Special Operations News Update – Friday, February 7, 2020

Special Tactics Weather Team Jan 2020

Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations forces, national defense, military, and conflicts from around the world.

SOF News

Room Clearing – It’s Getting Technical. A U.S. patent was recently issued that both marks when an assault force has cleared a room and alerts when a potential hostile person has entered a cleared room. Read “Navy invents tiny motion detector for marking, monitoring cleared rooms”, Tech Link Center, February 4, 2020.

A Navy SEAL, Nude Photos, and a Court-Martial. A former member of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6 used text messaging apps that allowed him to use a fake phone number and pretended to be a female performance dietitian in order to request nude pictures. (Military.com, Feb 5, 2020).

BG Maitre Going to JSOC. Brigadier General Benjamin Maitre (USAF), currently with U.S. Special Operations Command (Pentagon) will soon be the assistant commanding general (Air Force) at the Joint Special Operations command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

SOF Stepping Back Into the Gray Zone. Unconventional Warfare (UW), decades ago used to be the prime mission for Special Forces. The emphasis on UW was slowly diminished as Direct Action and Special Reconnaissance missions gained popularity. The Global War on Terror – except for a few instances – further emphasized DA and SR. But it looks like SF and other SOF units are slowly returning to their UW roots. Read “Thinking Before Shooting: Intelligence and Special Operations”, SOFREP, February 6, 2020.

Baseball Season Begins at SEAL Center. The San Diego State baseball team had a visit at a NSW facility. Read more in “Baseball tests limits at Naval Special Warfare Center”, The Daily Aztec, February 6, 2020.

Becoming an Army Ranger. How does one walk off the street as a civilian and become a U.S. Army Ranger and get onto a helicopter bound for enemy contact? There are some steps involved:

  • like signing up
  • attending basic training / OSUT
  • going to a school to learn how to jump out of airplanes
  • doing something called RASP (the name sounds intimidating)
  • going to ‘the regiment’
  • spending 61 days without sleep and eating little food (at least that’s the way it was in the last hard class – Desert Legion).

Read more in “How to Become an Army Ranger”, SANDBOXX, February 5, 2020.

International SOF

Afghan SOF Still Relying on US. A recent DOD 1225 report says that Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF) continue to conduct the majority of the offensive actions by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). However, the ASSF are still relying on their U.S. and NATO SOF partners and air support from the U.S. Air Force. Attempts to make Afghan SOF more independent have stalled. Read “Afghan special operators partnering with US forces more often, still reliant on American support”, Military Times, February 5, 2020.

Danish SF Officer and his ‘War Camero’ in Bosnia. Flash back to a war that took place decades ago in the former Yugoslavia. Imagine that it is night time and “. . . a flat black shape emerges from the shadows, tires crunching over rubble as it navigates a cratered road. It’s low, menacing, armored, and rumbling with V-8 thunder. The War Camaro is here to help.” Read “How an armored Camaro and a special forces officer kept civilians alive in war-torn Bosnia”, Hagerty, February 5, 2020.

Hungarian SOF Train on 352nd CV-22 Ospreys. Members of the 19th Special Forces Group and Hungarian Special Operations Forces had the opportunity to train up with SOF aviation on infiltration and exfiltration techniques, night combat mission profiles, and low-level flight training. Read “Hungarian and U.S. SOF Enhance Special Operations Air Task Group Capability”, 352nd Special Operations Wing, February 5, 2020.

Military and National Defense

VA Secretary Wilkie to K2 Vets: Come Forward. The McClatchy news service (via Tara Copp) has reported extensively on the toxic exposure that service members – K2 vets – were exposed to at Karshi-Khanabad, Uzbekistan. Secretary Robert Wilkie (after some heavy press exposure) now says that K2 Vets should present their issues to the Veterans Administration. Watch a 2-min video of his response when questioned on this topic. (2 mins, YouTube, Feb 5, 2020).

Political Warfare. The U.S. can apply lessons from the Cold War. Read more in “The Dark Art of Political Warfare: A Primer”, AEI, February 6, 2020.


Grayzone Conflict in Entertainment. A new style of war film entertainment – by way of Scandinavia – is depicting the average citizen at the center of the plot. These are not the traditional war movies where the drama is on the soldier and violence of action. Instead, the plot involves the activities of politicians, lawyers, bankers, reporters, and every day people. National security pundits would call this type of aggression by a country ‘hybrid war’ or ‘political warfare’. One such television series is Occupied – now at the end of its third season on Netflix (watch the official trailer). The show is about the slow, methodical takeover of Norway by Russia – not by outright invasion but slowly . . . under the radar. I have watched all three seasons and found it enjoyable. Elisabeth Braw, of the Modern Deterrence project at the Royal United Services Institute, provides a detailed summary of this new type of war film in “War Movies After War”, Foreign Policy, February 5, 2020.

Middle East

DIA on ISIS. The Defense Intelligence Agency says that ISIS took advantage of Turkey’s October 2019 invasion of northern Syria and increased attacks by 20 percent. In addition, it says that the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghadadi did not degrade the jihadi group significantly. (Military Times, February 4, 2020).

Iraq. There is the possibility that NATO Mission Iraq may pick up a bigger role in the train and advise mission. The Iraqi government would welcome this as it helps lessen the influence of the U.S. The results of the upcoming elections should help clarify the future status of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Contract Mercenaries in the Gulf States. The use of foreign contract soldiers from Jordan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, and other countries by the Gulf States will likely continue into the future. Some are serving in the Yemen conflict. Read more in an article by Zoltan Barany entitled “Foreign Contract Soldiers in the Gulf”, Carnegie Middle East Center, February 5, 2020.

