Special Operations News Update – Aug 22, 2019

SDF Room Clearing Exercise - Syria

Photo: SDF Room Clearing Exercise. Coalition forces are training commandos in Military Operations in Urban Terrain in Syria. Photo from video by Specialist Alec Dioone, CJTF-OIR, Aug 3, 2019.

Topics: Curated news, commentary, and analysis about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. We are back from our summer vacation and a trip to West Virginia to attend the Special Forces Association annual convention. Some articles are forthcoming about the convention.

Casualties in Afghanistan

Two Service Members KIA. Two U.S. service members have died in Afghanistan according to the Department of Defense. The deaths occurred on Wednesday, August 21, 2019. James Laporta of Newsweek has reported that the two KIA were U.S. Army Special Forces Green Berets that were serving with the NATO Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan (NSOCC-A).

SOF News

Leadership Change at USAJFKSWCS. MG Patrick Roberson took command of the Army’s Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He replaced MG Kurt Sonntag. The institution has had a challenging few years under Sonntag’s command with allegations that it has weakened standards for the Special Forces Qualification Course to allow more students to graduate and for women to be able to pass the very demanding course. The schoolhouse trains Civil Affairs, Psychological Operations, and Special Forces troops. Read MG Roberson’s bio.

UOES 3 and Navy SEALs. The User Operational Evaluation System 3 is a strange name for a new dry submersible mini-submarine. (The National Interest, Aug 19, 2019).

Mental Health and SF. A recent news article examines the life and death of Staff Sergeant Michael Mantenuto – 1st SFGA and former Hollywood star. See “He was a Special Forces self-help guru. Then he took his own life”, Army Times, August 20, 2019.

Robin Sage. An exercise is being held across several counties in North Carolina during the month of August. The unconventional warfare exercise is conducted for Special Forces candidates in the SF qualification course. (The Charlotte Observer, Aug 21, 2019).

Female Airman Dropped from AFSOC Operator Selection. A candidate for the Special Reconnaissance (SR) career field has been dropped during the selection phase. Women have been able to join AFSOF since 2015 – however, thus far, only one is still in the demanding Air Force special operations training pipeline for pararescue, combat control, special reconnaissance, and TACP billets.

24th SOW and Social Media. The 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida is looking to increase its social media presence and effectiveness. (Air Force Times, Aug 20, 2019).

SF in Vietnam. One writer provides his perspective on the Vietnam conflict, the movie Apocalypse Now, and SF icons. (Pratt Tribune, Aug 20, 2019).

SOF and Ethics Review. There has been a lot of news about U.S. special operators engaging in bad behavior lately and the command at USSOCOM is concerned. General Richard Clarke has ordered a review of the SOF community’s culture and ethics. See “SOCOM Must Make These Changes as it Reviews Ethics Problems, Operators and Experts Say”, Military.com, August 16, 2019.

SEAL Catfishing Case. A military judge has ruled that SEAL Team 6 leaders may have used unlawful command influence in the case of a Naval special operator accused of ‘catfishing’ women. (Navy Times, August 19, 2019).

Sitting Next to McChrystal. A former CIA officer tells us of the time he shared space with former General Stan McChrystal in “American Spy Chapter Excerpt: Sitting Next to a Rock Star”Small Wars Journal, August 2019.

Catan and Insurgent Uprising. Two military officers have invented a board game to teach and reinforce unconventional warfare to U.S. Special Forces. They have modeled the game after the popular board game of Catan. See “You’ve heard of Settlers of Catan, but are you ready to play Insurgent Uprising?”, TechLink, August 15, 2019. (Editorial note: the editor is an avid player of Catan!)

International SOF

Special Operations Forces of Militant Groups. Most literature about special operations is focused on the SOF units of state actors (nations). Very little is about the SOF units and capabilities of insurgent and terrorist groups. Read more in “Insurgents and the Flip Side of Special Operations”, Foreign Policy Research Institute, August 13, 2019.

SAS History to be Showcased. Ben Macintyre’s book SAS: Rogue Heroes will be the topic of a new BBC drama series. (The Bookseller, Aug 19, 2019).

Noble Rose – U.S. and IDF SOF. A joint drill took place between the Israeli Defense Force’s elite Shayetet 13 navy commandos and the U.S. Army Special Forces. The scenario involved the assault on a hijacked vessel and the extraction of troops from enemy territory. (The Jerusalem Post, Aug 20, 2019).

Thai Navy SEALs Honored with Watch. A new watch is making its arrival that honors the SEALs of Thailand. Read “Paying tribute to Thai Navy SEALs”, Bangkok Post, August 20, 2019.

Irish Police in Spat with Irish Army Rangers. During a Special Operations Forces (SOF) commanders conference held in Dublin members of the Army Ranger Wing provided security. However . . . see “Garda clash with Army Rangers over use of firearms”, The Times, August 18, 2019.

UK’s SRR. Read about the United Kingdom’s Special Reconnaissance Regiment established in 2005. See “Shadow Warriors: The Ultra-Secret Special Reconnaissance Regiment”, Gunpowder Magazine, August 18, 2019.

‘Russian Contractors’. The Russian Federation has seen an increase in the number of operations performed by private military contractors. They are extending Russia’s influence in the Middle East, Africa and in Latin America. Read “Russian Contractors in the Service of the Kremlin”, Warsaw Institute, August 14, 2019.

