SOF News Update – Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
8th SFG(A) – Research Assistance Requested. A Special Forces 180A is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge (UK) and is writing his dissertation on the Cuban inspired and supported insurgency in Peru during the 1960s. He is seeking anyone who was a member of the 8th Special Forces Group during the early to mid-1960s who may consider being interviewed or who could possibly point him to documents or publications with relevant information. He is especially interested in anyone who participated in MTTs in Peru from 1962 to 1966. If you can help send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Civilians Recognized by USASOAC. The U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command named its 2019 Civilians of the Year during an award presentation held January 6, 2020 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Frederick Williams (USASOAC Engineer Office) and Laura Gates (USASOAC Comptroller Office) were recognized for their commitment to the organization and mission. (USASOAC, DVIDS, Jan 6, 2020).
Seaman George Preston (WWII UDT). A veteran is spotlighted by a writer for a local newspaper on Cape Cod (Massachusetts). Read the story of a member of the U.S. Navy who served in a Naval Combat Demolition unit as a frogman. See “Veterans Spotlight – Seaman George Preston”, The Falmouth Enterprise, January 17, 2020.
$245 Million SOF Contract for F3EA. A Savannah, Georgia firm, F3EA, Inc., has been awarded a contract to provide special operations forces requirements, analysis, prototyping, training, operations, and rehearsals (RAPTOR). The contract provides for a deliverable training support product that can be executed in any AOR.
Green Berets and MPs. Sorta like Oil and Water. A retired SF Warrant Officer writes about his days in Panama during Promote Liberty where a little fun was had with the MPs. Read “There I Was, Special Force Operator vs Military Cops”, SOFREP, January 19, 2020.
GB Captain Kicked Out of Army. It is against the regs for an officer to commit adultery and highly frowned upon to consort with the wife of an NCO. Yet this case is causing a bit of a s___storm in the militaryesque Twitter world. The term ‘its complicated’ comes to mind. Read “Army Gave Special Forces Captain 14 Days to Leave Without Severance Pay”, Breitbart, January 18, 2020.
MOH Recipients from 3336 Interviewed. Two Green Berets talk about the day they endured a full day of intense combat in Afghanistan and what the Medal of Honor means to them. (We Are the Mighty, Jan 20, 2020).
New Mini-Subs for SEALs. The Navy is taking a look at two new kinds of small submarines to transport SEALs or Combat Divers short distances near the surface of the water. They would replace the older Mark 8 SEAL Delivery Vehicles or SDVs. Read “The Navy SEALs Have Plans For Small, Mini Submarines”, The National Interest, January 19, 2029.
SEAL Becomes an Astronaut. With a resume that reads like fiction, it is pretty clear this man is a prime candidate for a journey into space. Read “Jonny Kim is the SEAL-Mathematician-Doctor-Astronaut We Desperately Need Right Now”, The Drive – War Zone, January 17, 2020.
Fuerzas Comando 2020 Tryouts. The 7th Special Forces Group is holding tryouts for the team that will represent the United States in the annual event. The special operations competition takes place every summer with about 20 teams competing. The Colombians always seem to have a strong showing – they won Fuerzas Commando 2019. Is this the year that 7th SFGA comes through with 1st place? Or should they farm the event out to a 20th group team?
UK SOF in Burma in WWII. Read up on some history of how the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Special Operations Executive (SOE) coorperated (sorta) in the Far East during World War II. Read “SOE / SIS Cooperation”, SOE in Burma, January 19, 2020.
India’s Big Airborne Exercise. The Indian Army conducted its biggest airborne exercise called the “Winged Raider” comprising of more than 550 special forces troops in the North-Eastern theatre. (Defence Aviations Post, Jan 17, 2020).
Military and National Security
Changes for Marine Snipers. There is a need for more snipers in the Marine Corps and some changes to make that happen are on the way. Read “Marine Snipers May Have a New MOS in 2020”, We are the Mighty, January 16, 2020.
