SOF News Update 20180711 – Thai cave rescue, Wagner Group, Marine Raider recruiting video, NATO summit, video of AFSOC rifle range firing, Red Bull and flying, Russian SOF exercise off coast of Finland, Australian SAS and lessons in morality, Congressman visits SOCAfrica, SOF and algorithmic warfare, Navy SEALs relieved, 10 most lethal SOF units, NATO and lessons learned, SOCOM’s secret ship, and more.
Thai SEAL Dies in Cave Rescue. A former Thai Navy SEAL died during the ongoing attempts to rescue teenagers trapped in a cave complex. Read more in “Thai cave rescuers face race against time as oxygen levels drop”, CNN.com, July 6, 2018.
Thai Cave Rescue. The twelve soccer players and their coach were rescued over the past few days. The remaining stranded team members and coach were free of the cave complex by Tuesday, June 10th. The Thai SEAL unit provided many of the divers while some divers came from the international community. The 353rd Special Operations Group – an Air Force unit based in Japan – provided pararescuemen and other airmen to assist. They prepared the first three chambers of caves for safe passage. The U.S. DoD provided 42 military personnel to the rescue effort.
Red Bull Damages SOCOM MC-12W. A Liberty aircraft was damaged when a can of Red Bull energy drink exploded in the airplane cockpit in June of 2017. The aircraft was being operated by a contract aircrew. Read “Red Bull gives you wings? Not this Hurlburt MC-12”, NWF Daily News, July 9, 2018.
Russian SOF Exercise Off Coast of Finland. Russian special operations forces parachuted onto Gogland Island (Russian territory) just 40 kms from the city of Kotka, Finland. The island located in the Gulf of Finland was the site of the Russian SOF military exercise. Is it coincidental that it occurs close to the time frame of a Trump – Putin meeting in Finland? (The War Zone, July 11, 2018).
Australian SAS – and Lessons in Morality. The Australian special forces units have been under the spotlight recently; with investigations ongoing for ‘irregular activities’ that may have taken place in Afghanistan. SAS officers are being given additional training in ethics, morality and courage in leadership. See “SAS officers given lessons in morality”, The Australian, July 9, 2018.
10 Lethal SOF Units. Shannon Corbeil tells us about the ten most lethal special operations units from around the world. (We Are the Mighty, July 10, 2018).
Navy SEALs Relieved. A commander and senior enlisted officer have been relieved of duties after investigations into alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment incidents while deployed to East Africa as part of a SOCAfrica mission. (ABC News, July 9, 2018).
Congressman Visits SOFAfrica. Representative Richard Hudson (NC) visited senior leaders from Special Operations Command Africa in early July. The meeting took place in Stuttgart, Germany. Officers from the Special Operations Command Forward North and West Africa were also present. Read “Hudson visits SOF leaders overseeing Africa mission”, The Fayetteville Observer, July 7, 2018.
SOF and Algorithmic Warfare. USSOCOM is looking at how it can leverage artificial intelligence to assist special operations commandos in the performance of their overseas missions. See “Algorithmic Warfare: Special Operations Command Exploring AI Tech”, National Defense Magazine, July 10, 2018.
SOCOM’s Secret Ship. US Special Operations Command has spent millions of dollars refitting a cargo ship for special operations. See “Special Operations: Secrecy in Constant Motion”, Strategy Page, July 9, 2018.
Wagner Group – Russians in Syria – a Puzzle? Putin may have used the mercenaries to ‘push forward with a bayonet if confronted with mush and stop if confronted with steel’; testing the U.S. resolve to support the Syrian Democratic Front (Kurds and others). Kimberly Marten, a professor and director of the Program on U.S.-Russia Relations at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute provides her analysis in “The Puzzle of Russian Behavior in Deir al-Zour”, War on the Rocks, July 5, 2018.
IS Insurgency in Central Iraq. The defeat of the Islamic State in Mosul and other areas of Iraq caused the loss of territory and urban areas to the jihadist organization. But the group is reconstituting in the form of an insurgency. Read more in an article by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLEDP), July 2018.
