Special Operations News Update 20181212

Soldiers at Sunset

SOF News Update 20121212 – the cost of the Yemen war, future of SOF, Assad – gaining friends, IS in Iraq, Myanmar and the ARSA, UW in Syria, 1st SFGA and Menton Week, ‘good ALP’, NAVSCIATTS and LCBI, NSHQ changeover of SEL, and more.

SOF News

U.S. SF Troop Injured in Niger. An American service member – some news reports say from 3rd SFGA – was injured and a French service member has died as a result of a vehicle accident on Saturday, Dec 8th in Niger. The accident happened near Arlit, in northern Niger. The French troop was from the 2nd Hussars Regiment – a unit that conducts intelligence collection. The incident is under investigation. (Stars and Stripes, Dec 11, 2018).

Future of SOF. Some high profile scandals and revelations about SOF activities in Africa have prompted members of Congress to take a closer look at U.S. special operations forces around the world. Read “The Future of U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): To Be “Reined In and Reoriented?”Soldier of Fortune Magazine, December 9, 2018.

NAVSCIATTS and the Lake Chad Basin Initiative. The Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School (NAVSCIATTS) is a Naval Special Warfare Command operating under U.S. Special Operations Command. Read about the graduation of 60 students from Africa in a training event entitled Lake Chad Basin Inititative (LCBI). (NAVSCIATTS DVIDS, Dec 1, 2018).

USASOC Hosts AI/ML Workshop. The U.S. Army Special Operations Command recently hosted a USASOC Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Futures Workshop at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Mr. Robert Warburg, USASOC’s G9 directorate, provided insight in the workshop. (USASOC – DVIDS, Dec 11, 2018). 

New NSHQ SEL. A Change of Responsibility was held at NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ). Chief Master Sergeant Eric D. Neilsen (USAF) turned the responsibilities as the NSHQ Command Senior Enlisted Leader over to Command Master Chief (U.S. Navy SEAL/Special Warfare) Andrew I. Harrison.

An Example of ‘Good ALP’. U.S. SOF set up the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program with its companion Afghan Local Police (ALP) in an attempt to provide security to contested areas. International critics (mostly Europeans) were not too happy with the initiative as it was perceived to be  a grouping of local militias co-opted by warlords and corrupt politicians. However, some of the ALP units were successful. One of them is the ALP in Yahyakhel district, Paktika. Read more in a dispatch by the Afghanistan Analysts Network, December 11, 2018.

MARSOC Marine Arrested. A Marine Raider was apparently practicing his technical surveillance techniques in his spare time away from the job. Read “MARSOC Marine accused of secret peeping”JDNews.com, December 11, 2018.

Green Beret Congressman Looks Forward to D.C. Next month Congressman Mike Waltz will start his term as a Congressman from Florida’s 6th district. While he will be a low man on the totem pole (freshman term and a republication in a democratically-controlled house) he hopes to be able to land positions on committees that deal with veterans, national security, and space.

1st SFGA and Menton Week. To honor the anniversary of the First Special Service Force’s disbandment and to enhance unit cohesion the 1st Special Forces Group celebrated ‘Menton Week‘. (1st SFGA DVIDS, Dec 10, 2018).

407th CA Bn and Combined Resolve XI. Members of the 407th Civil Affairs Battalion recently participated in exercise Combined Resolve XI in Hohenfels, Germany. Read “Win the people, win the battle”, (DVIDS, Dec 9, 2018).

SOF and IW Symposium Tampa, Florida Dec 2018

Military & National Security

Dunford Hanging Around. Critics are worrying that the early announcement of General Milley as a replacement for General Dunford will ‘diminish’ Dunford’s stature and effectiveness. Hmmm. I don’t think so. Read “Pentagon: Dunford will serve full term as Joint Chiefs chairman”, The Hill, December 10, 2018.


Video and CT. Almost everyone is familiar with the term ‘Kill TV’ which brings visions of staff officers and NCOs working 12 hour x 7 day work shifts in a TOC or JOC sitting behind a computer. The drudgery is sometimes interrupted when a Reaper feed runs on the screen at the front of the large room. The folks chained to the desk get to watch the ‘operators’ hit a target or the final seconds of an air strike. But video not only captures real time action but also pre-event incidents. This can be useful for countering terrorist activity both in a war zone and elsewhere. But it gets complicated quick. Read “Defense, Intelligence and the Role of Video in Counterterrorism”Forbes.com, December 10, 2018.

