Special Operations News Update – Monday, February 10, 2020

2 Bn 75th Rangers fire a Carl Gustav

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

U.S. Casualties in Afghanistan

U.S. KIA and WIA. A direct fire engagement took place on Saturday, February 8, 2020 killing U.S. service members and wounding several others. Some news reports say that it was an insider attack by the Afghan partner nation force. The reported green-on-blue incident took place in Nangarhar province. The Department of Defense identified the two fatalities on Sunday as members of 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group. More info on the two NCOs is provided in this news article by Military.com.

SOF News

Feb 12th – SOF Imperatives Forum. The Global SOF Foundation will once again conduct its Imperatives Initiative and Forum in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, February 12, 2020. The event brings together senior U.S. government and military leaders, security policy professionals, academics, industry executives, and others for interactive discussions about the UW threats that face SOF. https://gsofimperatives.org/

SOCOM’s PB-NSCV on Hold? In 2018 U.S. Special Operations Command announced that it was looking for a “purpose-built non-standard commercial vehicle” (PB-NSCV). The intent was to replace the current fleet of souped-up pickup trucks used by SOF across the Middle East. Read an update in “Why the U.S. Military Loves ‘James Bond’ Cars”, The National Interest, February 7, 2020.

Fixing SOF Culture. Benjamin Ordiway – a Civil Affairs officer – has penned an extremely long and well-constructed essay on the need to integrate virtue ethics into U.S. SOF selection, education, and training. He says the latest USSOCOM report on SOF culture and ethics misses some important steps in solving the problem at hand. He gets quite philosophical – reflecting on the thoughts of Aristole, Kegan, and Kohlberg. Some real heavy thinking; but then his next assignment will be teaching philosophy at West Point. Some of his recommendations include:

  • Make changes to current moral – virtue education & training
  • Present moral – ethical dilemmas during SOF selection
  • Conduct periodic moral – ethical fitness assessments
  • Establish a virtue ethics framework for SOF

What an excellent idea for some more ‘online training’. Glad I am retired! Read “Fixing the Problem: Integrating Virtue Ethics Into U.S. Special Operations Forces Selection, Education, and Training”, Small Wars Journal, February 8, 2020.

Partner of Slain 7th SFGA Soldier Attends SOU. Green Beret SFC Michael Goble was killed in Afghanistan last year. His girlfriend, and mother of their 6-year old child, attended the State of the Union address by President Trump. (The Destin Log, Feb 7, 2020).

AFSOC Refueling F-22s in Alaska. Some Air Force special tactics airmen deployed to Alaska during the Emerald Warrior exercise to setup a FARP for F-22 Raptors. (Business Insider, Feb 7, 2020).

Navy SEAL Convicted – Gets 30 Days in Brig. A Navy SEAL escaped punishment for some serious charges but was convicted of a more minor one. That netted him loss of rank, pay, and 30 days in confinement. Special Operator 1st Class Aaron Howard was found guilty of attempting to ‘catfish’ a woman (something about nude photos). (Navy Times, Feb 7, 2020).

International SOF

CANSOF – One Eye on the Mission, the Other on Baghdad. Canadian special forces soldiers are navigating a “sensitive and complex relationship with the Iraqi central government in Baghdad.” Read more in “Canadian special forces treading carefully in Iraq amid sensitive relations”, Vancouver Sun, February 7, 2020.

Military Defense – National Security

Harvard Professor Arrested – Ties to China. Charles Lieber, the chair of Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, has been arrested. He apparently had established a research lab focused on biology and medicine at the Wuhan University (unbeknownst to Harvard) that yielded big bucks for him. Things that make you go “Hmmmm”.

Two other Chinese nationals, who also lived and worked in the Boston area, were arrested as well. Yanqing Ye is accused of being an officer in the PLA. She had falsely claimed ‘student status’ on her J-1 Visa application – and attended Boston University. She had accessed U.S. military websites and passed on information to the home country.

Zaosong Zheng is accused of stealing and attempting to smuggle vials of biological research to China – he was arrested at Logan Airport (Boston). Another “Hmmmm”. The press release by the U.S. Department of Justice on the arrest of the three individuals makes for some interesting reading. Conspiracy theorists could have a field day with these arrests tying them to the recent health scare coming out of Wuhan, China. This story sounds like a ready-made plot for Boston-area fiction author Joe Finder and his Green Beret turned private investigator hero Nick Heller.

