Special Operations News Update 20190617

A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter flies at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Dec. 17, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Ryan DeBooy)

Current news, analysis, and commentary on special operations, national security, and conflicts from around the world.

SOF News

USSF Fighting ISIS in Afghanistan. Thomas Gibbons-Neff provides a glimpse of the activities of a Special Forces team engaged in the fight against the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Read “U.S. Special Forces Battle Against ISIS Turns to Containment, and Concern”, The New York Times, June 14, 2019. (NYT’s offers a limited number of article views before you encounter their paywall).

CA Roles . . . and “Paying Attention”. Andrew J. Bibb, a Civil Affairs officer, uses the thoughts of Winston Churchill to explain how Civil Affairs provides ‘awareness’ for the U.S. military. Read “Civil Affairs, Winston Churchill, and the Powers of Paying Attention”, Small Wars Journal, June 16, 2019.

Navy Frogman Reminisces About Apollo Recovery. It has been 50 years since the Apollo 11 astronauts were recovered at sea by the USS Hornet. The first person to reach that historic capsule was a Navy frogman. (San Francisco Bay Area, June 13, 2019.

Bill Dean (SF) Remembered. There have been a number of news articles about the recent death of Bill Dean. He was a retired Green Beret who died during a mountaineering expedition. See “Quiet professional remembered: Bill Dean had a lasting impact on ISIS fight” (Stars and Stripes, June 14, 2019).

Author Steve Dimodica Green Beret

Author Steve Dimodica (retired Green Beret) has several of his books available at special prices prior to “Father’s Day”. During the Father’s Day week , in honor of father’s everywhere, the publisher will be running a special for those readers who prefer their material in electronic form. From 12 June through 19 June, all of Steve’s espionage thrillers will be significantly discounted from list prices during the days surrounding the special Sunday for Fathers. Do not miss this opportunity to load up Dad’s Kindle library with a summer’s worth of page turners.

Foreign SOF

Kopassus – Back in the Fold. Under the Leahy Admendment (of the 1998 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act), U.S. Special Forces were forbidden to provide training or assistance to the Indonesian Special Forces for a couple of decades. That has now changed. Read “Abusive Indonesian unit back in America’s good graces”, Asia Times, June 14, 2019.

Army Ranger Wing to Mali. Ireland’s special operations unit will be sending a small contingent to join a coalition of nations engaged in a counter-terrorism operation in Mali. The United Nations force – known as MINUSMA – is composed of personnel from more than 50 countries. Read more in “Ireland has quietly joined a dangerous war”, The Irish Times, June 14, 2019.

Australian Special Forces Medics. In an eight-part series the secret world of the fighting soldiers whose first job is to save lives is explored. Read “Voodoo Medics: watch the award-winning series”, The Australian, June 17, 2019.


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization continues to conduct exercises and develop contingency plans for the defense of eastern Europe and in the Baltic States region to deter Russian aggression.

NATO in Eastern Europe. Michael O’Hanlon and Christopher Skaluba collaborate on an article about NATO standing up to Russian aggression in eastern Europe. Read “A Report From NATO’s Front Lines”, Brookings Institute, June 13, 2019.

Role of Nordic Countries. A credible deterrence policy in the Nordic-Baltic region requires the participation of two non-NATO countries. Both Sweden and Finland are key to an effective defense of the region. SOF is briefly mentioned a few times in this report. Read a comprehensive 136-page report on this topic entitled Deterrence in the Nordic-Baltic Region: The Role of the Nordic Countries Together With the U.S. Army, Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), U.S. Army War College, June 4, 2019.

Middle East

Oil Tanker War? Over the past few months several oil tankers have been targeted. Speculation (or intel if you want to believe DoD / State Dept. sources) is that Iranian proxy groups are behind the attacks. Read more in “A Tanker War in the Middle East – Again?”, by Robin Wright, The New Yorker, June 13, 2019.

MQ-9 Reaper Drone Shot Down. an MQ-9 was shot down over Yemen by a Houthi SA-6 surface to air missile in early June 2019. A week later a modified Iranian SA-7 surface to air missile attempted to shoot down a U.S. MQ-9 over the Gulf of Oman that was observing the IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous. Things are heating up in the Gulf region. (CENTCOM, June 16, 2019).


New CJTF-HOA Commander. Major General Mike Turello (SF) has replaced Major General J.D. Craig (SF) as commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) located at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. The two Special Forces officers are well-known to each other so it should be a smooth transition. There is the possibility that the command will see some organizational changes in the future – with a proposed transition to Joint Task Force – Africa. The new task force would be permanent in nature and expand its area of operations beyond the chunk of East Africa comprised of 12 countries. The base currently houses about 4,500 U.S. troops and contractors. The French and Chinese also maintain a significant presence in Djibouti as well. Read “New Commander Takes Over Horn of Africa Mission Ahead of Proposed US Shift”, Stars and Stripes, June 13, 2019.

Prince’s Enterprise in Congo. Erik Prince, former Navy SEAL and founder of Blackwater, has established a commercial presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Read “Blackwater founder expands operations in Congo”, Reuters, June 13, 2019.

AQIM in the Maghreb. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has gone quiet for a couple of years . . . but they still are a threat. Read “Residual, Not Irrelevant: AQIM’s Lingering Threat to the Maghreb”, Terrorism Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, by Dario Cristini, June 14, 2019.


U.S. Army Cyber Command and IO. Conrad Crane, author and employee at the U.S. Army War College, believes that now is the time for the Army’s Cyber Command to reestablish Army dominance in information warfare. That would require a change in name, new doctrine, and regaining control of relevant organizations. Read his article in “The United States needs an information warfare command: A historical examination”, War on the Rocks, June 14, 2019.

Defense Budget Analyzed. The 2020 Defense Budget is examined in this 32-page paper. Read Strategy to Ask: Analysis of the 2020 Defense Budget Request, by Susanna V. Blume, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), May 2019.

Political Warfare Threatens West. The chief of Australia’s Defence Force (ADF), General Angus Campbell, says that Western democracies risk being outmanoeuvered by totalitarian regimes that are unhindered by rules. These nations use information operations, cyber operations, coercion, and other ‘gray zone’ means to advance their national interests. Read “ADF chief: West faces a new threat from political warfare”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), June 14, 2019.


Rangers Climb Pointe du Hoc 75 Years Later. Army Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment scaled the cliffs of France in observance of the D-Day observance of the allied invasion of France. During the invasion 75 years ago 135 men were killed or wounded capturing Pointe du Hoc. (U.S. Army video, 1 min, 14 June 2019).


Photo: A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter flies at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Dec. 17, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Ryan DeBooy).

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SOF News provides news, analysis, commentary, and information about special operations forces (SOF) from around the world.