Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Sometimes we stray and cover things like coronavirus and protests (as it relates to SOF, the military, and national security).
Monday mornings is about catching up on the news from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The SOF News Updates on Monday tend to be long reading. Apologies for that!
Editorializing. We generally try not to do this. If we do, we will add a phrase like “Editorial Note:”. Some readers have been expressing discontent on our political viewpoint. That is surprising because we really don’t have one. We are more about policies; and very little about politics. The misinformation, disinformation, and political messaging from all areas of the political spectrum is vast enough without SOF News adding to it.
Short Break: Due to travel over the next several days, the editor and staff are taking a small break. Back on Monday, June 15, 2020.
Mike Taylor – GB in the News. Former Green Beret Mike Taylor (10th and 11th SFGA) is now facing extradition to Japan due to allegations that he arranged the departure of Carlos Ghosn from house arrest to safety in Lebanon. But the case against Taylor may not be so clear cut. Read “Extraditing The Escape Artists”, Palisades Hudson Financial Group LLC, June 4, 2020.
1st SF Command and Language Training. The DoD has awarded the Indiana University Language Training Center a $1.26 million award to expand its program. The center provides language training to the Indiana national Guard and U.S. special operations forces. In addition, it will develop virtual reality language-based learning software. (IDS News, June 7, 2020).
SOF CT and GPC Missions Blend Together. USSOCOM needs to develop systems and processes that aid in the counterterrorism fight as well as contribute to the ‘great power competition’ posed by Russia and China. But sometimes these two missions are one and the same. Read “Counterterror Mission Blends Into Competition With China, Russia: How SOCOM Copes”, Breaking Defense, June 4, 2020.
New Shoothouse for 10th SFGA. The Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat (SFAUC) program for the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado will soon have a new shoothouse. Read the behind the scenes process for getting the project off the ground. (DVIDS, Jun 4, 2020).
USSOCOM’s New PEO. The United States Special Operations Command has a new program executive office. The PEO for SOF Digital Applications has been stood up in response to shortcomings to developing artificial intelligence and machine learning for special operations applications. Read more in “Special Operations Command is reorganizing to focus on software and AI”, Defense News, June 6, 2020.
USSOCOM and Space. There are some very SOF-peculiar requirements that can be addressed through space-based capabilities. USSOCOM is looking to leverage partners across the services and agencies for capabilities that they can provide. See “Special Operations Command is diving into space”, C4ISRNET, June 6, 2020.
SEALs Getting New DCS. Naval Special Warfare is in the process of acquiring some new Dry Combat Submersible craft for its SEALs. The DCS is about one year away from Initial Operating Capability (IOC). See “USSOCOM Reveals Dry Combat Submersible Entering Service Soon”, Naval News, June 7, 2020.
Polaris Contract for LTATVs. The Polaris MRZR Alpha will soon be in the SOF inventory. The new contract calls for two and four-seat diesel vehicles and seven variants. (Army Recognition, June 4, 2020).
1st SOW Gets New Cdr. Colonel Jocelyn Schermerhorn will take command at Hurlburt Field, Florida on June 8, 2020. See “First Special Operations Wing Welcomes First Female Commander”, News WKRG 5, June 5, 2020.
NATO SOF Network. Major Thang Tran, a Special Forces officer assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado, argues that expanding the NATO SOF Network will provide political and military leaders the full range of options to respond to emerging threats. He says that strong partnerships within the NATO Alliance and with other partner nations can counter hybrid and conventional threats. This is an excellent article. Read “Increase NATO’s operational reach: Expanding the NATO SOF network”, Atlantic Council, June 5, 2020.
Drones for India’s SOF. The Micro RPAS (Type B) will soon be used by the Indian Army’s infantry and Special Forces commandos. They will be used to enhance the situational awareness during special operations missions. Read “India Plans to Procure 150 Micro Drones for its Army’s Special Operations”, Defence Aviation Post, June 5, 2020.
Protests, Riots, and the Military
Photo: President Donald Trump, Secretary of Defense Esper, and Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff General Milley leave the White House grounds and enter Lafayette Square enroute to a church that was burned by protesters. The park was cleared of protesters to allow the White House entourage access to the church for a photo opportunity. (photo courtesy of White House).
Optics. SECDEF Esper and General Milley took a lot of heat for making the walk from the White House through Lafayette Square. However, it seems they didn’t know where they were going until the walk began. In the end, it proved to be an image that neither anticipated. Read more in “A U-turn, an angry president and a fateful walk to a church”, Military Times, June 7, 2020.
