Special Operations News Update – Monday, February 3, 2020

MH-6 Little Bird USASOAC Twitter tweet 20200128

Curated news about special operations, national security, military topics, and conflicts from around the world.

Upcoming SOF Events for February

February 12, 2020. Washington, D.C.
Imperatives Initiative and Forum
Global SOF Foundation

February 20-21, 2020. Tampa, Florida
USSOCOM / CENTCOM VA Benefits and Disability Claims Seminar
Green Beret Foundation

February 27, 2020. Belleair, Florida
Charity Golf Tournament
SOWF / UDT-SEAL Association

SOF News

SOF Culture and Ethics Review. The media has been reporting and commenting on the USSOCOM report on culture and ethics in special operations. Some commentary says the report is ‘just right’ while others say it doesn’t go far enough in admitting to or identifying ‘systemic problems.

Japan Issues Arrest Warrant for Former Green Beret. On Thursday, January 30, 2020, Japan issued arrest warrants for a former Special Forces Soldier and two other individuals. Mike Taylor served as a member of the 10th and 11th Special Forces Group, has extensive experience in the Middle East, and has been in the security business for many years. The warrant was issued due to his involvement in the smuggling of former Nissan Motor Company boss Carlos Ghosn out of Japan to Lebanon. (Reuters, Jan 30, 2020). See also a story on Mike Taylor by Fortune, January 6, 2020.

4th SOS Airman Remembered. One of the Americans that died in the plane C-130 aircraft crash in Australia while supporting firefighting efforts was close to retirement. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Rick DeMorgan, Jr. was a member of the 4th Special Operations Squadron. Read more in “Hurlburt honors airman who died fighting Australian fires”, Santa Rosa’s Gazette, February 1, 2020.

Gen Clarke Visits Hoover Institution. USSOCOM’s commander paid a visit to the Hoover Institution on January 22, 2020. There are a number of U.S. SOF officers attending programs at Stanford University and Clarke spent some time with them as well as Hoover fellows, university faculty, and students. Read “Chief of US Military Special Operations Visits Hoover Institution”, Hoover Institute Report, January 30, 2020.

AFSOC’s FARPs. The Air Force Special Operations Command conducts its missions in many remote spots where fuel options are limited. That is when the FARP Airmen provide a little help. Learn more in “FARP Tryouts Test Airmen for Special Operations”, DVIDS, January 31, 2020.

Coast Guard’s Rescue Swimmers. They don’t make the news often but they conduct some of the highest risk, highest-stakes rescues around the world. The rescue swimmers of the Coast Guard jump into the ocean from helicopters or planes and then swim to rescue downed aviators or stranded ship crews. For more read “See How the Coast Guard trains elite rescue swimmers”, We Are the Mighty, July 29, 2019.

From SOF to Space. Brigadier General Michael Conley has been named vice commander of the Space Operations Command. His last assignment was as commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida. See “Air Force Special Operations Command officer named to senior post in U.S. Space Force”, Space News, January 31, 2020.

SEAL Commander to Retire. Read Admiral Collin Green, the commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, will be leaving his post one year early and heading into retirement from the Navy. The next likely NSW commander may be H.Wyman Howard III – a former commander of SEAL Team 6 and currently in command of Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT). See “SEAL Commander Who Clashed With Trump to Leave Early”, The Intercept, February 1, 2020.

A More Relevant “Pineland”. The initial field training of U.S. SF, PSYOP, and CA personnel takes place in the fictional country of ‘Pineland’. Does the scenario need a creative rewrite to better incorporate Information and Influence Operations (IIO)? (Small Wars Journal, Feb 1, 2020).

International SOF

Latvia Participates in U.S. SOF Exercise. Members of the Latvian Air Force are in Michigan taking part in Emerald Warrior 2020 – a U.S. special operations exercise held in various parts of the country. Emerald Warrior is a Department of Defense exercise focusing on irregular warfare that hones SOF air and ground combat skills and TTPs. Read “Michigan-Latvia airbase operations partnership supports U.S. Air Force Special Operations exercise”, DVIDS, January 29, 2020.

SAS Recruiting Women. The Special Air Service (UK) has opened the door to women attending their selection course. They are actively recruiting for 21 and 23 SAS – seeking male and female applicants, with no previous military experience. (The Sun, Feb 1, 2020). The 21 and 23 SAS are part of the UK Special Forces (Reserve). Applicants are required to complete basic military training course before attempting SAS Reserves Selection.

