A publication has been released by the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) about how special operations forces command and control evolved with the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program.
The VSO program in Afghanistan provides a timely and relevant example of how SOF can contribute to the competition space below the level of armed conflict in today’s era of great power competition (GPC). Like terrorism, GPC will play out in countries with weak sociopolitical systems. The characteristics of VSO can be replicated in many parts of the world for sustainable strategic effect.
VSO was an instrument used within a foreign internal defense (FID) environment where the Afghan government was unable to effectively govern – whether due to insecurity, ineffectiveness, or corruption. VSO and its accompanying Afghan Local Police (ALP) program endeavored to create security, development, and governance in active conflict zones.
With the 2018 National Defense Strategy the U.S. military is shifting focus from counterinsurgency and counterterrorism to the near peer threat. VSO is inherently political in character and has a joint, interagency, international, multinational, and corporate nature. This report presents concepts for how special operations forces can contribute to not only the counterterrorism fight but also within the context of great power competition.
JSOU. The Joint Special Operations University is the educational component of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) located at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. It provides specialized professional military education to SOF professionals as well as conducting research and analysis in support of USSOCOM objectives.
Dr. William Knarr (U.S. Army Colonel, Ret.) is a non-resident Senior Fellow at JSOU where he supports their research program and teaches / leads seminars on irregular warfare. He also is an adjunct professor at the National Intelligence University where he teaches graduate courses on intelligence and special operations.
Mark Nutsch (U.S. Army Major, Ret) has provided contract support to USSOCOM J3 Training and Education. He has served on active and reserve status in the Airborne Infantry, 75th Ranger Regiment, and as a Special Forces officer. He was the commander of SFODA 595 when it deployed into Northern Afghanistan in 2001.
Village Stability Operations and the Evolution of SOF Command and Control in Afghanistan: Implications for the Future of Irregular Warfare, by William Knarr and Mark Nutsch, JSOU Report 20-2, JSOU Press, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, April 2020, PDF, 174 pages.
Image: From the front cover of the report cited above.