Afghanistan’s National Mission Brigade – New Afghan SOF Unit

Col Khanullah Shuja, Commander of the National Mission Brigade, delivers remarks during the NMB activation ceremony. (photo by Sun L. Vega, RS HQs, August 3, 2017).
Col Khanullah Shuja, Commander of the National Mission Brigade, delivers remarks during the NMB activation ceremony. (photo by Sun L. Vega, RS HQs, August 3, 2017).

Afghanistan’s National Mission Brigade (NMB) was activated on July 31, 2017. The new special operations unit will be employed to defeat the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), al Qaeda groups, the Taliban, and other terrorist and insurgent groups in Afghanistan. The National Mission Brigade will support the Afghan Army and Afghan police.

Staffing of the National Mission Brigade comes from the Ministry of Defense (MoD), Ministry of Interior (MoI), and the National Directorate of Security (NDS). The unit will conduct national-level missions that are driven by intelligence. The Afghan Four-Year Roadmap adopted by the MoD and MoI (signed off by President Ghani) aims to double the size of the Afghan special operations unit. The Afghan SOF units currently conduct 70% of the offensive operations in the fight against the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

There is a lot of confidence in the Afghan special operations forces. The activation of the National Mission Brigade will go a long way to increase the capability and capacity of the Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF) as well as the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). General Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support, stated that “. . . the development of a National Mission Brigade that uses ASSF and mobile conventional forces to provide a quick strike capability, are in progress and will enable the ANDSF to set the operational stage, placing GIRoA and the ANDSF in a position of strength for reconciliation.” [1]

National Mission UnitInitial plans were for the NMB to have under its control elements of the ANASOC 6th Special Operations Kandak (SOK) and the Ktah Khas. Prior to the establishment of the NMB the 6th SOK, located in the Kabul area, functioned as the ANA’s national mission unit. The Ktah Khas (often referred to as the Afghan Partner Unit) is a light infantry special operations kandak consisting of three companies and support elements. It is accomplished in conducting independent intelligence-driven counterterrorism raids against high value targets as well as utilizing ground and mobility platforms to conduct vehicle interdictions. The NMB will have approximately 200 personnel at the brigade level to provide command and control capabilities for the rapidly deployable special operations kandaks conducting contingency operations throughout the country of Afghanistan. [2]

There are a number of different Afghan SOF units within the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior to include the Crisis Response Unit and the Afghan Commandos. The National Mission Brigade will be one more elite Afghan SOF unit. Members of the U.S. Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan (SOJTF-A), along with their NATO and partner nation SOF allies, will be conducting the Train, Advise, Assist, and Mentor (TAAM) mission with the National Mission Brigade and its subordinate units.

Footnotes:

[1] See New Flexibility Results in Year of Momentum, Army.mil, September 21, 2016. An article wrote by General John Nicholson describing initiatives in the works for the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. www.army.mil/article/175477

[2] See Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan, Department of Defense, December 2016.
www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/Afghanistan-1225-Report-December-2016.pdf

Corrections: An earlier version of this posting stated that the NMB would fall under the control of the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC). At this time (Aug 2017) the C2 structure is still vague (or at least not publicly). In addition, the original article stated the inauguration date was August 3rd; but it is now corrected to July 31st. Editor.