New NVGs for French SOF? The French Special Operations Command (COS) is seeking to enhance its night vision capabilities. (Jane’s, Jan 30, 2020).

HADR Troop in the Caribbean. The Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Troop of the Roayl Navy plays an important role in supporting humanitarian disaster relief. The troop recently had a trainup with the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps (RNLMC) in Curacao. Read “Commandos of the Caribbean”, Medium.com, January 31, 2020.


TAA and Partner Force Operations. A retired Paramilitary Operations Officer of the CIA’s Special Activities Center and a retired U.S. Navy Commander (SEAL) advocate for the ‘tactical advantage approach’ over the ‘mirror image approach’ to developing partner nation forces. Good reading for those in the Train, Advise, and Assist business in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. “A tale of two partners: Comparing two approaches for partner force operations”, Middle East Institute, January 29, 2020.

Editorial Note: The editor of SOF News served as a Counterinsurgency Advisor from 2012-2014 in Afghanistan and later for a few more years (2016-2017 with frequent visits to Afghanistan) as a Security Force Assistance SME for NATO’s JFTC. It was quite apparent that the model adopted by ISAF and then later Resolute Support resembled the ‘mirror image approach’ and not the ‘tactical advantage approach’.

Political Strategy for Stabilization of Fragile States. “Recent U.S. legislation and policy openings provide an opportunity to establish a more realistic and effective American approach to stabilization.” In December 2019 President Trump signed the Global Fragility Act (GFA) that requires the U.S. to develop a global fragility strategy. The U.S. will be applying the Stabilization Assistance Review (SAR) framework to maximize the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to stabilize conflict-affected areas. Read more in “Creating a political strategy for stabilizing fragile states”, Brookings Institute, January 28, 2020.


DOD Identifies USAF Casualties. The Department of Defense announced the deaths of two Airmen who died on Monday, January 27, 2020 in the crash of a Bombardier E11A aircraft in Ghazni province, Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda Ties to Taliban. According to a newly released report by the United Nations Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team al-Qaeda’s relations with the Taliban continue to be close and mutually beneficial. Read more in an article by FDD’s Long War Journal published on January 29, 2020.

The Key to Afghanistan’s Future. The head of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) testified before members of the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday, January 28th. He said that the first line of defense in what follows any potential peace deal in Afghanistan won’t be combat troops but soldiers who monitor the billions of dollars on projects aimed at holding the country together. Unfortunately, at this time the U.S. does not have any adequate oversight on the money – it needs more people to oversee the programs. Read “Bean counters, not bullets, are key to Afghanistan’s future“, Army Times, January 28, 2020.

Iran – A Threat in Afghanistan? The CENTCOM commander, General Frank McKenzie, says he is seeing a “worrisome trend” of Iranian malign interference. See “Top commander sees increased Iran threat in Afghanistan”, Associated Press, January 31, 2020.

Future Documentary – ‘The Afghanistan Papers’. Hundreds of transcripts of interviews by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) were obtained by The Washington Post and became the basis for a series of articles called ‘The Afghanistan Papers’. Now it appears that a documentary will be made based on the Posts six-part history of the war that was published in December 2019. (Task & Purpose, Jan 30, 2020).

(Editorial note: The editor of SOF News had one of his SIGAR interviews posted by the Post. So glad I didn’t say anything that I wouldn’t have wanted published! And in the future I will probably be a little more selective in my participation in ‘off the record interviews’ in order to establish a history of lessons learned.)

Europe, NATO, and Russia

Economic ‘Gray Area’ in Europe. Emil Avdaliani writes about the contest for economic influence in East Europe between Russia and Western Europe. Read more in “The Fate of the Gray Area in Europe”, Modern Diplomacy, January 29, 2020.

Paper – Provoking Russia? The problem with deterring Russia from aggression in Europe is to do enough to deter but don’t do too much to prompt a response. Deterring without provoking requires an understanding of what Russia considers to be “redlines”. A new report (28-pages) provides clarity on this issue. See What Provokes Putin’s Russia: Deterring Without Unintended Escalation, RAND Corporation, January 2020.

