. Defense Secretary Christopher Miller visited the camp during a tour of the country. "I always felt it was a huge strategic error by expanding the war. I thought the war was for special operations, small footprint. And I just personally thought, if we were smart strategically, Afghanistan would always have a special operations force...I think we would have had a different outcome if we had maintained what we were doing then,” Miller said at the time.
Jason Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security, told VOA this month that he was skeptical that a training abroad program would be as effective as training in-country. "Taking small parts of them out and training them overseas and then putting them back in—if they don't know who they're fighting for, which faction, which warlord is it who takes control of the government, then we're offering them a little support, but I'm not sure this will be effective."
The coming weeks will prove particularly difficult for the Afghan National Security Forces, as they lose U.S. air support. Violent clashes have been escalating even as peace talks continue between the government and the Taliban.
U.S. President Joe Biden has ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan to wind up by September 11.
Caitlin Kenney contributed to this post.