Special Operations News Update 20181221

10th SFGA Soldiers drive snowmobiles to an objective during winter warfare training in Colorado. Photo by SGT Timothy Clegg, March 7, 2016.

SOF News Update 20181221 – How SOF can step up, saving the PKSOI, Navy SEAL history, abandoning the Syrian Kurds, Erik Prince’s plan for Afghanistan, Morocco and terrorism, new MQ-9 squadron for AFSOC, Michelle Black on losing a husband, British PMCs and security firms, Russia’s VOSTOC 2018 exercise, NSC for Mali, British COIN, USMC and the COIN mission, and more.

SOF News

USSOCOM Ethics Guidance. On Friday, December 21, 2018 the United States Special Operations Command tweeted (Twitter) and posted (Facebook) a link to the ethics letter distributed to the SOF command on November 10, 2018. Copies of the letter quickly found there way to the media shortly after publication; but now it is official!

Michelle Black on Losing Her Husband. In October 2017 the wife of a Green Beret met the coffin bearing her husband at the Raleigh Durham International Airport in North Carolina. Bryan Black had been killed during a Special Forces mission in Niger. Read her article in “My Husband Was Killed in Niger. His Death Only Became Real to Me When I Saw His Coffin”, The New York Times Magazine, December 21, 2018.

CJSOTF-Syria Soldier Detained by Turkey. An Army soldier assigned to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Syria was detained by Turkish officials this past week. He was stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and was taken into custody at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. (Stars and Stripes, Dec 20, 2018).

TALO’s Suit. For years USSOCOM has been developing the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit or TALOs. The research and development is continuing. Read about the TALOS Weaponized Suit in Military Times, December 20, 2018.

SOF Roles & Missions in Future. Jonathan Schroden of CNA provides his perspective on how U.S. special operations forces can align its roles and missions to support U.S. interests and objectives around the world. Read “How Special Ops Can Step It Up”, War on the Rocks, December 19, 2018.

New MQ-9 Squadron for AFSOC. In December 2018 the Air Force Special Operations Command stood up the 65th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

AFSOC Medical Personnel Receive Awards. Air Force Special Operations Command medial Airmen were recognized during the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States annual awards dinner on November 29th. Read “AFSOC Airmen receive MHS and AMSS awards”, AFSOC PA, Dec 14, 2018.

How US / UK SOF Smashed IS. In 2014 special operations troops took the lead in the fight against the ISIS caliphate. 1st SFOD-Delta, 22d SAS, and CIA SOG conducted ground intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance missions. (Washington Examiner, Dec 20, 2018).

Little Bird Upgrade. The Boeing Co. was awarded a $48 million contract to upgrade the A/MH-6 helicopters of USSOCOM. (Signal Magazine, Dec 19, 2018).

Navy SEAL History. Read up on the history of the Navy SEALs during the Vietnam War, Operation Urgent Fury, and Operation Just Cause. See “Navy SEAL History: Part 2”All Hands Magazine (DVIDS), December 7, 2018.

Military and National Security

Saving the PKSOI. The Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, is trying to do away with the Army War College’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute. This, unfortunately, may come to pass. One critic recommends bringing it under the Navy – seeing how peacekeeping and stability operations dedicated to peacekeeping is antithetical to the U.S. Army. Read “Navy Should Absorb Army’s Peacekeeping Institute”, Proceedings Magazine, U.S. Naval Institute, December 2018.

British PMCs. An article provides an unflattering take on British security firms and private military corporations in “Britain’s private military and security industry examined”, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), December 20, 2018.

British COIN. According to one author, British counterinsurgency has “a remarkable thread of continuity . . .” The writer examines the Malayan Emergency and the Second Anglo-Boer War to back up his point. Read the article in Small Wars Journal, December 19, 2018.

USMC, COIN, and the NDAA. One writer believes that handing counterinsurgency and hybrid warfare missions to the Marines is a step in the right direction. Read “The Marine Corps, Counterinsurgency, and America’s Answer to the French Foreign Legion”, Small Wars Journal, December 21, 2018.


Abandoning the Kurds? In August 2016 SOF News wrote an article about abandoning the Kurds of northern Iraq. Perhaps we should have wrote an article about abandoning the Kurds of northeastern Syria. Apparently the U.S. military is proceeding with plans to withdraw its forces from northeastern Syria now that the Islamic State is significantly degraded. This shift in strategy takes place following a call last week between President Trump and Turkish President Erdogan. Turkey has threatened to move against the Syrian Kurds with its military. On another note, the news broke on Tuesday that Turkey has decided to buy 140 Patriot surface-to-air missiles worth $3.5 billion from Raytheon Corporation. Surely this technology transfer to Turkey will make the Russian’s happy. But then, it’s not like we are selling F-35s to Turkey. So no worries there, right? SEC DEF Mattis wasn’t happy with the Syria decision by Trump; and he probably isn’t happy about pulling 7,000 troops out of Afghanistan. Mattis submitted his resignation on Thursday afternoon (Dec 20).


