SOF News Update – Curated news, commentary, and analysis about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. SEAL’s culture problem, Indiana Rangers, SOF-CLDP, UK’s new hybrid warfare division, Middle East, and NATO are currently in the news.
USASOC’s SOF-CLDP. The U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina hosted 22 civilian personnel for a two-day program that will promote their understanding of the SOF warfighters they support. The personnel are assigned within the U.S. Special Operations Command. The Special Operations Forces – Civilian Leadership and Development Program exposed the personnel to a variety of conferences, demonstrations, and activities that depict the ARSOF training and mission. Read “USASOC host civilian leadership visit”, U.S. Army, July 31, 2019.
Indiana Rangers to be Recognized. The men of Company D, 151st Infantry, Indiana Army National Guard fought in Vietnam in the late 1960s . . . and they will soon be recognized by the Indiana legislature. Read “Proposed House resolution recognizes Greenfield-based Guard unit”, Daily Reporter, August 2, 2019. Read a history of the Indiana Rangers by the Army Historical Foundation.
160th SOAR Wins RI Leapfest. The Rhode Island National Guard hosted its annual one-day parachute competition. The event had 262 participants from 14 nations trying to be the quickest and most accurate to land on a designated target after jumping out of a helicopter. The winning team was from the 106th Special Operations Aviation Regiment from Kentucky. The second place team was from the Joint Special Forces from Qatar. Read “R.I. Leapfest host paratroopers from 14 nations”, Providence Journal, August 3, 2019.
From SOF to Cops. A Florida program puts former special operations personnel through a training program and on the street as law enforcement officers. A former Special Forces officer heads up the program. (Military Times, August 3, 2019).
SOF Gone Rogue
Green Berets Sentenced for Embezzling Funds. Three former U.S. Army Special Forces member (3rd SFGA) have been sentenced for embezzling funds while deployed on an SF team to Afghanistan. They took money from the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) during a deployment in 2009-2010. CERP funds were converted from Afghanis to U.S. currency and then mailed home in money orders and deposited into stateside bank accounts. So, this offense took place about nine years ago. Takes a while for the wheels of justice to turn, it seems. (Fayetteville Observer, August 4, 2019).
SEALs in the News. So the Naval Special Warfare community is once again in the headlines. And it is getting a lot of media attention. Some critics say there is a discipline problem and others are pointing to a errant ‘SOF culture’. There are some who believe SEALs should not be operating in land-locked countries and conducting SF/Ranger missions. And there are some former SEALs saying everything is ‘fine’; leave the warriors alone. Some articles on the topics are below.
NSW Cdr: “WE HAVE A PROBLEM”. The commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Admiral Collin Green, sent a message to the NSW community. The letter, dated July 25th, was headed by the words (in caps) – “WE HAVE A PROBLEM”. The cdr has tasked subordinate commanders to respond by August 7th with a list of problems within their unit and recommendations to fix them. The memo comes in the wake of a series of missteps, misconduct, and bad press experienced by the SEAL community. The latest incident involved the booting of an entire SEAL platoon from Iraq after allegations of sexual assault and drinking alcohol. You can read the letter here. (CNN Politics, August 1, 2019).
“I don’t know yet if we have a culture problem. I do know that we have a good order and discipline problem that must be addressed immediately.”Rear Admiral Collin Green, from memo dated July 25, 2019.
Former GB on SEALs. Bob Mayer, a former Special Forces officer and well-known book author, believes the SEALs need to return to their original mission. Read “Should the SEALs be abolished?”, Bob Mayer.com, August 1, 2019.
Former SEAL – Leave the Warriors Alone! Carl Higbie, a former Navy SEAL with combat time in Iraq, has penned an open letter to Rear Admiral Green (NSW Cdr). He says the SEALs aren’t the problem; it’s the leadership. (CarlHigbie.com, August 1, 2019).