IRGC Training Programs and Ideology. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is training recruits to believe that jihad can be an offensive ideology and is encouraging young Shi’ites across the Middle East to conduct military strikes. The IRGC intends to expand its role and will continue to support groups like Hezbollah, Shi’ite militias in Iraq, and other groups in Yemen, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Read more in a study by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change entitled The Expansionist Ideology of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, February 2020, PDF, 72-pages.

Iran Report. A recently published synopsis of the the politics involved in the U.S. and Iran relationship is available for reading online. See Iran: Internal Politics and U.S. Policy and Options, Congressional Research Service (CRS), February 6, 2020. (46 pages, PDF).


Fighting in Idlib Province. Russian-backed Syrian forces have resumed a campaign to take the area of Syria remaining under the control of the country’s rebel forces. Turkey also has troops in the province supporting their ‘proxy fighters’. There are various rebel groups fighting the Syrian regime; including about 7 – 10,000 members of al-Nusrah. In addition, there is a scattering of smaller groups of ISIS and al-Qaeda offshoots.

Refugees. The area of northwest Syria is in the middle of a humanitarian crisis. A series of negotiated ceasefires continue to not work and refugees may soon flow towards the Turkish border. There is the possibility of 3 million refugees trying to get across the border. The Assad regime’s latest attack on Idlib could provoke the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the Syrian conflict. See “Amid Humanitarian Crisis, Syrian Regime Intensifies Idlib Offensive”, Small Wars Journal, February 7, 2020.

SDF and U.S. SOF. Special operations forces of the United States continue to work with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in intelligence-driven operations against ISIS – lately in Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah provinces.

Russian ‘Contractors’ in Syria Causing Problems for U.S. The top U.S. envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey, says that Russians in civilian clothes have been venturing into areas controlled by the SDF and U.S. military. This is causing some confrontations that could easily escalate into violence. Read “U.S. Troops in Standoffs With Russian Military Contractors in Syria”, The Wall Street Journal, February 5, 2020.

Turkey’s D.C. Lobby More Powerful than SDF’s Lobby. Senior military officials and policymakers should have foreseen the abandonment of the Syrian Kurds once ISIS was on the ropes. NATO member Turkey was holding all the cards. Read more in “The Kurdish Tragedy: What American Can Learn From Its Foreign Policy Fumbles in Syria”, The National Interest, February 5, 2020.


Insecurity in Sahel. The G5 Sahel, according to one commentator, “. . . has an excessive focus on security issues, as this has come at the expense of the political and governance issues it must deal with to truly stabilise the region.” Read more in “Insecurity in the Sahel: Europe’s next fight against Jihadism”, European Council on Foreign Relations, February 5, 2020.

Czech’s Stepping Up. 60 troops from the Czech Republic will soon head to take part in France’s Operation Barkhane in Africa’s Sahel region. The troops will conduct operations in Mali, Niger, and Chad. The Czech deployment – with a rotation of troops – will last until the end of 2022. About 120 Czech troops are already in Mali with the European Union Training Mission. The 60 troops may likely be part of the new Task Force Takuba. (The Defense Post, Jan 28, 2020).

Swedish SOF to Work with Task Force Takuba. Sweden already has troops deployed to the Sahel – but more may be going. The French-led effort hopes to have over 500 SOF in the task force. (The Defense Post, Feb 6, 2020).

Libya’s Mercenaries. The oil-rich African country has been the scene of conflict since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising killed Muammar Gaddafi and two rival administrations emerged. The fighting continues with foreigners fighting for both sides. Russian, Sudanese, and Syrian (working for the Turks) are in the streets brandishing weapons. One side is backed by Egypt, UAE, and Russia. Another side is supported by Turkey and Qatar. Read “Libya a ‘den of mercenaries’, say war-weary citizens”, Daily Nation, February 6, 2020.


U.S. Citizen Kidnapped by Taliban. An American contractor was kidnapped in Khost province, Afghanistan this past Friday (Jan 31, 2020). He is a former U.S. Navy diver and the managing director for International Logistical Support – a U.S. government contractor. (Newsweek, Feb 5, 2020).

Regime of Terror? Critics of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) are speaking out. “Is Afghan Intelligence Building a Regime of Terror With the CIA’s Help?”, FP, Feb 6, 2020.


Surviving the UN. A U.S. Army Special Forces officer who joins the United Nations writes about his UN experience. He spends four years on dangerous assignments around the world. His experiences involve murderous child-soldiers, corruption, blood diamonds, hostage-taking, brutal guerrillas, and more. Check his book Surviving the United Nations: The Unexpected Challenge, by Robert Bruce Adolph. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and then worked as a Chief Security Advisor for the UN. Read more at Amazon.com. (Coming March 3, 2020).


Video – STS Snowmobiles in Action. U.S. Air Force Special Tactics operators from 21 STS take a ride on snowmobiles during Emerald Warrior 20-1 in Michigan. (3 mins, DVIDS, Jan 22, 2020). (Those readers who live in Maine will say “Meh”; but if you are not used to snow . . .)

Video – Ospreys Landing and Taking Off. Never seen an Osprey? This short B-roll video will give you a glimpse of the CV-22 Osprey flown by AFSOC pilots during training at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Michigan. (Jan 23, 2020, 2 minutes). Entitled CV-22 Osprey Take Offs at Emerald Warrior 20-1.


Photo: Special Tactics operators deploy a weather sensor during Emerald Warrior at an airfield in Nome, Alaska. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Ridge Shan, January 31, 2020.

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