US troops in Afghanistan will end “most” combat operations this spring, US President Barack Obama and Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai have agreed.
American forces are expected to switch to a support role, slightly earlier than originally scheduled, as Afghan troops take the security lead.
The two leaders also backed the holding of talks between the Afghan government and Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar.
Most of the 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan are due to leave in 2014.
“Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission - training, advising, assisting Afghan forces,” Mr Obama said in remarks at the White House on Friday, as Mr Karzai stood alongside.
More: US Troops Will End ‘Most’ Afghanistan Combat This Spring
It’s time the Army started providing soldiers with formal training on the foreign weapons most commonly used either by the enemy or by friendly host-nation military and police forces. Nearly every conflict in which the Army has participated — including present-day operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa — has included some mission requiring soldiers to train host-nation forces. Yet we as an Army fail to adequately prepare today’s trainers on how to conduct foreign-weapons instruction to foreign militaries should the need arise.
Once largely the province of Special Forces, missions to train national armies, police and other extensions of the host-nation’s government or other indigenous fsorces have proliferated in recent years throughout the Army’s “conventional” units. Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of units have deployed in support of operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn to conduct training under myriad transition teams. Throughout Africa and Europe, conventional units from both the active and reserve components routinely deploy to train and mentor host-nation militaries. Units train indigenous forces in small-unit tactics, which include individual and crew-served weapons training.
Foreign-force adviser teams are routinely required to provide the host nation with basic and advanced marksmanship training. Additionally, they are required to track and assist in maintaining foreign-force equipment and weapons issued to the host-nation unit. Most weapons used by foreign-force military and police units are Soviet-style small arms such as the AK-series assault rifle, the PK-series machine gun and the DShK heavy machine gun.
Yet the Army offers no formal training to soldiers on these or other weapons commonly found in the environments in which they operate. Soldiers tasked with the mission of providing small-arms instruction or weapons qualification must rely largely on dated manuals, Internet references and personal experience.
The Army preaches composite risk management in all aspects of training and combat operations, yet when it comes to foreign weapons we turn a blind eye to safety. What would the ramifications be for a leader who not only put a weapon into the hands of a soldier not trained on that weapon, but who also put that soldier in charge of teaching others how to use it safely? This problem would be compounded by the trainees’ own lack of safety awareness, which would further raise the risk for the students and instructor alike.