Special Operations News Update 20181214

HALO Jump by 1st SFGA from CH-47 on Dec 6, 2018. Photo by SGT Joseph Parrish, U.S. Army.

SOF News Update 20181214 – CT in Maghreb, India’s SOF, Middle East purgatory, China and Russia in Africa, LAAs for AFSOC (?), USSOCOM and ethics, Somalia piracy, CT in the Maghreb, CRS report on Syria, regional ME arms race, Mali and drug traffickers, podcast on Yemen, Operation Commando Wrath, SOF bases afloat, and more.

SOF News

India’s SOF. When and where should India’s special operations forces be used? Read one viewpoint on this topic in “Indian military’s surgical strikes unit should come with a ‘handle with care’ tag”, Defence News (India), December 12, 2018.

LTG Clarke for SOCOM Command. Steve Balestrieri provides some commentary about LTG Clarke, the nominee to command U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida in “More SOF Missions to be Turned Over to Conventional Forces”, Special Operations.com, December 12, 2018.

USSOCOM and Ethics. General Tony Thomas, the commander of United States Special Operations Command, sent out an email on Wednesday, December 12, 2018 to “SOCOM Teammates” with the subject: “Ethics and Our SOF Culture – A Call to Action”. You can read it here. (Newsweek, Dec 12, 2018).

GB Receives Soldier’s Medal. SFC Erik Kingsley was presented the Soldier’s Medal for rescuing a man from a burning vehicle. (Army Times, Dec 13, 2018).

SOF Bases Afloat . . . or Not. At a recent hearing on Navy and Marine Corps readiness the topic of secret floating bases for SOF was discussed. It quickly moved to a classified briefing . . . but what did come out seemed to indicate a gap in supporting U.S. SOF in some parts of the world. “Shadowy special ops sea bases are a ‘gap we know we have and we’re working on,’ Navy secretary says”Military Times, December 12, 2018.

Viking Ceremony for Fallen Combat Controller. A “Viking Funeral” was held for Staff Sergeant Dylan Elchine by members of his unit – the 26th Special Tactics Squadron at Cannon Air Base in New Mexico. Elchin died alongside two Green Berets from the 3rd Special Forces Group in November in Afghanistan. (Task & Purpose, Dec 13, 2018).

GB Charged with Murder. Major Matthew Golsteyn has been charged with murder by the U.S. Army for allegedly shooting a suspected Taliban bomb-maker in 2010. He has been recalled to active duty to face the charges. This case has dragged on for nine years. Golsteyn admitted that he had killed the Afghan man on TV during an October 2016 interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. (Task and Purpose, Dec 13, 2018).

LAAs for AFSOC. The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command could inherit the light attack aircraft capability. The USAF was recently testing the AT-6C Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano for the LAA program. But if any are bought they may likely fall under the command of AFSOC for use in low-end conflicts, support of U.S. and foreign SOF, and during the training and advising of U.S. allies and partner forces. (The Warzone, Dec 11, 2018).


CT in the Maghreb. Morocco has adopted a multifaceted strategy for dealing with Islamist extremism that seems to be working. But it comes at a cost. The nation implemented a counterterrorism strategy that included strengthening internal security, fighting poverty, and undertaking religious reform. It also stepped up international security cooperation to include participation in the U.S. Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership. There are some questions by critics about the activities of its security service – the General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance. Clive Williams, a visiting professor at the Australian National University’s Centre for Military and Security Law, explains more in “Counterterrorism cooperation in the Maghreb: Morocco looks beyond Marrakech”The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, December 12, 2018.

Middle East

CRS Report on Syria. The Congressional Research Service has updated a 55-page report entitled Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response, CRS, December 11, 2018.

US and PMF Face Off in Western Iraq. It is a dicey situation with a mixed of armed groups (and the U.S.) fighting IS yet contending with other competing forces. Read “US force and Iraqi fighters are facing each other in a ‘Wild West situation’ on the Iraq-Syria border”Business Insider, December 13, 2018.

Do More or Less in the ME? The U.S. is ‘half in’ and ‘half out’ in the Middle East. The U.S. people are tired of the big wars (Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s) yet our government feels the need to continue engagement in the ME to reduce the instability – using a ‘by, with, and through’ methodology. But perhaps it is time for the U.S. to do less? Read the thoughts of Mara Karlin and Tamara Cofman Wittes in “Getting America out of Middle East purgatory”Brookings Institution, December 11, 2018.

A Regional Arms Race? Anthony H. Cordesman informs us on the risks of a Middle East escalation in the purchase of weapons and modernization of armies. Read “The Arab Gulf States and Iran: Military Spending, Modernization, and the Shifting Military Balance”, Center for Strategic and International Studies, December 12, 2018.


China and Russia in Africa. Our ‘near peer’ competition is stepping it up in Africa. China has made economic and military inroads on the continent and Russia appears to be embarking on the same road. What should the U.S. response be? It appears that we will be rolling out a new strategy for Africa soon. (NBC News, Dec 10, 2018).

U.S. Shifting Away from Africa. The U.S. is cutting 10 percent of its troops in Africa. This will, in part, reduce the counterterrorism effort on that continent. Will China and Russia fill the gap? Read “From Small Wars to Great Power, Trump’s Africa Reset Could Change US Military’s Role”, Defense One, December 12, 2018.

African Operations by Name. Confused about what the U.S. military is doing in Africa? Are you hearing words like “Jukebox Lotus”, “Observant Compass”, “Rainmaker”, “Nimble Shield”, and others but they don’t ring a bell? Now you can know by reading “21 US Military Operation Names in Africa, Ranked”Task & Purpose, December 12, 2018.

Somalia’s Piracy. A decade ago pirates operated freely along Somalia’s coast but intervention by the international community eventually cut that activity to a fraction. In addition, local forces such as the Puntland Maritime Police Force are making a difference in reducing piracy and establishing security along the coast. Read more in “Somalia piracy: How foreign powers are tackling it”, BBC News, December 11, 2018.

Mali and the Drug Traffickers. Drug trafficking in northern Mali is generating a level of violence that is unparalleled in the region. Armed groups are using the drug trade to buy weapons, pay personnel, and finance operations. A recent paper tells us what’ happening, why it matters, and what should be done. The executive summary is in English and the 46-page PDF is en francais. Read “Drug trafficking, Violence and Politics in Northern Mali”, International Crisis Group, December 13, 2018.

Videos, Podcasts, and More

Podcast on Yemen. Listen to an hour-long podcast about the Yemen War presented by the Lawfare Blog, December 11, 2018.

Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer: Shok Valley, U.S. Army,  December 12, 2018. Staff Sergeant received the Medal of Honor for his bravery during the Shok Valley mission on April 6, 2008 – Operation Commando Wrath.


Photo: HALO Jump by 1st SFGA from CH-47 on Dec 6, 2018. The 1st Special Forces Group and Canadian Special Operations Regiment celebrated their on-going legacy and commemorated the deactivation of the First Special Service Force during ‘Menton Week’.  Photo by SGT Joseph Parrish, U.S. Army.

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