Ex-Navy SEAL Gets 60 More Years. A former Navy SEAL was found guilty of repeatedly molesting his daughter. He was sentenced to 60 years in jail; a term that will not begin until he finishes a 27-year federal sentence he is currently serving for manufacturing child pornography. He was serving in the Navy in San Diego at the time of the offenses. (Military.com, August 1, 2019).
Eddie Gallagher Case – Still More News. In a surprise move the Navy Chief of Naval Operations (CNO_ has taken over the Gallagher court-martial process. This removes the authority from the Navy Region Southwest. See “Navy CNO takes oveer Gallagher court-martial amid controversy,” Navy Times, August 3, 2019.
Logan Melgar Case – Investigator Removed. Defense attorneys say an NCIS agent got involved with a woman while probing a 3rd SFGA NCO’s murder in Mali by Navy SEALs and Marine Raiders. Read “Investigator of Green Beret’s Murder Had Romantic Relationship With Witness, Lawyer Says”, Daily Beast, August 2, 2019.
UK’s New Hybrid Warfare Division. An army division specializing in hybrid warfare is being formed that will provide the British military a force built for the 21st century. The 6th Division will focus on intelligence gathering, cyber, counter-propaganda, and electronic warfare. Unit members will receive training on cyber techniques, language, culture, and irregular warfare. See “Army to form new hybrid-warfare division”, Independent, August 1, 2019.
ISIS Fighter Returned to US. The United States has transported another alleged American ISIS fighter back from Syria to face trial. The dual US-Turkish national was held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SSF) before being handed over to US authorities. (CNN Politics, Aug 1, 2019).
Training Up MaT. A series of social media news outlets (associated with Sputnik, Tass, etc.) have revealed that U.S. forces are training up members of Maghawir al-Thawra near the Al-Tanf encampment.
Turkey, Oil, and the Syrian ‘Buffer Zone’. Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, says that Turkey is motivated more by the oil, domestic politics, and a ‘land grab’ in northeast Syria than concerns over the YPG. (Washington Examiner, July 31, 2019).
Islamic State – a Global Threat. Ambassador James Jeffrey, the State Department envoy to the global coalition fighting IS, says the terrorist organization has spread beyond Syria and Iraq to other areas of the world. Although it lost its ‘physical Caliphate’ IS still has a robust underground insurgency remaining in Syria and Iraq. Read “US officials say Islamic State still posed global threat”, Military Times, August 2, 2019.
Another UK Tanker Seized. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has taken control of yet another oil tanker in the Persian Gulf. Seven sailors have been detained. The incident took place on Wednesday, July 31st.
Weak Alliance Response to Iran. Germany won’t back a U.S. mission to provide security to oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. France is hesitant. UK is on board. Japan won’t send warships. But the U.S. doesn’t want to do it alone. This leaves Iran with greater latitude to exert its pressure and influence on international shipping. read “The Hormuz Crisis Shows U.S. Alliances Are Weak”, Bloomberg Opinion, July 31, 2019.
Trump Weak on Iranian Ambition. Steven Cook says that the current administrations nonresponse to Iranian aggression has sent an unmistakable message. Read “Iran Owns the Persian Gulf Now”, Foreign Policy, August 1, 2019.
Israel Continues to Strike Iranian Forces. According to some Middle East news outlets the Israelis have been persistently targeting Iranian military and proxy forces in Syria. In a recent escalation the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) hit Iranian proxy forces in Iraq.
Europe, NATO, and Russia
NATO, Burden-Sharing, and 2% Solution. Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies says that NATO is getting better as a defense treaty organization but it needs to tighten up a bit at the ministerial level. NATO’s focus should shift from the math of who contributes what to what needs to be fixed or enhanced. Read “Burden-sharing and the 2 percent of GDP Solution: A Study in Military Absurdity”, CSIS, July 31, 2019.
Russian Nuclear Bombers over the Baltic. Russian aviation is staying very busy keeping the nations of Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on their toes. And, of course, the NATO aircraft deployed to the region as well. Read more in “Nuclear Bombers over the Baltic. Russia Provoking Not Only NATO”, Baltic Monitor – Warsaw Institute, July 20, 2019.
