As NATO transitions more responsibility for Afghanistan’s security to the country's own military, there are potentially big safety and security risks the allied forces face, according to military officials.
One concern is that as NATO helicopters are called on more and more to transport Afghanistan’s security forces, the assets may be at risk of a relatively low-yield suicide device, warns a military official with extensive experience operating and flying in Afghanistan.
Another concern is about providing attack aircraft – helicopters and fighters – accurate targeting information. There is concern the local forces may not have enough experience to accurately direct a coalition air strike. NATO will have to recognize that Joint Terminal Air Controllers will have to remain in Afghanistan until the very end to minimize the risk of error.
One of the big debates, in recent years, has been to what extent air strikes have been the cause of most collateral damage. Air Force officials from several NATO member states have insisted that aircraft have had a rather limited role. That’s a view echoed by an experienced ground commander, but he also points out the reality is largely irrelevant. Among locals “the perception is that aviation is an unpredictable protector, but also threat,” he asserts.