Military Prestige. President Trump took a hard-line on the rioters causing significant damage in several U.S. cities. He was critical of some governors and mayors in how they responded to the riots. However, he was heavily criticized for how he attempted to use active duty military units in the nation-wide protest. See “Military Prestige During a Political Crisis: Use It and You’ll Lose It”, War on the Rocks, June 5, 2020.
JSOC Cdrs Not Silent. Four recently retired SOF 4-star military officers who were at one time commanders of the Joint Special Operations Command have been critical of President Trump. They fault his dealings with the military during the recent demonstrations (and riots), his response to the coronavirus pandemic, and other issues.
- General (Ret) Stan McChrystal, former ISAF Cdr
- Admiral (Ret) William McRaven, former USSOCOM Cdr
- General (Ret) Joseph Votel, former USSOCOM Cdr
- General (Ret) Tony Thomas, former USSOCOM Cdr
McRaven said that there was “nothing morally right” about forcefully clearing Lafayette Park in D.C. so President Trump could take photos in front of a church. The latest JSOC commander to criticize Trump was General (Ret) Votel who was also critical of Trump’s response to the protests. He penned “An apolitical military is essential to maintaining balance among American institutions”, The Rule of Law Post, Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law, June 6, 2020.
“Defund the Police”. Not SOF news but relevant to the preceding paragraphs is the new ‘buzzword’ for the left. The Minneapolis City Council have voted to eliminate the police department and establish a ‘community-based’ safety organization. It is envisioned that social workers or medics could respond to situations once handled by the police. Hmmm, that should work out just fine.
The New York City major says he is cutting funding for the city’s Police Department; two top police officials have since resigned. The plan is for the city to divert some funding from the NYPD to social service organizations.
Antifa. The role of the radical left organization in the recent demonstrations and riots is confusing. Depending on your news sources (left or right) – Antifa either instigated the riots or played an insignificant role. Here are two articles that could provide some clarity:
“The Real History of Antifa”, by Kyle Shideler, The American Mind, June 3, 2020 and “Lara Logan breaks down Antifa’s alleged role in riots: ‘They want us to believe that we are divided”, by Matt London, Fox News, June 3, 2020.
Nick Turse – Conspiracy Drama Queen. A journalist who is an expert in mixing fact with fiction now provides us with his most recent ‘misinformation piece’. Read “Pentagon War Game Includes Scenario for Military Response to Domestic Gen Z Rebellion”, The Intercept, June 5, 2020.
Photo: Members of the 19th Special Forces Group provide security in Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C., on June 3, 2020.
19th Group Element Returns Home. Approximately 200 members of the Utah National Guard – members of the 19th Special Forces Group – departed Washington, D.C. on Sunday, June 7, 2020 for their home state. They had been in the nation’s capital providing security during the protests and riots. The unit had been postured for an overseas deployment, for which, they were no longer needed. Since they were already on active duty they were able to rapidly respond to the request from the national command authority to provide support in D.C.
NG Units Return Home. Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, announced that all out-of-state National Guardsmen will be returning home after accomplishing their missions in the nation’s capital. NG units that helped protect the rights of citizens to peacefully protest (and stop them from destroying property) came from Mississippi, Florida, Utah, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, and South Carolina. (DoD News, Jun 7, 2020).
From Coronavirus to Protests. We are not seeing very much news about the coronavirus pandemic. We seem to have gone from warnings to “stay at home when possible and avoid large crowds” to “gather in the streets in mass demonstrations”. Seen on the internet: “And just like that . . . everyone went from disease experts to civil rights attorneys.”
National Guard service members were heroes the last few months for putting their lives at risk at COVID-19 test centers and in hospital ICUs. Now they are vilified, at least by some people, for providing security, protecting people, and protecting property from rioters. Hurricane season is approaching – perhaps they will be heroes once again.
Great Power Competition
Strategic Approach to China. The White House has published a paper entitled United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China, May 2020, 16 pages, PDF. A recent news release by the U.S. Department of Defense provides a DoD perspective on the report. (DoD, June 5, 2020).
Losing the ‘Strategic Battle’ Against China. Hugh Harsono argues that the United States military needs to become more flexible in three critical realms: emerging conflict domains, talent management, and pursuing authorities and permissions. Read “Losing the Strategic “Battle” Against the PRC – But Not the War: Emerging Conflict Domains”, War Room, United States Army War College, June 5, 2020.