Searching for the Russian ‘Insider’. The Baltic states are increasing their defense in a variety of ways – after having seen Russia’s take over of Crimea and east Ukraine. Kremlin supporters were discreetly cultivated by Russia’s intelligence agencies and Spetsnaz special forces prior to the seizure of Crimea and east Ukraine. Read more in “How the Baltic states spot the Kremlin’s agents”, The Economist, August 1, 2019.
Rep Waltz on Peace Deal. Former Special Forces officer Mike Waltz, now a U.S. Congressman representing Florida, has some deep concerns about a proposed peace deal with the Taliban. Waltz deployed twice to Afghanistan with Special Forces. The peace deal would incorporate a reduction in U.S. forces from 14,000 to 8,500. The Taliban would denounce al-Qaeda, begin to negotiate with the Afghan government, and consider a ceasefire. The agreement may be formalized in September; prior to the Afghan presidential elections scheduled for October. (The Floridian, August 2, 2019).
Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. A recent United Nations report highlights the close relationship that the international terrorist group has with the Afghan insurgency.
“Al-Qaida considers Afghanistan a continuing safe haven for its leadership, relying on its long-standing and strong relationship with the Taliban leadership. Under Taliban patronage, Al-Qaida is keen to strengthen its presence in Badakhshan Province, in particular the Shighnana area bordering Tajikistan, as well as in Barmal, in Paktika Province. Al-Qaeda continues to cooperate closely with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and the Haqqani Network. Al-Qaida members continue to function routinely as military and religious instructors for the Taliban.”Page 14-15, UN Security Council report, 15 July 2019.
Military Interpreters. A contract interpreter from Georgia (the country) describes his work with U.S. Special Forces and other units. Read “Breaking Language Barriers”, DVIDS, August 3, 2019.
INF Treaty – Not So Much. The U.S. has formally withdrawn, as of Friday, August 2nd, from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty signed in 1987. The U.S. withdrew based on allegations that Russia was violating the treaty.
Lasers Weapons for Vehicles – in the Future. LTG Paul Ostrowski (former SF officer) describes the technology advances that will allow powerful laser weapons to be mounted on vehicles. Read “Laser weapons that pack greater punch coming to Army”, Army.mil, July 17, 2019.
Shakeup of Marine Corps Tactics. The new USMC Commandant has published a 26-page paper that is the ‘way ahead for the Marines’. It lays out some course corrections that will change how the Marines conduct their operations. Read “Sacred Cows Die as Marine Commandant Changes Course on Amphibs”, by Paul Mcleary, Breaking Defense, July 26, 2019.
EOD and its Patch. The U.S. Army’s explosive ordnance disposal soldiers are now permitted to wear their EOD brassard full-time. It is expected that this administrative move will assist with recruitment and retention. (Army Times, Aug 2, 2019).
Virtue Signaling and the Death of a Hero. An iconic movie star is being sacrificed on the alter of #MeToo. Read “When James Bond Died”, by John Glynn, FrontPageMag.com, August 2, 2019.
Prince on America’s Future. The founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince, has penned an opinion article about how past successes should guide America’s future. (Asia Times, Aug 1, 2019).
Videos and Books
Movie Trailer – 1917. At the height of the First World War two young British soldiers are given a seemly impossible mission. (Universal Pictures, Aug 1, 2019).
Video – How to Shoot Artillery. A quick one-minute video shows us how to load up and fire artillery. U.S. Army, July 31, 2019.
Book Review – The Targeter. Bruce Riedel, a former career member of the CIA, reviews a book by Nada Bakos – also former CIA. Read “Women and the war on terror: An insider account”, Brookings Institute, July 22, 2019.
Photo: Painting of a member of Indiana Rangers – an Army National Guard unit from Indiana mobilized and deployed to Vietnam. Painting by Mort Kunstler was commissioned by the National Guard Bureau.