Yemen – More Than One War. The fight between the northern Yemen rebels and forces supported by Saudi Arabia and the UAE is on the front pages of the news on a constant basis. But a more shadowy fight is taken place between U.S.-backed Yemeni forces and al-Qaeda militants. U.S. Special Forces are on the ground advising anti-al-Qaeda fighters and calling in airstrikes. The al-Qaeda forces in the hinterlands of Shabwa and Abyan provinces (south-central Yemen) have been taking a pounding but still remains capable of hit-and-run tactics, bombings, and assassinations. It is estimated that some 4,000 AQAP fighters remain in Yemen. Read “Still Fighting al-Qaeda”, The Washington Post, July 6, 2018.
LTG Funk on Iraq. The commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) provides his perspective on the “by, with and through” concept that altered how the U.S. waged war against the Islamic State in Iraq. Read “Commentary: Iraq endures the crucible, and emerges transformed”, Army Times, July 9, 2018.
CAAT and CIVCAS. In 2010 the commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), General Stanley McChrystal, listened to a briefing by an academic on how civilian casualties by U.S. air strikes were setting back the war effort. The briefer was a member of the Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT) – a small unit of specialists and advisors that McChrystal had established to identify and help implement best practices in counterinsurgency. The CAAT was headed by COL Joe Felter – a Special Forces officer. This article is an excerpt from a newly released book. (Task and Purpose, July 10, 2018).
Underestimating al-Qaeda. Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal has examined the latest Department of Defense report entitled Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan and has found it ‘incorrect’ (June 2018).
IS-KP Damaged. U.S. and Afghan SOF have been taking the fight to the Islamic State Khorasan Province in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. A weeks long offensive by government forces support by U.S. ‘enablers’ have caused significant fatalities for the IS fighters as well as displacing them to other areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Read “US, Afghan Special Forces Capture IS De Facto Capital in Afghanistan”, Voice of America, July 9, 2018.
NATO and Europe
NATO Summit. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization will meet in Brussels on July 11 and 12. Some observers believe that NATO should deepen its partnership with Ukraine at the upcoming summit. Read “Brussels NATO Summit 2018: Don’t Lose Focus on Ukraine”, The Heritage Foundation, July 6, 2018.
Reset Needed for NATO. Zalmay Khalilzad, a former Director of Policy Planning for DoD and a former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations, provides his perspective on the upcoming NATO summit and Trump’s approach to our NATO allies. He believes that President Trump has valid concerns about NATO. Read “A Strategic Reset for NATO”, National Interest, July 10, 2018.
NATO and LL. Heidi Hardt examines how the North Atlantic Treaty Organization captures lessons learned from operations, conflicts, and exercises. She points out that there are some friction and failure points and offers recommendations on how to improve the lessons learned capturing and sharing process. See “Lessons Learned, Lessons Forgotten? Updating the Way NATO Learns”, War on the Rocks, July 10, 2018.
Honduran TIGRES. A new training center has been established in Honduras for the Government Special Response Security Unit – an elite unit of the Honduran National Police. A $3 million donation by U.S. Southern Command financed the new training center. Read more about the new base and the 3-month long training program for the TIGRES. “SOUTHCOM Donation Strengthens Honduran Elite Police Force”, Dialogo, July 10, 2018.
MARSOC Recruiting Video. The Marines are looking for a few good men to serve in special operations. Learn more.
AFSOC Wpns Firing. A five-minute long video showing members of the 353rd Special Operations Group and Special Tactics Squadron firing machine guns and rifles at the range. Not terribly exciting unless you are unfamiliar with the weapons. (18th Wing Public Affairs DVIDS, June 15, 2018).
Photo: Soldier from 10th Special Forces Group climbs a ladder during water extraction on Chatfield Reservoir near Littleton, Colorado. Photo by SSG Brandon McIntosh, 10th SFGA, Sep 3, 2012.