Post-war Afghan strategy shifts focus to local militias

The plan, concocted by Special Operations Command chief Adm. Bill McRaven, is based on a 6,000-man force of American special forces backed up by Afghan commando units, known as "Kandaks."

Those forces will spearhead the upcoming U.S. and NATO offensive against Taliban strongholds in eastern Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, commander of all coalition forces in Afghanistan, said in March.

Those U.S.-Afghan special forces teams will also be the main counterinsurgency and counterterrorism force in Afghanistan once American troops pull out of the country in 2014. 

Roughly 23,000 American soldiers are set to rotate back to the United States this summer as part of the White House's withdrawal strategy. 

However, nearly two-thirds of those U.S. special operations troops will focus on training local militias attached as part of the Pentagon's village stability operations in the country, according to the Associated Press. 

The local militias would act as a government-backed paramilitary force to back up ANSF operations in particularly restive provinces in Afghanistan. 

These militias would also theoretically be the frontline forces that would detect Taliban or al Qaeda activities in areas beyond the reach of Kabul. 

Allen and Central Command Chief Gen. James Mattis were briefed on McRaven's plan in February, the AP reported. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has yet to weigh in on the draft strategy. 

The Defense Department implemented a similar strategy to great success in Iraq during the bloodiest days of the war. 

American special operations forces, backed up by regular Army units, helped train the so-called "Sons of Iraq" militias in al Anbar province. 

That local force was credited with pushing back al Qaeda-backed Sunni insurgency groups in that part of the country and taking back the province in western Iraq.

U.S. forces have been training a number of local militias in Afghanistan in recent years. The McRaven plan would simply accelerate that effort. 

However, concerns over whether that work -- combined with the larger combat role U.S. special forces are expected to take on after 2014 -- may overstress American troops left behind in Afghanistan. 

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who was accused of allegedly going on a shooting spree in March that killed 16 Afghan civilians, was a member of a Army support unit helping U.S. special forces train Afghan militias. 

He is currently being held at the military's prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., awaiting court martial.