The allegations of beheadings and kidnappings by US Forces has caused Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, to order a withdrawal of US special operations forces from the “key” Afghani province of Maidan Wardak. These allegations bring up a myriad of questions about the future of SOF in Wardak.
What is the potential blowback of losing SOF in Wardak?
What advantages do insurgents have if SOF does leave the province?
What potential advantage could this bring to SOF in the future?
There is the real possibility that extremist forces are behind the allegations and have been the ones kidnapping and killing the local populace over the last couple of months. This is not the first set of allegations to come out of Wardak. Back on 14 January 2013 a video surfaced claiming that a NATO airstrike had killed 16 local men, women, and children of the province.
Due to its proximity to the capital city of Kabul, Wardak (the capital of Maiden Wardak, Maidan Shahr, is 35km from Kabul) has been a strategic stronghold for anti-coalition forces throughout the last decade. The timing of the allegations coupled with the withdraw of coalition forces could further reinstate Taliban and al-Qaeda forces back into Kabul.
One of the main goals of US Special Forces in the Wardak province has been to train the Afghan Local Police. Without the guidance and instruction that these forces need, they could potentially be outsmarted and outgunned by the enemy. The work and infrastructure that has taken many years to build could be for nothing if SOF are removed from the resistive province.
As most of NATO and US Forces withdraw from the country over the next two years, SOF will stay and continue raids against HVTs throughout the country for the foreseeable future. If SOF was removed from the province it “could” offer an advantage in the long-term outlook of capturing high value targets in Afghanistan.
If it was Taliban/al-Qaeda/Haqqani forces who created the allegations, then they could believe that their plan of removing SOF from the province had worked. This might cause extremist leaders throughout the country to lower their guard and seek refuge within the province. If this were to happen it could play into the hands of SOF units in Afghanistan. Instead of the constant “cat and mouse” game that has been played over the last 12 years, the potential for large multi-branch SOF raids to sweep the province clean could be a future possibility.
As it stands, SOF is still in Wardak and will remain until official word comes down to “exit the premises.”