US commander to get more Afghan authority
Washington: General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, is being given expanded authority over the US and NATO forces in the country, a defence official said.
The move will put all but a small number of US special operations forces and some support troops from other nations under the command of the American Army general.
McChrystal is already commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan but the additional authorities will give him greater control over the estimated 121,000 international troops in the country than any of his predecessors have had.
He "will have US operational control of all US forces less a small number of special operations forces," an American defence official said on condition of anonymity.
As the NATO commander, the only forces not under McChrystal's control will be a special US task force that handles detainees, the small number of special operations forces and some support troops from other nations, the official said.
McChrystal's expanded authority comes amid a surge in US forces to Afghanistan that will boost foreign troop levels in the country to 150,000 by August.
NATO officers, meanwhile, are planning a new US-led military command in southern Afghanistan to prepare for a major offensive against the Taliban bastion of Kandahar, officials said on Thursday.
The new command would oversee military operations in Helmand province, where an allied offensive has taken on Taliban forces in Marjah, while an existing NATO command under British leadership would be freed up to focus on the pivotal campaign planned for Kandahar, defence officials said.