Middle East

Events in the Middle East continues to hamper the United States efforts to disengage and shift resources to the ‘great power competition’ – first to the Pacific (China) and then to Europe (Russia). For instance, the number of American troops in Saudi Arabia increased to around 2,500 in 2019. Syria continues to keep U.S. SOF and other assets busy. The training of the Iraqi Security Forces in Iraq continues – as well as the fight against ISIS. In addition, numerous military resources from all services have been moved to the Middle East recently due to the high level of tensions with Iran.

Iran’s ‘Fighters Without Borders’. Iran’s Quds Force has been busy over the past several decades. Recent reports by the semiofficial Fars News Agency (Iran) has revealed the secret involvement of the Quds Force in a series of foreign conflicts. This includes activities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Yemen, and Syria. The use of proxy forces trained and advised by the Quds Force in areas of the Middle East presents opportunities for Iran to strike a number of U.S. targets (hard and soft) in the Middle East region. Read “Iranian Media Confirms Quds Force Involvement in Foreign Conflicts”, Radio Free Europe, January 30, 2020.

New PM for Iraq? Mohammad Allawi has been appointed by Iraqi President Barham Salih to take the place of Prime Minister-designee. He has a month to form a government that must be approved by the Iraqi Parliament. Salih is a native of Baghdad and a Shia Muslim. (Aljazeera, Feb 2, 2020).

Defeating ISIS – Not Just Yet. The Political Directors of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS Small Group met in Copenhagen, Denmark. They issued a joint statement on January 29, 2020.

” Daesh/ISIS no longer controls territory and almost 8 million people have been freed from its control in Iraq and Syria. Nevertheless, Daesh/ISIS is adapting its methods to the situation as it evolves and hopes to use regional instabilities as an opportunity to conduct attacks and reemerge in Iraq and in Syria, as well as where Daesh/ISIS branches and networks exist elsewhere. Territorial defeat has been achieved, but all members of the Coalition acknowledge that the job to ensure a lasting defeat of ISIS remains. We will continue our efforts until the job is done.”

South America

SOUTHCOM Posture Statement. On Thursday, January 30, 2020, Admiral Faller, the commander of United States Southern Command testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. His testimony included a ‘posture statement’ outlining the threats to the region and what the U.S. was doing to mitigate those threats. Very little mention of SOF but still interesting ‘big picture’ reading. Read the 17-page PDF here.

Peace in Colombia – a Path Forward for Afghanistan? After decades of conflict, the troubled South American country has reached an “imperfect” state of peace with the FARC. Are there lessons that can be drawn for resolving the Afghan conflict? “Could Colombia Provide a Roadmap for Afghanistan?”, Small Wars Journal, February 2, 2020.


Russian Mercenaries, Turkish Proxy Forces, Oil, and Libya. Warring factions in Libya have adversely affected the oil output of the country. Libya is Africa’s third-largest oil producer and various armed groups fight for control of the oil facilities and terminals. The competing foreign interests in the Libya arena include Turkey, Russia, Qatar, France, Italy, UAE, and Egypt – with many of these nations supporting (and fighting alongside) the different Libyan factions. See “Russian mercenaries, a CIA-linked general and lots of oil: Explaining Libya’s war”, CNBC, January 29, 2020.

Horn of Africa – ME and Conflict Resolution. Omar S. Mahmood is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS). The Gulf states have been increasing their presence (and influence) in East Africa with military and economic aid. In addition, they are taking part in HOA conflict resolution. These interventions have been taken with national interests and foreign policy objectives in mind. The track record thus far in reducing conflict in HOA is mixed. Read “The Middle East’s Complicated Engagement in the Horn of Africa”, Small Wars Journal, February 2, 2020.

France Increasing Troops for Sahel. Additional French troops are heading to Africa’s Sahel region. Some will join the G5 Sahel forces while others will be working in the border area of Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali. This would bring French troops in the region to about 5,100. The U.S. will likely be scaling down its operations in the Sahel region and seems willing to adopt the position that the Sahel region is Europe’s problem. The US may soon reduce its airlift and refueling support for France’s Operation Barkhane. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the $110 million drone base in Niger that the U.S. just completed constructing.

Mali to Grow Army. The Prime Minister announced that his country will increase the size of the army by about 50% in a recruitment drive this year. This should be interesting. See “Mali plans to increase the size of its army to rein in jihadists”, Reuters, January 30, 2020.


Photo: MH-6 Little Bird, USASOAC Twitter tweet, 20200128

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