BAGRAM, Afghanistan - Almost 2,100 militants have been killed in Afghanistan
since Sept. 1 in operations involving coalition special forces soldiers, a US
Army spokesman said.
That means more than half of the country's insurgency-related deaths this
year have come in the last three months.
About 900 of the 2,077 deaths
came during Operation Medusa, a major offensive in September in the southern
province of Kandahar. Special forces soldiers worked alongside conventional
forces from Canada during the fight.
Afghan insurgent leader Gulbuddin
Hekmatyar is seen in this photo grab from a DVD received by Associated
Press Television in Pakistan, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006. [AP]
The two primary missions for the US special forces soldiers in Afghanistan
are conducting counterterrorism operations and supporting NATO troops, Master
Sgt. Clifford Richardson said in an interview this week at Bagram, the main US
base in Afghanistan.
Nailing top fugitives like al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader
Mullah Omar is part of the mission of Operation Enduring Freedom but isn't the
top priority of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, which commands
all special forces soldiers in Afghanistan, Richardson said.
More than 500 US special forces soldiers and 1,000 from other coalition
countries operate throughout Afghanistan and outside the command of NATO's
International Security Assistance Force, unlike conventional US troops now
operating in the east.
American special forces worked in parallel with conventional troops from
Canada during Medusa.
"We were assisting the Canadians by providing some reconnaissance and some
screening and it rolled into where they could no longer push forward,"
Richardson said. "We rolled into a different tactical maneuver set and took over
as the main element."
The number of militants killed in action since Sept. 1 - when the
current US special forces group arrived for an eight-month rotation - was
confirmed through either physical evidence, such as body counts, or through
multiple sources, Richardson said.
About 4,000 people have died in violence in Afghanistan this year, according
to an Associated Press count based on figures from NATO, US and Afghan
officials. Those figures often come from remote battle sites and are impossible
Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks this year, particularly in the
country's south and east, and have launched a record number of suicide and
roadside bombs this year.
Richardson said that special forces soldiers here no longer operate
unilaterally, but "by, with and through" Afghan security forces.
"We prefer to operate through the partner units we work with and the
government of Afghanistan," he said. "That just solidifies them becoming a
sovereign nation and not relying solely on the US military for their own
protection and security."