Afghan Special Security Forces

The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) Roadmap is an Afghan-developed and led approach to continue to build increasingly effective, affordable and sustainable Afghan security forces. This Roadmap – an initiative led by President Ghani – sets out the way ahead for the reform and further professionalization of the ANDSF including addressing leadership challenges through merit-based promotions and assignments; countering corruption; expanding the Afghan Air Force and major upgrades to equipment; and, increasing fighting capability by doubling the size of the Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF).

The Special Operations Corps continues to prove in combat that they are the most capable in the Afghan military by conducting the majority of the army’s offensive operations and being assigned to the most difficult missions. About four out of every five operations are now conducted unilaterally, independent of U.S. and NATO counterterrorism personnel that help train, advise and assist their Afghan partners. The ASSF is used for counterterrorism raids including against high-value individuals, high-risk raids, counterattacks, crisis response, disrupting insurgent and drug smuggling networks, and deterring high-profile attacks.

Particular attention is being taken to grow its numbers a deliberate and disciplined manner, taking care to build over time on existing quality by sticking to very high individual standards and performance that are a hallmark of special forces. The ASSF is 17,000 strong (including the fighting force, support and administrative staff) and the initiative to double the fighting force – that number being classified – involves a number of reforms and components including:

  • New and expanded specialized training facilities and courses at a School of Excellence. 
  • The Special Mission Wing are the assigned air forces that provide reach throughout the country for ASSF missions. From mid-February to mid-May 2017, these aircraft supported more than 200 counter-terrorist/counter-narcotics operations, and nearly 100 air movements of personnel and supplies. The air component will also grow in size and capability including operating at night, anywhere in the country. 
  • Additional equipment will increase the Afghan Commandos’ speed and mobility on the ground and with more, and more lethal firepower.
  • Intelligence capabilities have been, and are being enhanced.
  • Processes including reporting relationships will be changed in order to reduce the potential for Afghan army Corps commanders to use or task ASSF for less important activities. 
  • The number of legal staff including operational law attorneys will be increased to assist with training on rules of law and to aid transparency and ensure accountability.
The doubling of the ASSF fighting force is an investment in a proven, battle-tested capability. The establishment of an Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) Corps headquarters as part of the growth of Afghan special forces will improve planning, command, control, resourcing and coordination of operations across the country. Importantly, it will increase the Afghan Government’s ability to conduct operations against terrorist and insurgent networks across the breadth of the country.

Gen. John Nicholson, Commander Resolute Support Mission
(from ceremony 20 Aug 2017 marking the creation of an ASSF Corps-level headquarters)
  • "The enemy has a simple choice: stop fighting on behalf of the neighbors of Afghanistan. Stop killing innocent civilians. Stop bringing hardship and misery to the Afghan people. Lay down your arms. Build a better future for your country and your families. Or, die at the hands of the Commandos.”

  • "The Afghan Commandos are the premier fighting force in this region. I assure you we are with you in this fight. We are with you and we will stay with you.”


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