SOF News Update 20180604 – Rohingya refugees returning to Myanmar, Pacific combined maritime task force, protecting sources and methods, Special Operations Outlook 2018, SOFs MTRCs, Sweden prepares for war, advising proxy forces, NRF 2018 SOCC, IEDs on Mindanao Island, mercenaries in Rhodesia, Colombia’s GAULA groups, SOF’s Zero MMX motorcycle, and more.
Special Operations Outlook 2018. An annual publication by Faircount Media Group provides an overall look at the U.S. special operations community. The 140-page glossy publication (great photos) provides several articles of interest on SOF equipment, OSS, WW I history, USSOCOM (and its service components), and interviews of senior SOF commanders.
SOF’s MTRCs. The U.S. special operations forces operate a number of portable, rapidly deployable field workshops that can manufacture, repair, or improve equipment in the field. The Mobile Technology Repair Complexes or MTRCs can support U.S. SOF in remote locations and in war zones. Read “U.S. Commandos Have Their Own Mobile, Modular Workshops”, Popular Mechanics, May 30, 2018.
SOF’s Zero MMX Motorcycle. A silent motorcycle that may be used by SOF in the future is an all-electric dirtbike. It can run up to 90 miles on a single charge and keep going with a battery ‘hot swap’. (Military Times, June 1, 2018).
New CCWO for USASOC. CW5 Bert Serrano, an SF 180A, is leaving his position as CCWO for the United States Army Special Operations Command and will be replaced by CW5 Mark Meyer who was recently the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command CCWO. (The Fayetteville Observer, June 1, 2018).
3rd SFGA Remembers the Fallen. Seven fallen soldiers were honored on May 22nd alongside the 3rd SFG (A) Memorial Walk. (DVIDS, May 24, 2018).
SOF & CF Advisors and . . . ‘Accompany’. The new Security Force Assistance Brigades established by the U.S. Army have as their mission to ‘train, advise, assist, enable, and accompany’ foreign fighting forces. The 1st SFAB is currently doing this in Afghanistan at brigade (and supposedly at kandak) level. The British Army is looking at the same type of mission to be conducted by its ‘Specialized Infantry Battalions’. One observer comments on the overuse of U.S. SOF on advising missions, the ability of conventional forces to do the advising mission (alleviated the SOF workload), and the importance of accompanying the indigenous front line troops in the fight at the tactical level. Read “Accompany – That Third Myth”, Wavell Room, November 9, 2017.
NRF 2018 SOCC. Spain is playing a key role in the NATO Response force (NRF) 2018 Special Operations Component Command. Spain is serving as the framework nation for this organization. The SOCC staff consists of personnel from 10 nations and its task organization includes 9 Special Operations Task Groups (SOTG) from 6 different nations. (JFCBS NATO, June 1, 2018).
‘The Legend of Team Broadminded’. The life story of a Marine Force Recon officer’s career and the Vietnam War is recalled in this article. (Stars & Stripes, June 2, 2018).
AFSOC Aviation Advisors. The U.S. Air Force intends of doubling the size of its corps of Combat Aviation Advisors that it sends to train partners on special operations missions. The air advisor force will grow to over 350 personnel. (Military.com, June 3, 2018).
Colombia’s GAULA Groups. An elite organization in Colombia is charged with participating in the fight against extortionists and kidnappers. The Colombian National Army’s Unified Action Groups for Personal Liberty (GAULA) works closely with the National Police, prosecutors, and judicial investigators on joint and interagency operations. See “Colombia Gains Ground against Extortion and Kidnapping”, Dialogo, June 1, 2018.
Rohingya Refugees – UN Deal? The United Nations and Myanmar have reached an agreement to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled the country over the past year. UN agencies have received permission to conduct operations in Rakhine State in western Myanmar. A military crackdown has been responsible for the exodus of the refugees to neighboring countries – primarily Bangladesh. Some observers are concerned that if the humanitarian crisis continues it may prompt the Rohingya Muslim insurgents to align with radical jihadist groups. Read more in “UN reaches deal with Myanmar to repatriate Rohingya refugees”, CNN.com, May 31, 2018.
Pacific Combined Maritime Task Force? One commentator on security in the Pacific believes that the establishment of a Combined Maritime Task Force Pacific will help the U.S. to generate a regional balance against Chinese behavior while deterring future actions such as the establishment of control over disputed Pacific islands. The formation of a permanent entity would expand regional naval cooperation from intermittent exercises to a long-standing, constant effort to protect the free and open Indo-Pacific maritime environment. Read “Time to Launch a Combined Maritime Task Force for the Pacific”, War on the Rocks, June 1, 2018.
