A "senior defense official" clears it up:
“Independent operations” means that they’re independent sort of from bottom through all the range of capabilities when you have a military. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t operate independently.
But: Just one of 23 Afghan army brigades is able to operate on its own without air or other military support from the United States or NATO, according to a Pentagon report to Congress that was released Monday.
One analysis: The ANA is partially developed in each of the seven elements of combat power. Its human intelligence capacity to sense near-term threats is high; however, its technical capacity to detect horizon threats is low. On the ground, it can maneuver well, but the ANA lacks the air and ground mobility to shift force around the country in order to mass against the enemy. Lack of mobility and still-developing staffs reduce the ANA’s ability to apply timely and coordinated force. The ANA can place accurate enough direct fire against the enemy once engaged, but it has only limited land-based indirect fire ability. It does not have adequate air-delivered fires that are important in the mountains and remote areas of Afghanistan. Insufficient size and pending medical, supply, maintenance, and transport capacity means that the ANA has limited ability to maintain momentum against the enemy once engaged. And leadership quality varies. http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/combat-power-confidence-within-afghan-national-army
and this just in from the WaPo::
With Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in Kabul to take stock as the Obama administration weighs how quickly to draw down troops over the next two years, a senior U.S. military commander on Wednesday hailed the progress Afghan security forces have made.
Marine Maj. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, the head of operations for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, said NATO troops have begun a radical shift in mission: doing the bare minimum to support Afghan troops, who, he said, are starting to operate unilaterally. “We’re now un-partnering from” Afghan forces, Nicholson told reporters Wednesday evening. “We’re at that stage of the fight.”
That's why there's no ANA soldier in the photo -- the US is now un-partnering from Afghan forces!