Women, Peace, and Afghanistan. Two writers present their views on the slowly changing roles of Afghan women and their future contributions to peacebuilding and countering violent extremism. Read “Afghan Women’s Views on Violent Extremism and Aspirations to a Peacemaking Role”, Small Wars Journal, February 10, 2020.

NATO, Europe, et al

CIMIC – Lessons Ignored? NATO has increasingly engaged in many different types of operations – including peacekeeping and nation-building. These operations have taken place in countries such as Afghanistan, Kosovo, and others. There is a lot of overlap in many of these endeavors between military and civilian organizations. How good is the cooperation? Read “Civil-Military Cooperation: Lessons Learned, or Lessons Ignored?”, Human Security Centre, February 1, 2020.

Middle East

A ‘NATO’ in the Middle East? President Trump would like to establish a sustainable Middle East collective security framework. This is something that has eluded many U.S. presidents over the decades. But is now the time? James Jay Carafano explores this further in “Trump could build a NATO in the Middle East – Here’s How”, Fox News, January 23, 2020.

The Idlib Offensive. The Syrian regime (and its allies) are getting ready to move further into Idlib Province. Once a key highway is secured there may be an effort to take Idlib City. That would be a difficult fight requiring the full support of Russia. In addition, the terrain beyond favors the rebel forces. And then there is Turkey to think about. Michael Land provides a detailed assessment (with map) in “Russia Enables New Syrian Regime Offensive in Idlib”, Institute for the Study of War, February 7, 2020.


Vikings in Africa. Sweden is sending some of its best troops and helicopters to assist France as part of Task Force Tukuba. There are currently 200 Swedish troops in the region. Read “Sweden Joins French-Led Special Operations Task Force”, SOFREP, February 7, 2020.

A Stalemated COIN Effort in the Sahel. A string of increasingly deadly insurgent attacks have been taking place in the Sahel region of North Africa. The region has become one of the largest hotbeds of terrorism. European and African nations have endeavored to combat the jihadist. The U.S. has at least 1,000 troops in the region – some SOF are rumored to be in the area. A newly built (and very expensive) drone base is operating in Niger. Read “Counterinsurgency in the Sahel is at Risk of Unraveling”, Terrorism Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, February 7, 2020.

Videos, Film, Podcasts, and Books

Podcast – NORSOF Cdr Interview. Norwegian Major General Torgeir Gratrud is interviewed in a podcast where he discusses his perspectives on strategic leadership, Norway’s participation in the Global SOF Network, and cooperation in the Nordic region. This 30-long podcast, entitled Observations From NATO’s Northern Front, is provided by the “War Room” of the United States Army War College, February 7, 2020.

Short Film – Guardians of All of Us. Green Beret Greg Stube, towards the end of his Special Forces career, was severely wounded in Afghanistan. He has recovered and has a new outlook on life. He is featured in a short ten-minute film where he expresses how each of us plays a vital role in our communities and country. Outdoor Hub, February 7, 2020.

Book – Britain’s Cosy Spying Culture. Richard Norton-Taylor has a new book out entitled The State of Secrecy: Spies and the Media in Britain. The book has vignettes that depict the blunders and quirks of the secret world of spying and how spy organizations and special forces try to keep their secrets from journalists. (Financial Times, Feb 7, 2020).

Book – Battle for a SF Camp in Vietnam. Two Vietnam veterans collaborate on a book that details an important battle that took place in May 1968. The book places the dual battle of Kham Duc and Ngok Tavk in the geopolitical and grand strategy context of the war in the spring of 1968. In addition, it provides a detailed account of the combat by a top-secret Special Forces recon-commando unit. Read more in “SWJ Book Review – “Bait: Teh Battle of Kham Duc Special Forces Camp”, Small Wars Journal, February 8, 2020.

Book – Spy and Terrorism Thriller in Europe. Steve Dimodica, a former Green Beret and intelligence officer, has published yet another fiction book. This story incorporates intelligence bureaucrats, EU-mandated immigration, conspiracies, female modern-day Nazi Germans, the CIA, German intelligence officials, and more. Read about the bookThe Hitler Progeny – featured on Kirkus Reviews.


Photo: 2nd Bn 75th Rangers fire a Carl Gustav during a training exercise in preparation for deployment. Photo by Specialist Garrett Shreffler, JBLM PAO, February 2020.

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