Mindanao’s IEDs. Insurgent and terrorist groups operating on the Philippines southern island of Mindanao are increasingly using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) as a tactic in their fight against the Philippine armed forces. Read “Mindanao’s Insurgencies Take an Explosive Turn”, The Diplomat, June 1, 2018.
China’s Debtbook Diplomacy. Two scholars from Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center provide their take on the reason why China is providing loans to countries that can’t afford to pay them back. Read “China’s Debtbook Diplomacy: How China is Turning Bad Loans Into Strategic Investments”, The Diplomat, May 30, 2018.
Syrian Threats. President Bashar al-Assad says U.S. military personnel have to leave his country or they will face the threat of military force. As Assad solidifies his gains throughout Syria (courtesy of Iran, Russia, and other allies) he is looking at territory now controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Operation Roundup Continues. The CJTF-OIR and its partners continued to conduct operations against the Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria during the month of May. During the month of May the coalition conducted 225 strikes with 280 engagements. Read “Operation Roundup Hits ISIS Remnants in Iraq, Syria”, Department of Defense, June 1, 2018.
Afghan Update. The U.S. commander in Afghanistan says that some of the Taliban seem interested in peace talks. A non-profit by the name of “Conciliation Resources” has published a document entitled Accord – Incremental Peace in Afghanistan, dated June 2018. General Nicholson says the South Asian Strategy rolled out last summer is working.
CENTCOM’s Air Power – Refocused. Since the end of 2017 the air effort against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has been winding down. Air assets like the A-10, MQ-9 Reapers, and rescue helicopters have made their way to Afghanistan where the pace of air operations has significantly stepped up. Read “Airpower in CENTCOM”, Air Force Magazine, July 2018.
Sweden Prepares for War. Neutral Sweden is preparing its population for the possibility of conflict with Russia. It has recently mailed to every Swedish household a booklet of instructions on how to prepare for war. The country has received a wakeup call with the aggressive nature of Russia’s foreign policy. Finland, Norway, the Baltic states, and Poland are also ramping up their defensive posture. Read more in “Why neutral, peaceful Sweden is preparing for war”, Reuters, May 30, 2018.
Mercenaries in Rhodesia. Kyle Burke, an assistant professor of history at Hartwick College, has penned an article exploring the motivations of men who traveled to Rhodesia in the 1970s to fight on behalf of the minority white government against black insurgents. The author would have you believe that these men were both racists and anti-communists seeking to keep the red menace at bay and the white man in power. Perhaps some of the 400 plus that went to fight in the Rhodesian armed forces were both; but I would think some were motivated strictly on anti-communist grounds. Read “Soldiers of Fortune”, Jacobin Magazine, June 2, 2018.
Lessons from Niger. Marcel Plichta, a postgraduate student in Global Security at the University of Glasgow and writer about U.S. policy in sub-Saharan Africa since 2015, believes that the U.S. is learning the wrong lessons from the tragic ambush of U.S. Special Forces soldiers in Niger in October 2017. He believes that rather than rely on counterterrorism operations, policymakers should formulate a regional approach to contend with the political and economic roots of the conflict. Read “The US learned the wrong lessons from the Niger ambush”, Washington Examiner, June 2, 2018.
Fear in Nigeria. Kidnapping gangs and cattle thieves are a big concern for residents in Kaduna and Zamfara. Those families that don’t pay ransoms find their family members are killed. Young Fulani herders now make up most of the marauding gangs in northern Nigeria. Read more in “Kidnappers and cattle rustlers spread fear in Nigeria”, Times Live (ZA), June 3, 2018.
Protecting Sources and Methods. Josh Mayers, a former FBI special agent, explains the importance of protecting ‘Confidential Human Sources’ (CHS). Mayers worries about the trend of revealing the identity and operational details of a source for political purposes. He argues it is a break with longstanding tradition, tradecraft, and policy. Read his article – “Why Protecting Sources and Methods Really Matters”, The Cipher Brief, June 1, 2018.
NSOCC-A Memorial Day. A short one-minute long video depicts the 2018 Memorial Day ceremony held by NATO Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The ceremony honored the 11 fallen warriors whose names have been added to the NSOCC-A monument since Memorial Day 2017.
Photo: 173rd Airborne Brigade paratroopers descend on Juliet DZ in Pordenone, Italy. (Photo by Davide Dalla Massara, U.S. Army, May 22, 2018).