Conflicts to Watch in 2020. Every year the Council on Foreign Relations conducts its annual Preventive Priorities Survey where U.s. foreign policy experts assess and rank the likelihood and impact of 30 potential conflicts in the coming year. Some leading contenders include:
- Cyber attack on U.S. critical infrastructure
- Foreign terrorist attack causing mass casualties
- Iran – U.S. armed confrontation
- Crisis on the Korean peninsular
- and 24 more . . .
Read “Conflicts to Watch in 2020”, Council of Foreign Affairs, 12 pages, PDF.
Army Cyber School and IO. The Army’s cyber and electronic warfare personnel are learning the basics about Information Operations (IO). This is taking place at the cyber school at Fort Gordon, Georgia. See “The Army’s cyber school now teaches information operations”, Fifth Domain, January 17, 2020.
New Book – Trump Bashes the Military. A book to be released on January 21, 2020 by Penguin Press sheds some light on President Trump’s relationship with his senior general officers. One wonders how much of the book is true – as the scene painted by the author is very disconcerting. Read “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies’: Inside Trump’s stunning tirade against generals”, The Washington Post, January 17, 2020.
Sniper’s Role. The qualification course at the Army Sniper School in Fort Benning, Georgia, is seven weeks long. It has a 60 percent attrition rate. Snipers play a critical role on the battlefield to observe and report and then take the most critical shot when needed. Read more in “A Sniper’s Role is Crucial”, ShadowSpear Special Operations, January 19, 2020.
Student Vetting in aftermath of Pensacola Shooting. A Saudi military aviation student attending training in the United States killed three Americans at Naval Air Station Pensacola on December 6, 2019. The Department of Justice classified the incident as an act of terrorism. The Defense Department has instituted enhanced vetting and control measures to prevent a future occurrence of terrorism from happening by military students from other nations attending training in the United States. A ‘background briefing’ on the international military student review process was conducted by senior defense officials on January 17, 2020. Read the transcript of the question and answers.
Influencing Security Partners. The United States had been providing security assistance in various forms to many ‘security partners’ throughout the world for several decades. However, not all of these security partners work in the best interests of the United States. Many times the money towards such efforts is wasted or ‘redirected’. (Afghanistan comes to mind) Tommy Ross and Melissa Dalton of the Center for Strategic and International Studies provide framework for ‘influencing’ the recipients of U.S. security assistance. The outline is a guide for the use of ‘positive conditionality’ that would influence the behavior of the recipients of U.S. assistance. Read “A Roadmap for Better Choices From Security Partners”, War on the Rocks, January 17, 2020.
The Importance of Contractors in War Zones. Kathy Gilsinan, a writer who covers national security and global affairs, writes about how important contractors (whether U.S. citizens or third country nationals) are to the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a retired SF service member who contracted in a war zone for six years I found her article refreshing. Read “The War Machine Is Run on Contracts”, The Atlantic, January 17, 2020.
IS Grows Maintains Presence in Southeast Asia. Despite the losses that the Islamic State has suffered in the Middle East the organization has been able to recruit fighters and employ violent tactics in Southeast Asia. Regional support for IS has been resilient – owing in large part to the fact that IS had established regional branches which operate independently and wage localized conflicts. Read “Why Support for the Islamic State has persisted in Southeast Asia”, Channel News Asia, January 17, 2020.
Competition in the South China Sea. China is embarked on the path to dominate the resources and sea lines of communication of the South China Sea. It is using diplomatic, informational, military, economic, and psychological methods to attain this goal. This ‘slow-motion hegemony is a real concern for its immediate neighbors and for U.S. national interests. The U.S. can prevail in this ‘great power competition’ and defend against the ‘political warfare’ tactics of China. Read more in a 47-page report entitled Total Competition: China’s Challenge in the South China Sea, by Patrick Cronin and Ryan Neuhard, Center for a New American Security, January 2020.
