Special Operations News Update – Thursday, August 8, 2019


SOF News Update – Curated news, commentary, and analysis about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.  GORUCK, Pineland Cutlery, Gallagher case, 19th group, tensions with Iran, Nordic reactions to Russian activities, Chinese hybrid warfare, and more.

SOF News

SOF Assaulting Trains. John Denton describes how U.S. special operations force would land on a train to take control. Read “This is the Crazy Way U.S. Army Special Operators Rapidly Assault Moving Trains”, The Drive War Zone, August 6, 2019.

19th Group Gets New Training Center. The Utah National Guard SF unit is getting an impressive facility upgrade. A readiness training center with administrative offices, classroom, and more has been built at Camp Williams. The building is dedicated to Staff Sergeant Aaron Butler. Butler died at age 27 in eastern Afghanistan on August 16, 2017 from injuries suffered from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations. Read “Ribbon Cutting for Utah Guard’s New Special Forces Readiness Center”, Utah National Guard, August 6, 2019.

Gallagher Case – Still in the News. The admiral that oversaw the prosecution of the Navy SEAL accused of the murder of an ISIS captive in Iraq has a bit of a past. It seems she was implicated in the ‘Fat Leonard’ probe – according to some Navy documents. (Task & Purpose, August 6, 2019).

General Clark on Character. The commander of U.S. Special Operations Command addressed the 57 sailors graduating from the SEAL Qualification Training Class 322 in Coronado, California. Read “Socom Commander Emphasizes Character to new SEALs”, U.S. Department of Defense, August 6, 2019.

“The American people trust that you – that we – will take on these challenges. That we will not only win, but win with honor and with your values intact. Never allow a disordered loyalty to an individual or team to obscure the values, commitment and trust you share with your great Navy service, with Socom and with the nation.”

General Richard Clarke, August 2, 2019.

Firms of the SOF World

GORUCK. Jason McCarthy, founder of GORUCK, combat veteran, and former Green Beret, explains his business and provides details on manufacturing GORUCK products. Read “The State of GORUCK 2019: Elite, not Elitist”, GORUCK Blog, August 7, 2019.

Pineland Cutlery. A North Carolina firm that manufactures crafted premium fixed and folding knives has a Special Forces background. Read “Seeking a New Edge, Spartan Blades Expanding into New Venture”, The Pilot, August 7, 2019.

Middle East

Dynamics in the Persian Gulf. The region remains a potential flashpoint between the U.S. and Iran. Iran’s attacks against shipping demonstrates its confidence to exert its influence in the region – confident that the U.S. will likely be restrained in its reaction and response. With the uncertainty of the Trump administration’s stance with Iran the Gulf states may start to accommodate Iran’s interests. Red “Military and Political Dynamics in the Gulf”, Intel Brief, The Soufan Center, August 8, 2019.

Iran and ‘Gray Zone’ Activities. Iran is punching above its weight in the use of hybrid warfare. Read “Iran Would Use a Very Special Strategy to Attack America”, The National Interest, August 7, 2019.

War with Iran’s Navy? If war breaks out, U.S. forces could target Iran’s small navy as well as the vessels belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps militia. David Axe says in “Iran’s Navy Would Get Smashed by America in a War”, The National Interest, August 6, 2019.

Safe Zone for Syria. Negotiations between Turkey and the U.S. have apparently resulted in an agreement on the establishment of a Syrian ‘safe zone’ – with the result that Turkish military forces may not invade areas of northwestern Syria held by the Kurish-dominated Syrian Democratic Front (SDF). The details of the agreement, establishing a ‘buffer zone’ along the Turkish-Syrian border, are not yet available to the public. Some news stories on this development:

“Syria government ‘categorically rejects’ US-Turkey buffer zone plans”, The Defense Post, August 8, 2019.


Nordic Countries React to Russian Missile Deployments. Russia has been increasing its deployments and use of missile launchers in the Kola Peninsular. Some observers believe this is a way for Russia to display its military capabilities and posture as a great power. This has caused other countries in the area to become more vigilant. Read “Nordic countries see Russia flex its missile muscles”, Defense News, August 5, 2019.