New Africa Strategy. In a speech before the Heritage Foundation on Thursday, December 13, 2018, John Bolton laid out the Trump Administrations new Africa strategy. (White House, Dec 13, 2018). 

NSC for Mali? Does Mali need a national security council? A 70-page paper looks into the possible establishment of a NSC for that African country. The paper examines the experiences of three other African countries in their attempts to create a NSC -Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, and Mozambique. The paper concludes that having a NSC could be a major advantage for the government; but it also presents some challenges that may arise. Read Overcoming Challenges Arising from the Creation of National Security Councils, by Arthur Chan, RAND Corporation, December 2018.

Morocco and Terrorism. A paper explores the two aspects that makes Morocco’s CT/CVE strategy unique 1) the promotion of moderate Maliki Islam and 2) fighting poverty and investment in the future of the country. Read “Morocco’s Unique Approach to Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism”, Small Wars Journal, December 21, 2018.


Withdrawal of 7,000 Troops? Apparently, just one day after announcing the pulling of all troops out of Syria immediately – the White House has instructed the DoD to present some options for the pulling back of troops from Afghanistan. The timing of this announcement is not ideal – given that we are negotiating with the Taliban for a peaceful end to the conflict. One of the bargaining points of the Taliban is the removal of foreign troops from Afghanistan prior to beginning of negotiations with the Afghan government. Looks like we may have jumped the gun just a bit. Read “Trump agitating for major military withdrawal from Afghanistan, advisers say”, Stars and Stripes, December 21, 2018.

Blackwater in Afghanistan? With SEC DEF Mattis on the way out and a drastic cut in troop levels in Afghanistan on the horizon one ponders what the next step is for Afghanistan. Certainly the U.S. is putting a lot of emphasis on the peace negotiations with the Taliban. But is it possible that Trump’s aim to ‘privatize’ the conflict could come to fruition? Could the Erik Prince plan be just a few months away from implementation? Read “Mattis is Out, and Blackwater is Back: ‘We are coming'”, Military Times, December 21, 2018.

PMCs in Afghanistan – the Early Days. Tim Lynch writes about the early days of private military corporations and security contracting in Afghanistan . . . and how dangerous Kabul is now. Read “Russian Roulette in Kabul”, The FREq, December 18, 2018.


Russia’s VOSTOK 2018 Exercise. One of the biggest strategic exercises that Russia holds is the VOSTOK exercise. The latest iteration of the event took place in late 2018. Read an assessment of the exercise in NATO Review Magazine, December 20, 2018.

Defending Europe. Nathan Jennings provides his perspective on how to defend Europe in “Empowering European Defense: A 21st Century US Army Strategy”, Small Wars Journal, December 20, 2018.


NK’s Type 88 Assault Rifle. North Korea has an assault rifle that is similar to the Soviet-era AK-74. (The National Interest, Dec 20, 2018).

Videos and Books

Navy SEAL History: Part One. All Hands Magazine, Aug 1, 2018, 6 mins.

Navy SEAL History: Part Two. All Hands Magazine, Dec 7, 2018, 4 mins.

Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness, by Kenneth M. Pollack. Available January 2019.

Making a Night Stalker, The Aviationist reviews a book that provides a rare insight into the elite 160th Special Operations Air Regiment. (Dec 21, 2018).

Unwinnable: Britain’s War in Afghanistan 2001-14, by Theo Farrell, London: Vintage, 2018. Paul Dixon reviews this new book.

Finals Week. U.S. Army SF candidates are featured in this short 30-sec clip during the final culmination exercise for the Special Forces Qualification Course. (USAJFKSWCS, Dec 18, 2018).

Who Are the Infantry? SEC DEF reminds us of the infantryman that willingly serves and sacrifices for his country. (Defense.gov DVIDS, Dec 20, 2018, 1 minute).

Year in Review, U.S. Army, December 21, 2018. A 1 1/2 minute long video with some great action scenes and photos.


Photo: 10th SFGA Soldiers drive snowmobiles to an objective during winter warfare training in Colorado. Photo by SGT Timothy Clegg, March 7, 2016.

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