Special Operations News Update 20180516

USAF pararescueman from 320th STS performs military free fall from a MC-130H Combat Talon II on Feb 16, 2018 in Thailand. Photo by Capt Jessica Tait, 353rd SOG.

SOF News Update 20180516 – Somalia CIVCAS, South Sudan and security sector stabilization, Iran’s military power, al Shabaab and al Qaeda, U.S and Italian Rangers train together, covert action explored, SOF and kinetic diplomacy, Green Berets fight ISKP, virtual deployment training, proxy forces and legal responsibilities, SOF equipment handbook, AF rescue units shifting, podcast on Gray Zone Tactics, Marine PYSOP MOS, video – Marine Rifle Squad, and more.

SOF News

Green Berets Continue Fight Against ISKP. The US Army Special Forces are still fighting with the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). The militant group has proven to be very resilient against U.S. SOF, Afghan SOF, and U.S. airpower. Read more in “Green Berets Brace for Islamic State Offensive in Afghanistan”The Wall Street Journal, May 15, 2018.

SOF and Kinetic Diplomacy. Monica Duffy Toft, a Professor of International Politics at The Fletcher School, acknowledges that the U.S. military and its special operations forces at quite adept at conducting military operations (especially at the onset of conflict) but worries that the U.S. doesn’t have a corresponding ability to use diplomatic means during these conflicts. Read “The Dangerous Rise of Kinetic Diplomacy”War on the Rocks, May 14, 2018.

U.S Rangers and Italian Paratroopers Train Together. Rangers of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment trained with soldiers from the Italian Army 4th Alpini Paratroopers Regiment at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany. Read “US, Italian Rangers fight together at JWA”, SOCEUR DVIDS, May 9, 2018.

Air Force Rescue Units Shifting. Two rescue squadrons are moving from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England to Aviano Air Base in Italy. They will be better positioned to provide strategic combat search and rescue to deployed forces. Read “US Air Force rescue units move closer to Africa and Eastern Europe”Air Force Times, May 15, 2018.

Exercise Hedghog 2018. Members of the 20th Special Forces Group participated in an exercise in Estonia during May 2-12, 2018. The Green Berets soldiers were from the Maryland Army National Guard – B Company, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group. The Maryland National Guard is partnered with Estonia as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program. (DVIDS, May 15, 2018).

Israeli SOF Foil Hamas Plot. Read “Israeli special forces details how it thwarted Hamas plot to breach Gaza border”New York Post, May 15, 2018.

SOF Equipment Handbook. The Special Operations Equipment Handbook is now available. It provides an assessment of the market, photographs, and specifications with info on 150 pages.

Marine PSYOP MOS. The Marines are getting into the art of persuasion. Read “Marines to Get New Psychological Operations MOS as Community Grows”Military.com, May 14, 2018.

SEAL Team Stays; Others Dropped. Last September (2017) SOF News reviewed three SOF military dramas that made their debut on TV. We predicted one of the three would remain and the others would be dropped. We were not far off on that prediction. It seems that SEAL Team gets another season while Valor and The Brave end up in the dust bin. Read more in an article by Military Times, May 14, 2018.

Middle East

Middle East News Highlights. The US has moved its embassy to Jerusalem and thousands of Palestinians protested while Israel celebrated. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a man responsible for many U.S. deaths during the Iraq war from 2003-2011, emerged as the front-runner in Iraq’s elections.

Iran’s Military Power. Iran has the 13th largest military in the world according to the Global Firepower Index. It is a major military power in the Middle East. While it is outgunned in military spending – way behind the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia – it has mastered the art of asymmetric strategy to overcome these advantages. Read more in “Iran’s military power: What you need to know”Deutsche Welle, May 13, 2018.


Reports of CIVCAS in Somalia. News reports say that a Somali-led raid advised by U.S. SOF may have caused civilian deaths and injuries on Wednesday, May 9th. Read about it in The Daily Beast and Military Times Africa Command has issued a short statement on the incident saying that the mission involved U.S. forces in an advise-and-assist capacity, partnered in a Somali-led operation to disrupt and degrade al-Shabaab’s terrorist network near Bulcida, Somalia on May 9th.

