Top NATO commander expects more U.S. casualties in Afghanistan


Afghan National Army soldiers stand guard in an army station during a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. Written on the top, right to left, reads: “God, Homeland, Duty.” Several Afghan officials participated in a ceremony to commemorate the completion of power transition to Afghanistan’s security forces.

General Philip Breedlove warned Thursday that Americans should be prepared for more U.S. casualties in Afghanistan. This comes even after American and allied forces have officially ended the 13-year International Security Assistance mission.

According to the Stars and Stripes, efforts have shifted to a lower-key advisory role called Resolute Support. The move has been touted as “an end of an era and the beginning of a new one,” said ISAF Commander Gen. John Campbell.

Breedlove said in an interview, “All of us as commanders have reminded our senior leadership that the war in Afghanistan has not ended, (just) the combat mission for NATO. It’s hard to say, but we are going to continue to have (American) casualties in Afghanistan.”

“It is going to be unavoidable,” he said.

As part of the new NATO mission, about 6,000 allied nation troops and 6,000 U.S. troops will remain on the ground to advise and train Afghanistan’s army and police force. Not all of American personnel will participate in Resolute Support. Some will conduct counterterrorism and other associated operations. All U.S. forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by 2016.

The Stars and Stripes reported that after the collapse last summer of Iraq’s U.S.-trained army when confronted by a surprise attack by Islamist forces, analysts and U.S. officials have warned that a similar scenario could unfold in Afghanistan if international troops pulled out too quickly, leaving the government forces to fend for themselves.

Although U.S. and NATO troops will no longer act as the main fighting force in Afghanistan, American troops will continue to be in the line of fire on a regular basis during the follow-on mission, expressed Maj. Gen. John Murray, Deputy Commander for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

“We are not going out on kill/capture missions anymore, (but) this is still a very dangerous place,” Murray said in an interview at the command’s headquarters at Bagram. “There are going to be some hard questions when we lose (the first) soldier” under Resolute Support.

The upcoming fighting season, the first under Resolute Support, will be American commanders’ “last good year to have an impact” on Afghanistan’s postwar future.

“Are we looking at contingencies? Absolutely,” Murray said when asked about possible changes to the postwar mission. But “this is not (Operation Enduring Freedom) … that is part of the mind-set we are going to [have to] get used to,” he said.

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