Pentagon Quietly Sending 1,000 Special Operators to Afghanistan in Strategy Revamp

The Pentagon is sending 1,000 more special operations forces and support staff into Afghanistan to bolster a larger conventional troop buildup, and is revamping the way Army Green Berets and other commandos work to rid villages of the Taliban.

While much of the public focus has been on 24,000 additional American troops moving into the country this year, U.S. Special Operations Command is quietly increasing its covert warriors in what could be a pivotal role in finally defeating insurgents, military sources tell

The movement comes as Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a special operator who led successful manhunts in Iraq for Al Qaeda terrorists, is about to take command in Afghanistan.

McChrystal, who underwent a Senate Armed Services confirmation hearing Tuesday, is expected to put more emphasis on using commandos in counterinsurgency operations and on finding or killing key Taliban leaders.

Underscoring that theme, McChrystal has asked two veteran special operators on the Pentagon's Joint Staff, which he directs, to accompany him to Afghanistan once he wins Senate approval for a fourth star. The two are Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, who headed intelligence for the chief terrorist hunting unit in Iraq; and Brig Gen. Austin Miller, a Joint Staff director for special operations.

Military sources say Brig. Gen. Ed Reeder, who commands special operations in Afghanistan, went in-country earlier this year to revamp the way Green Beret "A" Teams, Delta Force and other special operators conduct counter-insurgency.

Green Berets, the same group that led the 2001 ouster of the Taliban from power, now primarily work out of fire support bases, often independently of conventional forces. They fight to control the Taliban-infested border with Pakistan, and train the Afghan army.

Critics within special operations have said the A Teams need to work more closely with conventional forces and with NATO counterparts. "This would give us a needed one-two punch," said a former operator who served in Afghanistan.

Reeder heads the new Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command. It is a mix of the more open Green Berets and Marine commandos, and the super-secret Delta Force and Navy SEALs who conduct manhunts.

The covert side works in task forces that are only identified by a secret three-digit number. They are aided by Army Rangers and a Joint Interagency Task Force made up of the CIA, National Security Agency, FBI and other intelligence units.

McChrystal is a former commander of Joint Special Operations Command, the home of Delta Force. He led the hunt in Iraq that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, one of Al Qaeda's leading terrorists in the Middle East, in 2006.

Those who worked with him talk of a tenacious warrior who worked to link his direct-action fighters with the intelligence operatives who provided crucial information on terrorist locations. McChrystal allowed Delta operatives at the troop level (akin to a conventional platoon) to call in Predator spy drones during a mission.

"We need a Predator on that house," is the way the former operative in Iraq described Delta's freer rein.

The increase in special operations forces is an attempt to rebalance commando presence there, after the demands of the Iraq War stripped some of its manpower in Afghanistan. The influx will bring the total special operations forces in Afghanistan to about 5,000, a spokesman at special operations command confirmed to

Usama bin Laden is believed to be hiding across the border in Pakistan, where U.S. ground troops are forbidden. But intelligence sources say if bin Laden is located, American commandos may be dispatched to kill or capture him.

Rowan Scarborough is author of "Rumsfeld's War: The Untold Story of America's Anti-Terrorist Commander," and "Sabotage: America's Enemies Within the CIA."