UAE in Somalia – Mixed Ambitions. The United Arab Emirates is playing a big role in Somalia – with some regional Somali leaders embracing the interaction – and the federal government sometimes objecting. Read “Somali regions maintain UAE as ally amid diplomatic row over port deals”The East African, May 12, 2018.

Al Shabaab and al Qaeda. The terrorist and insurgency organization based in Somalia continues to express its allegiance to the al Qaeda ideological platform. Read “Shabaab Advertises Its al Qaeda Allegiance”, by Thomas Joscelyn, FDD’s Long War Journal, May 14, 2018.

South Sudan – Security Sector Stabilization. The elements of politics and security have merged in South Sudan over the past few decades as a result of years of conflict. The separation of roles and mandates between the security actors and political class has lead to a disastrous convergence. One writer, Dr. Remember Miamingi – a scholar with the South Sudan Human Rights Observatory, provides some recommendations for ensuring security stabilization in South Sudan. Read “Security Sector Stabilization: A Prerequisite for Political Stability in South Sudan” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, May 11, 2018.

NATO, Europe, and . . . Russia (of course)

Russian Hyrbrid Threats. According to European intelligence officials the use of cyber attacks, espionage, and disinformation is still practiced by the huge neighbor to the east. Read “European spy chiefs warn of hybrid threats from Russia, ISIS”Fifth Domain, May 14, 2018.

Military News . . . Not SOF . . . But

USMC Changing Up the Ground Forces. The Marines are coming up with some big changes for its ground-combat forces. The intent is to improve its lethality and agility on the battlefield. (Stars and Stripe, May 15, 2018).

Video – Changes to Marine Rifle Squad. A two-minute long video explains how the Marine Corps is implementing a new squad formation structure in order to meet the demands of future warfighting. Moderizing the Marine Rifle Squad, Office of Marine Corps Communication, My 14, 2018.

Drone Insignia. You can earn a set of wings for your chest if you fly drones for the Marine Corps. Read “Corps unveils its new drone insignia”Marine Corps Times, May 14, 2018.

Virtual Deployment Training. Defense contractor Leidos has won a $210 million contract to train up (via virtual training) troops heading to Afghanistan and Iraq. (C4ISRNET, May 14, 2018).

Conceptual Thinking, Commentary, Etc.

Covert Action, SOF, and (Im)Plausible Deniability. With the advent of a free social media, the internet, and proliferation of whistleblowing the prospects of plausible deniability of covert action becomes problematic. Implausible deniability is also linked to the growth of special operations and private military actors (Wagner Group, Blackwater, etc.). Authors Rory Cormac and Richard Aldrich explore the concept of covert action and the difficulty of keeping these operations secret. Read “Grey is the new black: covert action and implausible deniability”International Affairs, Volume 94, Issue 3, May 1, 2018. Posted on Academic.oup.com.

Podcast of ‘Gray Zone Tactics’. Listen to a conference hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 entitled What Works: Countering Gray Zone Tactics, 2 1/2 hours.

Legal Limits to Military Assistance to ‘Proxy Forces’. The U.S., in implementing its ‘by, with, and through’ strategy, has been supporting ‘proxy forces’ around the world in the fight against terrorism and insurgents. Should the U.S. be responsible for the conduct of partner and proxy forces? There are several international legal rules that apply. Read more in “Legal Limits on Military Assistance to Proxy Forces: Pathways for State and Official Responsibility”, by Ryan Goodman, Just Security, May 14, 2018. (editor’s note: high-brow stuff suitable for the unit’s lawyer!).


Top Photo: USAF pararescueman from 320th STS performs military free fall from a MC-130H Combat Talon II on Feb 16, 2018 in Thailand. Photo by Capt Jessica Tait, 353rd SOG.


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SOF News provides news, analysis, commentary, and information about special operations forces (SOF) from around the world.