General: Afghan forces had 'mixed' results in first year fighting Taliban

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Afghan National Security Forces had "mixed results" in their first year fighting the Taliban on their own, a U.S. brigadier general said Tuesday. 

The forces did "fairly well" at deliberate planned operations, but had trouble when responding to crisis, Army Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffnerr said.

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In addition, the Afghan National Army faces a shortfall of 25,000 troops, a gap it hopes to close over the next six months, he said. 

The Taliban is attempting to regain control of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, which was the focus of the military surge that President Obama ordered in 2009, but began to draw down in 2011.

"With regard to Marjah and Helmand, central Helmand remains a contested area. It's been a contested area for several years and it remains so," said Shoffner, who is also the deputy chief of staff for communications for the Resolute Support mission. 

More than 450 U.S. troops have died in Helmand Province since 2001, according to statistics on iCasualties. 

Shoffner said the Afghan army corps in charge of the area needs to be rebuilt due to corruption and poor leadership. 

The U.S. is only advising the 215th Corps sporadically, by flying out troops from Kabul to conduct advising for a period of days or weeks, he said. 

"It is not one of the corps where we have a permanent [train, advise and assist], but it's one of the areas where we do the expeditionary advising and that is ongoing as we speak," he said. 

There are now 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with the force set to drop to 5,500 by the end of the year. 

Army Gen. John Campbell, the U.S. commander in charge of coalition forces, told USA Today recently he wants to keep as many forces in Afghanistan for as long as possible. Sen. Jack ReedJack ReedMcChrystal backs McCain's Pentagon reform proposal Overnight Defense: Biden hits Trump on national security | Dems raise pressure over refugees | Graham vows fight over spending caps Graham: Opponents of lifting military spending caps are 'a-holes' MORE (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, recently told reporters that the administration should base its drawdown on conditions on the ground. 

Shoffner said the Taliban began its offensive in Helmand in October, and Afghan forces began a counteroffensive in early November.  

That counteroffensive led to a U.S. Special Forces team going down to the area to assist Afghan special forces, resulting in the death of Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Q. McClintock in early January.

Shoffner said with conventional Afghan troops, U.S. advising takes place at the corps level, but with Afghan special forces, U.S. troops will advise at the "tactical level" and accompany them without participating in the actual fighting. 

He compared it to a football coach who's watching his players play, and said troops are supposed to separate from the Afghans before a fight and "go to an overwatch position" where they can monitor the execution of the operation. 

Shoffner also said McClintock "was in his train, advise and assist role," versus a combat role.  

"Afghanistan remains a dangerous place. He was in his train, advise and assist role and he was in a situation where they received fire from an enemy element. They returned fire and in the — the — the action that ensued, one enemy soldier -- one American soldier was killed, four Afghan soldiers were wounded," he said. 

Shoffner denied that problems with the Afghan army's 215th Corps problems have led to the Taliban's offensive in the area. 

He said the corps will need to be rebuilt while continuing to fight the Taliban, and that other forces have been moved from elsewhere in Afghanistan to help, he said. 

"I want to stress that it's going to take time for the rebuild of the 215th Corps. We will assist as much as we can under the train, advise and assist authorities," he said.