Kabul, Mar.16 (ANI): Top American commander in Afghanistan General Stanley A. McChrystal has brought most American Special Operations forces under his direct control for the first time, over concerns on mounting civilian casualties and disorganization among units in the field.
Major General Zahir Azimi, the chief spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, said that General McChrystal had told Afghan officials he was taking the action because of concern that some American units were not following his orders to make limiting civilian casualties a paramount objective.
"What happens is, sometimes at cross-purposes, you got one hand doing one thing and one hand doing the other, both trying to do the right thing but working without a good outcome," the New York Times quoted General McChrystal, as saying in an interview.
Critics, including Afghan officials, human rights workers and some field commanders of conventional American forces, say that Special Operations forces have been responsible for a large number of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan and operate by their own rules.
General McChrystal has made reducing civilian casualties a cornerstone of his new counter-insurgency strategy, and his campaign has had some success.
Last year, civilian deaths attributed to the United States military were cut by 28 percent, although there were 596 civilian deaths attributed to coalition forces, according to United Nations figures.
Afghan and United Nations officials blame Special Operations troops for most of those deaths. ear Admiral Gregory J. Smith, General McChrystal's deputy chief of staff for communications, however, cautioned against putting undue blame on Special Operations forces.
Since night raids are dangerous, and most missions take place at night, most of them are carried out by the more highly trained special groups.
Rear Admiral Smith said that General McChrystal had issued the new directive on Special Operations forces within "the last two or three weeks."
While it is being circulated for comment within the military and has not been formally announced, General McChrystal has already put it into practical effect, he said.
Previously, Special Operations forces in Afghanistan often had separate chains of command to their own headquarters elsewhere.
That remained true even after General McChrystal was appointed last year and consolidated the NATO and American military commands under his own control. (ANI)