Resolute Support [NATO]
US forces carry out two complementary missions under the military operation known as Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS): counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda, its affiliates, and ISIL-K in Afghanistan; and support for NATO’s Resolute Support capacity-building effort, which seeks to build the capacity of the MoD and MoI and to strengthen the ANDSF. OFS began on January 1, 2015, when the United States ended 13 years of combat operations in Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom and transitioned to a NATO-led train, advise, and assist role, while continuing U.S. counterterrorism operations. At that point, the Afghan government assumed full responsibility for the security of Afghanistan with limited U.S. or coalition support on the battlefield.
NATO launched its non-combat RS Mission on January 1, 2015, following the conclusion of the previous NATO led combat mission of ISAF and the assumption of full security responsibility by the ANDSF. The NATO Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which entered into force on January 1, 2015, provides the legal framework for the NATO presence in Afghanistan and prescribes the terms and conditions under which NATO forces will be deployed in Afghanistan.
The NATO-led RS mission remains focused on training, advising, and assisting the ANDSF, the MoD, and the MoI to achieve and maintain a stable Afghanistan during a period of conflict. The United States continues to consult with NATO Allies and operational partners about RS mission requirements and any follow-on NATO-led efforts to ensure that the U.S. and NATO missions are mutually supportive. RS force-contributing nations strongly supported the new South Asia Strategy, and welcomed the U.S. personnel increase and the transition to a conditions-based approach.
As o fmid 2018 the United States, Germany, Italy, and Turkey served as the RS mission “framework nations,” each leading a regional Train, Advise, and Assist Command (TAAC) responsible for coordinating support and capabilities within its respective command region. Two regional task forces (TF) conduct TAA missions with the ANDSF, one in the southeast and one in the southwest. The RS support to the ANDSF focused on organizational and functional based TAA.
The regional TAACs cover four of the six ANA corps and the associated regional Afghan National Police (ANP) zone headquarters. The two regional task forces, TF Southeast and TF Southwest, oversaw persistent advising with the Afghan National Army (ANA) 203rd and 215th Corps; and ANP Zone 303 and Zone 505, respectively. The TAACs and TFs served as the principal connections between the Afghan ministries and fielded forces. The field commands played a central role in the coalition’s ability to assess the efficacy of its ministerial advising efforts, to determine the ministries’ ability to support ongoing ANDSF security operations, and to provide an outer ring of sensors and security for the coalition. In addition, coalition forces provide limited non-combat enabler support, primarily ISR and MEDEVAC, to the ANDSF as the Afghans continue to field and develop their organic capabilities.
On the campaign trail, Trump was repeatedly and vehemently critical of past US policy in the Middle East, particularly the strategy of training and arming local militias to indirectly achieve military, political and economic goals in the region. The Taliban called on Trump to quickly exit Afghanistan given that over a decade and a half of US involvement had done little to end regional violence and instability. "The responsibility to bring to an end this war also rests on your shoulders," the Taliban said in an official statement.
At the end of May 2014, 48 nations were contributing troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan, including 21 non-NATO partners. At that time, the United States contributed 32,800 (or about 66 percent) of the ISAF total troop strength,2 which declined from an average of 68,000 U.S. troops in FY 2013.3 As the combat mission continues to drawdown, the United States would maintain a commitment to Afghanistan’s sovereignty and security, and would continue to equip, train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF); support economic development and governance efforts; and pursue counterterrorism goals against al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups.
On May 27, 2014, the President announced a plan to end the US combat mission in Afghanistan in December 2014. At the beginning of 2015, and contingent upon the Afghans signing a Bilateral Security Agreement and a status of forces agreement with NATO, the United States will execute the Resolute Support train, advise, and assist mission, with 9,800 service members in different parts of the country, along with NATO allies and partners.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said 28 December 2014 “At the end of this year, as our Afghan partners assume responsibility for the security of their country, the United States officially concludes Operation Enduring Freedom. … In 2015, we begin our follow-on mission -- Operation Freedom's Sentinel -- to help secure and build upon the hard-fought gains of the last 13 years.”
By the end of 2015, the United States would reduce that presence by roughly half, consolidating US troops in Kabul and on Bagram Airfield. By the end of 2016, the United States will drawdown to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, as was done in Iraq. Beyond 2014, the mission of U.S. troops will be training Afghan forces and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al-Qaeda.
The US mission in Afghanistan includes military, diplomatic, and development programs, personnel, and assets. The FY 2014 Budget for the United States provided $85.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) to the Department of Defense (DoD) and a combined $6.5 billion to the Department of State (DOS) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Awaiting the President’s decision on the size of the residual force in Afghanistan, the President’s FY 2015 budget includes a placeholder for DoD’s 2015 OCO funding in the amount of $79.4 billion; and provides $5.9 billion to DOS and USAID for their OCO activities, including operations and assistance in Afghanistan.6 The President’s FY 2015 OCO budget request would include funding for the U.S. advisory and counterterrorism mission, support for NATO allies in Afghanistan, and an increasingly consolidated US military presence. It would also include continued material and financial assistance to the ANSF.