China, GPC, and Central Asia. Russia has had long ties with Central Asia. It’s economic, political, cultural, and military influence is the result of long years under Soviet domination. But China is making inroads on the economic front – and possibly on the military front. Read “What Are the Implications of China’s Growing Security Role in Central Asia?”, by Ian Lynch, The Diplomat, June 3, 2020.
Trump Orders Troop Cuts in Germany. The United States has announced it will withdraw 9,500 troops from Europe. Apparently Germany was caught off guard by the announcement. Relations between the U.S. and Germany have not been the best since Trump took office. The announcement was made on Saturday, June 6th; the same day that countries in Europe celebrated the 76th anniversary of the D-Day. The Trump order will reduce U.S. forces in Germany by 1/3. Some national security advisors say this is not good for European security and others say that Europe will be just fine and they can handle the Russian threat alone.
Read “Trump’s Troop Plan Stuns Germany and Rocks Postwar Order”, Bloomberg.com, June 6, 2020. See also an editorial by the Wall Street Journal that says withdrawing U.S. troops would be a win for Russia – and China – “Retreat From Germany”, WSJ, June 7, 2020.
Iran’s International Army. The proxy network of worldwide Shia militias remains a potent political, military, and economic pillar for Tehran. Read “The Quds Dilemma: Dealing with Iran’s international arm”, The War Room – United States Army War College, June 3, 2020.
Investigation on Insider Attack by Afghan Commando. On November 3, 2018, Major Brent Taylor – a Utah National Guard member – was killed by an Afghan Army commando. A 100-page 15-6 Investigation Report by the Army provides the details of the attack that took place at Camp Scorpion. The attacker was a member of the Ktah Khas commando battalion – an elite unit advised by U.S. SOF. (Standard-Examiner, Jun 5, 2020).
COIN in West Africa. A researcher examines the operations of the Lake Chad Basin Multinational Joint Task Froce (MNJTF) that has “successfully reduced both the ability and reach of Boko Haram.” Read “Key lessons for global counter-insurgency from the fight against Boko Haram”, Accord (ZA), June 2020.
ISIS a Growing threat in Africa. Two writers examine the impact of the Islamic State consolidating its African offshoots as part of an effort to expand its presence across the continent. See “ISIS militants pose growing threat across Africa”, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), June 2, 2020.
North Africa al-Qaeda Chief Killed. France announced that Abdelmalek Droukdel and members of his inner circle were killed during an operation in northern Mali. (BBC News, June 5, 2020).
Monday, June 8, 2020. Video Event – “Is Britain Still a Global Intelligence Power?”, Hudson.org. A conversation with former Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) on how he sees Britain’s role in world affairs moving into the future. (12:00 PM)
Wednesday, June 10, 2020. Webinar – Gary Beikirch, MoH. Hosted by the Special Forces Charitable Trust (SFCT). (4:00 PM). Beikirch received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War while he served with the 5th Special Forces Group.
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Paper on Hybrid Threats – a Warning System. Sebastiaan Rietjens has penned a 10-page paper entitled “A warning system for hybrid threats – is it possible?”. Published by the European Centre of Execellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, June 5, 2020, PDF.
Book Review – Asia’s New Geopolitics. A book by Michael Auslin entitled Asia’s New Geopolitics: Essays on Reshaping the Indo-Pacific is reviewed by Daniel Tenreiro. Read “The U.S. Needs a New Grand Strategy for Asia”, National Review, June 4, 2020.
Videos, Podcasts, and Movies
Film – Operation Overlord: OSS and the Battle for France. This short film tells the story of Allied special forces whose daring exploits changed the course of World War II. The OSS Society, June 5, 2020, 16 minutes.
Podcast – Disruptive Innovation and SOF Design. Members of the U.S. SOF community have a discussion about ‘change agents’ within an organization. Can an individual move back and forth between a operational planning team to a design team working on something radically disruptive? Joint Special Operations (JSOU), June 5, 2020, 24 minutes, YouTube.
Photo: A Special Forces communications sergeant with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) is belayed down a rock face in Leavenworth, Washington, May 25, 2020. Operational Detachment Alphas designated as mountain teams train in the Cascades to develop the mountaineering skills required for infiltration and military operations in mountainous terrain or alpine environment. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Bryant)