Pub – Chinese Hybrid Warfare. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) has published a two-volume publication entitled Stealing a March: Chinese Hybrid Warfare in the Indo-Pacific; Issues and Options for Allied Defense Planners, July 24, 2019. The first volume (92 pages) outlines Chinese hybrid warfare and the second volume (an annex, 64 pages) provides case studies. The pubs examine Beijing’s hybrid warfare campaigns, their origins, means and modes, level of success and possible future shape. It also assesses the primary options for U.S. and allied cunter-strategy. Access the PDF pubs here. An interesting read (or scan); very little mention of SOF or special operations forces.

Afghan ‘Ghost Soldiers’. The number of Afghan troops and police on the books fell significantly in recent months. This is a result of biometric verification and an effort to reduce security personnel who are ‘on the books’ but not present for duty. Afghan commanders list non-existent troops or police on their rosters to draw their salaries – a common practice for many years. Read “Afghanistan Loses 42,000 Troops in Crackdown on Ghost Soldiers”, Military.com, August 2, 2019.

CT and an Afghan Peace Deal. BG (Ret) Francis Taylor, USAF, provides his thoughts on a peace deal with the Taliban and how that will affect U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the region. Read “Counterterrorism After a Peace Deal in Afghanistan”, Small Wars Journal, August 8, 2019.


Boko Haram – Not Going Away Soon. Every year or so the Nigerian government issues a proclamation that the Jihadist group – Boko Haram – has been militarily defeated. But after a decade of war, Nigeria’s jihadists still pose a military and ideological challenge. Read “Reporter’s Diary: Boko Harma and The Battle of Ideas”, The New Humanitarian, August 6, 2019.


Failure of Security Force Assistance. SFA is increasingly emphasized as a way of supporting local partners in states undergoing threats from terrorism or insurgencies. However, two authors believe that traditional approaches to SFA are too technical to deal with political problems in fragile states. They suggest a new vision for SFA – utilizing a peacebuilding approach. Read “Western Security Force Assistance in Weak States”, The RUSI Journal, July 25, 2019.

Endless Wars. Clifford May, the founder and president of Foundation for Defense of Democracies, tells us why our future will see long conflicts. Read “Why Endless Wars Can’t Be Ended”, FDD, August 7, 2019.

“Wars have shaped history, but the ways wars are fought evolve. Americans grew accustomed to relatively short, high-intensity conflicts with a decisive conclusion. Our contemporary enemies prefer long, low-intensity conflicts that, they believe, will wear us out over time. And they get a vote.”

CliffordD. May, FDD, August 7, 2019.

Videos, Podcasts, and Books

Video – Saudi Spec Ops. The annual Hajj pilgrimage sees millions of visitors to Saudi Arabia. The country’s special operations forces provide a display of its capabilities that showcase its ability to provide security and confront threats during the event. Is there a man dragged through a smashed windshield and thrown into the back of a pickup truck amid speeding dirtbikes? Yes tehre is. Watch “Video: Saudi special forces go all-out for Hajj display”, Military Times, August 6, 2019.

Podcast – Syria’s Deconfliction Zone. The U.S. and Turkey have agreed on a ‘safe zone’ for the border area between Turkey and Syria. This agreement may avert a Turkish invasion of the northwestern region of Syria held by Syrian Kurds (YPG and SDF). Listen to a podcast featuring Aaron Stein on the topic, by War on the Rocks, August 7, 2019.

Jack Carr’s Newest Book. A retired Navy SEAL is now a fiction book author – and his main protagonist is a Navy SEAL who is fighting terrorism around the globe. Read “This Utahn’s not Jason Bourne, but you’d never know it from the former Navy SEAL’s books”, Deseret News, August 6, 2019.


Photo: U.S. service members assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command conduct Special Purpose Insertion/Extraction training from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter assigned to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, July 25, 2019. U.S. Navy SEALs engage in a continuous training cycle to improve and further specialize skills needed during deployments across the globe. SEALs are the maritime component of U.S. special operations forces and are trained to conduct missions from sea, air, and land. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Ryan DeBooy)

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