Priority? Middle East or Great Power Competition. The Trump administration seems to be caught up in the regional affairs of the Middle East and diverting scarce military resources that are needed for the great power competition (that would be Russia and China). At least that is what two writers from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) would have you think. Read “Sending Troops Back to the Middle East Won’t Stop Iran”, Defense One, January 17, 2020.
Turkey – Losing Friends? Kori Schake, a defense analyst, takes a look at the foreign policy of Ankara and explains how it is aggravating problems with all of its neighbors. She states that this is due, in part, toward the move from a ‘vibrant Islamic democracy’ into a ‘repressive authoritarian state’. Turkey’s intervention in Libya is just another example of how it is alienating other nations. Read “Libya explains why Turkey has no friends”, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), January 16, 2020.
ISIS in the Sinai. The Egyptian Army continues its fight against the Wilayat Sinai guerrilla campaign. The jihadist’s attacks against army checkpoints and bases continue to see success. The group has pledged allegiance to the new leader of ISIS – Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. The terrain in northern Sinai favors the insurgents who employ hit and run attacks against Egyptian Army remote outposts. “The ISIS insurgency in the Sinai continues despite Egyptian Army efforts”, FDD’s Long War Journal, January 17, 2020.
U.S. Resumes CT Opns in Iraq. The operations against ISIS was suspended in Iraq following the killing of Qassem Soleimani. However, the operations have now resumed. See “U.S. and Iraq Reportedly Restart ISIS Counterterrorism Efforts”, Forbes.com, January 16, 2020.
‘Jabba the Hutt’ Captured. A very robust ISIS leader was transported away to confinement in the bed of a pickup truck after being apprehended by Nineveh Police Command’s SWAT unit. Authorities state that he was a senior leader in the terrorist organization and he had ‘quite a presence’. (Military Times, Jan 18, 2020).
Iraq’s Kurds – Important Allies of the U.S. The instability of the Iraq regime, tensions with Iran, and the continued threat of the Islamic State underscores the need for a robust and continued U.S. relationship with the Kurdish forces located in northern Iraq. The Kurds have been important allies in the fight against ISIS and will likely remain to be allies in the fight far into the future. However, according to Nicholas Heras – a Middle East Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), there is a “. . . need for sustained and high-level oversight to ensure that America’s money in support of the KRG and the Peshmerga forces is money well spent.” Read “What’s Next in the U.S. Security Relationship with the Iraqi Kurds?”, The National Interest, January 16, 2020.
Casualties from Iran Missile Attack. Reports of U.S. casualties from the recent ballistic missile attack on U.S. bases have finally surfaced. Most reporters seemed surprised as the DOD had repeatedly said that no casualties were experienced in the two hour long attack. Eleven service members were evacuated to Kuwait or Germany for medical treatment. Eight service members suffered Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) while three others had some type of ’emotional distress’. A DOD spokesman stated that “immediate reporting requirements up to the Pentagon are for incidents threatening of life, limb or eyesight, so actually TBI wouldn’t rise to that threshold.”
What Drives Iran’s Actions in the Middle East? Euan Findlater, a postgraduate student at the University of Glasgow provides a description of the influences that shape Iranian national security outlook, setting, and implementation. He describes the ultimate strategic goals and objectives in Iran and how Iran attempts to achieve those goals. Read “Islamic Republic of Iran’s Strategic Culture and National Security Analysis”, Small Wars Journal, January 19, 2020.
Syria’s Kurds – Political Settlement Needed. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon recently visited the northeast area of Syria (Kurdish area) and found good and bad news. There is a sense of stability in the region (for now) but there is a need for humanitarian assistance. In addition. without a political solution war and trauma are just around the corner. Read her article – “Syria’s Kurdish Forces Hold Back the Tides”, Foreign Affairs, January 15, 2020.
