Elite Army troops have disparaged the fighting capability of Afghan troops to military investigators probing the deaths of five soldiers in a friendly fire incident earlier this year, according to a published report.
The Washington Times claims that several Green Berets have described how Afghan soldiers have refused to fight and hidden among trees and behind rocks when coming under fire. The criticisms came to light on the same day that the last unit of U.S. Marines in Afghanistan concluded its combat mission, handing the base known as Camp Leatherneck to Afghan troops.
The comments by the Green Berets were made to investigators from U.S. Central Command during discussions of an incident from this past June, when five U.S. soldiers and an Afghan sergeant were killed when a B-1 bomber mistakenly dropped two bombs on their position during a battle against Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan.
Among the other complaints against Afghan soldiers the Times reports as being mentioned in the investigative file are inability to fight at night and inability to take the lead in clearing villages controlled by the Taliban. The paper also reports that the Green Beret team leader, a captain, claimed that the Afghan National Army (ANA) had provided fewer troops than requested for the June mission, adding that this was not the first time that had happened.
After the deadly bombing, the Times reports, a Green Beret instructed Afghan soldiers to set up a perimeter, only for them to hide behind a rock.
The reported experiences of the Green Berets stand in stark contrast to claims made by the Pentagon that Afghan forces will be ready to take the lead in the fight against the Taliban after the departure of most U.S. troops by the end of this year. The Defense Department's most recent Afghanistan progress report, released in April of this year, states that the ANA "made impressive progress, and maintained its tactical overmatch over the insurgency."
Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of the International Security Assistance Force told reporters Oct. 2 that the ANA had "taken on the security mission from last June of ‘13. They had it mostly entirely by themselves for the summer of ‘14. I think they've done very well, supporting both the [Afghan presidential election] and through some of the major events."
However, the report also said that Afghan forces had not been able to last more than several days in the field.