NATO’s primary objective in Afghanistan is to enable the Afghan authorities to provide effective security across the country and ensure the country can never again be a safe haven for terrorists. Since August 2003, the NATO-led ISAF has been conducting security operations, while also training and developing the ANSF. Launched in 2011, the transition to full Afghan security responsibility is due to be completed by the end of 2014, when ISAF’s mission would transition to the follow-on mission to train, advise and assist the ANSF and contribute to the long-term sustainment of those forces.
Wider cooperation would also continue within the framework of the NATO-Afghanistan Enduring Partnership, signed in 2010 at the Lisbon Summit. NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan carries forward the Alliance’s political-military objectives, liaising with the Afghan government, civil society, representatives of the international community and neighboring countries.
US President Barack Obama proposed new guidelines which would allow US troops to engage Taliban fighters, not only al-Qaeda terrorists, and also provide for US air support when required. Obama authorized the US troops in Afghanistan to carry out missions against militant groups, including Taliban, that threaten them or the Afghan government, as well as to support combat missions of the Afghan troops using jets, bombers and drones, the New York Times reported 22 NOvember 2014, citing administration, military and congressional officials. The decision was made amid tensions in the president's administration between supporters and opponents of America's further involvement in Afghanistan, the newspaper added.
Afghanistan's parliament approved two bilateral security agreements, one with the United States and another separately with NATO, permitting international troops to remain in Afghanistan past the end of the year. Afghan Parliament speaker Abdul Raouf Ibrahimi announced on November 23, that a majority of deputies had voted in favor of the security agreements. The new Afghan government signed the two agreements on September 30. The new agreements approved by the Afghan parliament, allow the US and NATO to keep a total of 12,000 troops in Afghanistan next year to support local forces.
Resolute Support was all about is trying to get the Afghans above the tactical level to the operational and strategic level. The advisers would focus on the ministerial and institutional levels to work systems, processes, and professionalize the force. The US focused those efforts along eight essential functions. That's everything from planning, programming, budgeting, execution, to sustainment, to planning.
In 2015, the ANSF has full responsibility. So as they keep working their MI-17 program, their MI-35 program, the MD-530s, the A-29s, all the things that they're trying to complement, supplement, air weapons teams, that would be their version of close air support. What's yet to be defined explicitly as of late 2014 was coalition assets in support of ANSF, based on what types of operations they're doing and, again, what the strategic consequences may be based on where they find themselves, what situations they get into, based on what the enemy threat evolves into here for 2015.
As of desertions, the goal is a 1.4 percent AWOL rate between the army and police. By late 2014 the army had gone down some. The police had gone up some. Their first priority is to get their recruiting back up. The tashkils is their manning document. The police are about 89 percent and the army is about 81 percent fill.
ANSF killed in action were 4,350 for 2013 and 4,634 for 2014. This is not sustainable. They do need to decrease their casualty rate. They've done -- as we talked earlier about their MEDEVAC capabilities, how you continue to improve quality of care at the point of injury all the way through evacuation to a hospital. All those things have to continue to improve to reduce those numbers because those numbers are not sustainable in the long term.
By 2015 the four coalition framework nations maintained a central “hub” in Kabul and a regional presence in four “spokes” in the north, south, east, west, and capital regions of the country through the TAACs. Turkey leads TAAC-Capital (TAAC-C) in the Kabul area, the United States leads TAAC-East (TAAC-E) and TAAC-South (TAAC-S), Italy leads TAAC-West (TAAC-W), and Germany leads TAAC-North (TAAC-N). Personnel at each TAAC conduct training and provide advice and assistance to their Afghan counterparts depending on the need identified by the coalition and their Afghan partners. In addition, the Advise and Assist Directorate (AAD) provides oversight of regional Advise and Assist Cells which cover two ANA corps with expeditionary advising support while TAAC-Air provides TAA support to the AAF. The TAACs and the AACs are critical touchpoints with the ANDSF that allow the coalition to verify and validate Afghan reporting at the ANA corps and police equivalent level while reinforcing the importance of building and improving the systems and processes that support combat operations.
General John W. Nicholson, the Commander of Resolute Support and USFOR-A, assessed the security situation in Afghanistan at the end of 2016 as “an equilibrium, but one that’s in favor of the [Afghan] government.” In characterizing the performance of the Afghan security forces, he stated “they were tested and they prevailed” by preventing Taliban capture of provincial capitals.
However, in its November 2016 threat assessment, the Institute for the Study of War stated that the Afghan government remains highly dependent on current levels of U.S. support to sustain the ANDSF and maintain security in territory now controlled by the Afghan government. Further, the assessment reported that the ANDSF is “incapable of recapturing significant swaths of Taliban-secured territory” at current levels of U.S. support.
Following unrelenting combat throughout 2016, the ANDSF expected to transition during the winter months to operations focusing on training, force regeneration, developing leadership, on securing gains made over the summer in government controlled areas. According to media sources, Afghan military planning capacity had improved as illustrated by the high quality of ANDSF campaign plans for both last summer and this winter.
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