China’s New CT Unit. China has formed a new counterterrorist special operations unit in the western province of Xinjiang. The ‘Mountain Eagle Commando’ will be used against terrorists and religious extremists according to Chinese military spokesman. The Muslim minority in the province – the Uighurs – are subject to harsh rules under the Chinese regime with some members being held in a network of extrajudicial camps in Xinjiang. See “China reveals new counterterrorism unit in Xinjiang”, UPI.com, August 21, 2019.

Military and National Defense

Analysis of Intelligence Profession. Zachery Tyson Brown, and intelligence officer and U.S. Army veteran, takes a look at the intelligence field and offers some analysis of the way forward for intelligence analysts. Read “Intelligence’s Accidental Profession”, Real Clear Defense, August 20, 2019.

SFABs to Get Raven Bs. The newly established Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) will receive the Raven B unmanned aircraft systems for their deployments to Afghanistan and elsewhere. (Yahoo! News, Aug 19, 2019).

U.S. Army Update. An informative article about the state of the Army has been published by Kyle Rempfer. Some of the content is about the dwell rate for U.S. Army Special Forces. Read “The Army’s outgoing leadership: Where the service stands, and where it’s going”, Army Times, August 20, 2019.

Origins of the Challenge Coin. Some folks believe that the challenge coin tradition began with Special Forces. Read “The Challenge Coin Tradition: Do You Know How It Started?”, DoDLive, August 13, 2019.


U.S. CAS in Iraq Now Limited. The United States now has to ask the Iraqis for permission before providing close air support to troops in combat. (Task & Purpose, Aug 19, 2019).

Soldier dies in Saudi Arabia. An Army Reserve military policeman died in an accident during an on-duty incident in Saudi Arabia. Specialist Clayton Horne of Louisiana was assigned to the 351st Military Police Company based in Ocala, Florida. (Army Times, Aug 19, 2019).

Iran Oil Tanker Free. After being held for six weeks in Gibraltar by British authorities a ship has been released and is now on its way to a new destination. The oil tanker was seized as it entered the Mediterranean Sea – it was suspected of delivering oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

Yemen. Micheal Knights spent some time with United Arab Emirate forces engaged in the long-running civil war. He provides some insight on the accomplishments of the UAE in that troubled country. Read “Lessons from the UAE War in Yemen”, Lawfare Blog, August 18, 2019. The departure of UAE forces has increased political fragmentation and weakened the government’s control of territory. A separatist militia has filled the void left by the UAE. Houthi rebels have shot down a MQ-9 drone. The incident took place on Tuesday evening (20 Aug). (Task & Purpose, Aug 21, 2019).

Syria. August 21st was the sixth anniversary of the nerve agent sarin attack in Damascus by the Assad regime that killed over 1,400 Syrians. (U.S. DoS, Aug 21, 2019).


Kabul Bombing. The Islamic State took credit for the bombing of a wedding party that killed 80 people in Afghanistan’s capital city on Saturday, August 17th. The people targeted were Hazara and referred to as ‘non-believers’ by IS.

ISIS in Afghanistan. Jared Keller reports on the significant territorial gains of the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces since December 2018. Read “ISIS is biding its time in Afghanistan”, Task & Purpose, August 19, 2019. In other news, the DoD has announced that the 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade and the 10th Mountain Division Combat Aviation Brigade will soon deploy to Afghanistan. Currently there are 13,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as well as troops from various NATO and partner nation countries. A peace agreement with the Taliban may prompt a withdrawal of several thousand U.S. troops in the future. Some observers worry that a cutback in international aid to the Afghan security forces will result in a possible new Afghan civil war. (Military Times, Aug 17, 2019).

CT MOU with Philippines. A new agreement with strengthen counterterrorism cooperation between the U.S. and Philippines. (The Diplomat, Aug 19, 2019).


UW and Strategic Nonviolence. Thomas Doherty, a officer who has served in a variety of special operations units, believes that U.S. SOF should expand its understanding of doctrine and incorporate the use of strategic nonviolence to accomplish the objectives of a UW campaign. Read “Adding Strategic Nonviolence to the Unconventional Warfare Doctrine”, Small Wars Journal, August 2019.

Buying Greenland? With the onset of climate change the natural resources of Greenland are slowly revealing themselves. And there is money to be made there. While President Trump’s desire to ‘buy’ Greenland may be a non-starter one state actor (can you say China?) is moving in and acquiring the rights to some of the resources. Read “Buying Greenland: Trump’s Gaffe With a Point“, Vantage Point North, August 16, 2019.


National Security Primer. The National War College had published (2019) a 84-page pub entitled A National Security Strategy Primer. The publication provides the reader a tool for understanding concepts of national security strategy and strategy development.


Video – SDF Room Clearing. Watch a 33-sec video depicting Syrian Democratic Forces commandos practice room clearing techniques. Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, August 3, 2019.

Movie Trailer – Rambo: Last Blood. Arriving in theaters on September 20, 2019 is another Rambo movie. Sylvester Stallone, playing a former Green Beret, is in the thick of things once again.

Video – ‘Charging Charlie’. Charles Beckwith was a Special Forces legend. Learn more in Delta Force founder was almost impossible to kill, We are the Mighty, November 2, 2017.

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