Baghouz – A Humanitarian Disaster. In February and March last year at this time the battle for Baghouz, Syria would see the remnants of Syrian territory held by the Islamic State fall to the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF). The Kurds would take many casualties defeating the IS fighters. In addition, they would be deluged with thousands of women and children associated with the IS fighters that needed shelter, medical care, and food. The battle for and aftermath of Baghouz turned into an immense problem for the families of ISIS and the Kurds. Many observers believe that the humanitarian response was insufficient – some think for political reasons. Read “The Humanitarian Disaster During the Battle for Baghouz”, by Lars Hauch, Middle East Institute, January 20, 2020, 14 pages, PDF.
ISIS Oil Emir in Syria Has a Bad Day. The Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (SOJTF-OIR) stated in a Tweet on January 19, 2020 that the head ISIS official responsible for oil and money to finance ISIS operations in Syria was killed in a ‘special operation’.
NATO and Europe
Russia and Its Very Active Security Services. A recent article highlights the role of the Russian security services in influencing regional states in Central Asia toward the adoption of positions favorable to Russia. Read “Security Services: Moscow’s Fifth Column Across Eurasia”, The Diplomat, January 17, 2020.
More U.S. Troops for Poland? The United States is still working out issues for deploying more troops to Eastern Europe. It remains to be seen if a “Fort Trump” will be established in Poland; but expectations are that another 1,000 ‘rotational troops’ could be added to the current (‘non-permanent’) 4,500 in Poland. Unfortunately, being stationed in Poland is not quite a favored tour. The living conditions for U.S. troops are (for the most part) austere and it is unlikely to see much improvement in the future. (Stars and Stripes, Jan 13, 2020).
Putin – A Dictator for the Near Future? James Stavridis, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former supreme allied commander of NATO, details how Putin has consolidated his power in Russia and says the U.S. needs to recognize his ability to plan for decades ahead. The current Russian decision-making process is very streamlined and allows for long-term planning to succeed. Read “Putin the Czar Is More Dangerous Than Ever”, Bloomberg Opinion, January 18, 2020.
‘Honey Trap’? Trump’s Russia Advisor Escorted From White House. An advisor working on the National Security Council has been placed on administrative leave pending a security-related investigation. He was Trumps’ advisor on Russian affairs. Andrew Peek has worked at the State Department and served as a U.S. Army Intelligence Officer in Afghanistan. Hmmm. Some Twitter tweets have indicated that the story will get spicy in the days ahead. Something about Russian hookers and a missing government cell phone. Can you spell ‘honey trap’? (AP, Jan 19, 2020).
U.S. Leaving the Sahel? Recent comments by senior DOD leaders have indicated that the United States may reduce its troop presence in the troubled Sahel region of Africa. Some observers say this would be a mistake. Read “Is the Sahel Becoming a New “Islamic State”?, Gatestone Institute, January 17, 2020.
Chad to Deploy Troops. Defense and foreign affairs ministers and other government officials have met with a European delegation to discuss plans to deploy a battalion of troops to the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger tri-border area. (The Defense Post, Jan 20, 2020).
“Partner of Choice”. AFRICOM is hoping to stymie Chinese and Russian efforts to expand their influence and control over events in Africa. U.S. Africa Command believes that by developing relationships with African states it can become their “partner of choice”. (Military Times, Jan 20, 2020).
Videos and Podcasts
Video – Russia’s Use of PMCs. Professor Ethan S. Burger delivers a presentation about how the Russian government has deployed private organizations such as the Wagner Group to advance its foreign policy goals in Ukraine, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Syria, Sudan, Venezuela, and elsewhere. Hosted by the Institute of World Politics, 49 minutes, January 16, 2020.
Podcast – “How to Enlarge NATO”. A 50-minute long podcast featuring Douglas Lute (former U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO from 2013 to 2017 and retired LTG) and Mary Elise Sarotee (Professor at School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University). The guest speakers discuss the interesting history and legacy inside the Clinton Administration on how to enlarge NATO. Podcast by “Off the Page”, International Security Journal, Harvard University.
Photo: Airmen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron parachute onto the airfield at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Janauary 15, 2020. Photo by Airman Thomas S. Keisler