Global Terrorism Index 2018. An annual report that measures the impact of terrorism on countries around the world has been released once again by the Institute for Economics and Peace (Sydney, Australia). Some of the findings in the 90-page report include:

  • Deaths from terrorism fell for the 3rd consecutive year after peaking in 2014. The largest drop in was Syria and Iraq due to IS’s decline.
  • IS remains the deadliest terrorist group in 2017. Expanding beyond Iraq and Syria.
  • The number of terrorist events in Europe increased from 253 in 2016 to 282 in 2017.
  • Afghanistan had more deaths from terrorism than any other country in 2017, overtaking Iraq.
  • The ten countries most impacted by terrorism are Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, Congo (DRC), Central African Republic, and India.

Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial. The U.S. Department of State hosted a ministerial on counterterrorism on December 11, 2018. Thirteen partner nations attended. Participating nations discussed the threat that transnational terrorist groups pose to the collective security and safety of their citizens at home and abroad. (DoD, Dec 11, 2018).

Europe and . . . Russia

Ukraine. The Russians continue to build up its military forces along the border with Ukraine. This is following the naval incident in the Kerch Strait a few weeks back. Some observers believe the non-response by NATO and the U.S. to the seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea will embolden the Russians to conduct an overt military operation into the eastern regions of Ukraine. Read “Russia Poised to Escalate Ukraine Campaign”,  Institute for the Study of War, December 11, 2018.

Middle East News

Cost of the Yemen War. The U.S. has been helping the Saudi’s out in their campaign against rebels in Yemen. As part of this assistance the U.S. Air Force has been providing mid-air refueling for Saudi-led coalition aircraft but not correctly charging them for the expense. The Pentagon has admitted to “errors in accounting”. See “The U.S. Is Paying More Than It Bargained for in the Yemen War”The Atlantic, December 8, 2018.

Assad – Friends Again? Now that it appears that Assad has won the seven-year long civil war and will remain in power in Syria (with a little help from Iran, Russia, and others) some regional neighbors are adopting a more pragmatic approach to the dictator. See “The Road to Damascus: The Arabs March Back to Befriend Assad”, War on the Rocks, December 7, 2018.

Syria, UW, Proxy Forces, and Unintended Consequences. Aaron Stein, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, delves into the success and failure of the CIA’s operation to arm Syrian opposition paramilitary forces and the Russian response. Read “Paramilitary Activity: The unintended consequences of America’s undeclared war against Assad”, War on the Rocks, December 11, 2018.

Syria – In for the Long Haul. General Dunford recently said that “. . . we estimate that between 35,000 to 40,000 local forces need to be trained and equipped in order to provide stability.  We’re probably somewhere along the line of 20 percent through training of those forces”. It would appear that 5th SFGA and others will be in Syria for a while. Read “Does a New US Goal for Syrian Training Portend a Longer Mission?”, Defense One, December 10, 2018.

ISIS Attacks Continue in Iraq. While the Islamic State has lost control of the vast parts of Iraq that it occupied for a few years it still is an active terrorist group. In 2018 IS has conducted about 75 attacks a month. Read “Attacks Continue as Iraq Marks One Year Since Islamic State Victory”Voice of America, December 7, 2018.


Myanmar and the ARSA. A Muslim minority in Myanmar, the Rohingya, are at the receiving end of a humanitarian crisis. More than a million are in refugee camps in southern Bangladesh as a result of ethnic cleansing by the Myanmar state in 2017. A violent insurgent group has emerged to champion the Rohingya cause – the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army or ARSA. Some observers have painted the ARSA as a jihadi group but Christine Fair, of Georgetown University, has her doubts. Read “Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army: Not the Jihadis You Might Expect”Lawfare Blog, December 9, 2018.

LL from 1975 – Mayaguez Incident. In May 1975, just days after the South Vietnam capital of Saigon fell, Khmer Rouge forces in Cambodia seized an American container vessel and its crew off Cambodia’s coast. What followed was a lesson in how not to conduct a hostage rescue. Read “Scholar Shares Lessons Learned from 1975 Mayaguez Incident”, US Department of Defense, December 11, 2018.

Videos and Movies

Trailer – Triple Frontier, Netflix, 2019. A new movie is out with some SOF content. “Struggling to make ends meet, former special ops soldiers reunite for a high-stakes heist: stealing $75 million from a South American drug lord.” Ben Affleck stars.

JOCI Briefing. Army Colonel Jonathan Byrom, the deputy director of Joint Operations Command Iraq, briefs the Pentagon press corps via satellite from Iraq on December 11, 2018. Watch a 34 minute long video of the briefing in Army Official Briefs Press on Iraq Operations, Defense.gov, Dec 11, 2018.

DoD – Our Story. The Defense Department has a new video out explaining what they do. DoD, Dec 11, 2018, 2 mins.


Photo: DoD, 2018.

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