SOF News Update – Curated news, analysis, and commentary on special operations forces, national security, and conflicts from around the world.
Casualties in Iraq. On Wednesday, March 11, 2020 a Coalition base in Taji, Iraq was hit with 18 rockets. Two Americans and one British soldier died in the attack. As many as 14 were wounded. An Iranian-linked Shia militia group (SMG) has been blamed for the attack. Iraqi forces found a rocket-rigged truck a few miles from the base. On Thursday CENTCOM released a statement:
“Iran remains the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. Since May 2019, Iranian proxies and Shia Militia Groups in Iraq have increased attacks on U.S. interests and conducted scores of UAS reconnaissance flights near U.S. and ISF bases.”– Gen Frank McKenzie, CDR CENTCOM , March 11, 2020
Lance Corporal Brodie Gillon. A British service member was killed in the Taji rocket attack. She served as a reservist with the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry, having joined in 2015 as a Combat Medical Technician. (UK Ministry of Defence, Mar 12, 2020).
U.S. Casualties Identified. Army Specialist Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias, age 27, of Hanford, California and Air Force Staff Sergeant Marshal D. Roberts, age 28, of Owasso, Oklahoma.
Retaliation. U.S. and UK air strikes hit multiple targets on Thursday. Some reports say that Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) militia suffered large losses in US air strikes against 5 locations in Babil Province. A defense official said that air strikes are taking place all over Iraq. Some weapons storage sites were targeted. One news account says an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general has been killed in the air strikes. Read more in a March 12, 2020 news release by the DoD.
CRE / CIF – Staying, Going, or Changing? On February 26th Defense Secretary Esper said he is reviewing the need for Special Forces to have dedicated crisis response forces while briefing the House Armed Services Committee. Read more in “Pentagon to Decide if it Still Needs Green Beret Response Forces”, Military.com, March 11, 2020.
Moving SOF Wing to Germany? Plans to move a special operations wing and refueling tankers from RAF Mildenhall to Ramstein Air Base and Spangdahlem in Germany have been put on hold. U.S. European Command is conducting a reassessment of the previous closure decision. (Stars and Stripes, Mar 10, 2020).
New SEL for SOJTF-OIR. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant Andrew McCurry, currently assigned as the Marine Raider Support Group senior enlisted advisor, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina has a future assignment in Iraq. He has been selected to replace Command Sergeant Major Dave Lance as the command senior enlisted leader for the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.
Former Navy SEAL Helps Burn Patients. The Sons of the Flag put patients in touch with surgeons that help create a course of treatment. Read “A Navy SEAL’s Mission to Revolutionize Burn Care”, The Epoch Times, March 12, 2020.
SOF Key in Future Afghan Fight. To be able to draw down the U.S. footprint below 8,600 troops and still be able to operate a robust CT campaign with adequate support and protection for special operators requires a more “permissive” environment in Afghanistan. U.S. SOF currently operates in a “conventional force structure” that provides logistics, air power, intelligence, and strike capabilities from both U.S. conventional troops and host nation partner forces. Read more in “America commandos to hold down the fort in Afghanistan as US troops withdraw”, Military Times, March 12, 2020.
Medal for Operation Observant Compass Participants. Troops who were part of the hunt in central Africa for rebel warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army are eligible for medals awarded to those who served in the global war on terrorism. U.S. special operations troops, including Green Berets and Navy SEALs were part of the operation. (Stars and Stripes, Mar 11, 2020).
Sri Lanka Navy Special Boat Squadron JCET. A four week training exercise (Balance Style 2020) has begun involving personnel from the Sri Lanka naval special operations community and a Special Forces detachment from 1st SFGA. The training will include Human Rights, Law of Armed Conflict, small unit tactics, MOUT, TCCC, combat marksmanship, CQB, mission planning, and MAROPS. (Sri Lank Navy, Mar 3, 2020).
Exercise Northern Griffin 2020. The Finnish Defense Forces’ Utti Jaeger Regiment has organized an exercise aimed at developing interoperability with multinational partners in cold winter conditions. The countries of Sweden, Norway, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, and UK are participating in the event held in northern Finland. The Utti Jaeger Regiment is the Finnish Army training and development centre for Finnish special forces. (The Barents Observer, Mar 8, 2020).
Operation Monogram. A trilateral special operations exchange between Bangladesh, the United Kingdom, and the United States is took place in the months of February and March 2020. The Bangladesh units in the exercise included the Navy’s elite Special Warfare Diving and Salvage (SWADS) unit and the Army’s Special Forces 1st Para-Commando Brigade. (Dhaka Tribune, Mar 10, 2020).
Exercise Hawk Strike and Hungarian 2nd Special Operations Forces. U.S. Army aviation aircrews recently trained alongside soldiers from the 1st Cav Division and the Hungarian SOF. (3rd CAB, 1 Cav, Mar 12, 2020).
New Libya Naval Commando Unit. A unit made up of Libyan fighters is being trained up with the help of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. The unit is an attempt to counter the naval activities of Turkey off the coast of Libya. Read “Egypt, UAE establish Libya naval commando squad to fight Turkey”, Middle East Monitor, March 9, 2020.
DoD Orders 60-Day Travel Ban. The Defense Department has announced that there is a 60-day ban on travel to all countries designated as “Level 3 locations”. The restrictions apply to troops, military families, and DoD civilians. Those countries include china, Italy, Iran, and South Korea. (Military.com, Mar 11, 2020)
Army and COVID-19. The U.S. Army has some guidance on how to protect the health of the force and maintain operational readiness.
Great Power Competition
SOF News is going to pay a little more attention to the shift in U.S. special operations forces focus from counterterrorism and counterinsurgency to great power competition (GPC). Many people look at GPC as a ‘conventional fight’ – big military forces consisting of expensive aircraft, new naval ships, and modern tanks facing off with each other. Picture an outbreak of general war with Russia or China. The reality is that GPC will most likely be ‘fought’ at a level below that of general war. Some would say it is a return to or an increase in ‘political warfare’. So where do U.S. special operations forces fit into all of this? SOF News will be watching for future articles on this topic to share with the reading SOF audience. So from time to time you will see the links to info and articles about how SOF fits into the ‘Great Power Competition’.
We will start off with a recent 46-page paper entitled SOF Paradigm in Great Power Competition Published in October 2019 by NSI, 46 pages. The report features guest articles from several members of the SOF community who currently work for SOCEUR, NDU, USASOC, and other organizations. A good read. If you know of any recent articles or reports about GPC then send to us so we can check them out. (staff @ sof.news).
Counter-VEO Efforts Insufficient in Sahel. The Cdr of U.S. Africa Command, General Stephen Townsend, said that U.S. and international efforts to combat violent extremist organizations in West Africa aren’t working. He says that “ISIS and al-Qaida are on the march in West Africa. They’re having success, and international efforts are not.” This assessment is provided (testimony before Congress) at the same time that DOD is trying to move troops out of Africa to address the rising threat from Russia and China. (Military Times, Mar 10, 2020).
Sahel States Need More Help. The governments of West Africa are capable security partners – if they are enabled by other international actors. The Sahel states are lacking funds, equipment, and training. Read “Why Do African Sahel Countries Need More International Support?”, European Eye on Radicalization, March 5, 2020.
Funding AFRICOM’s Mission. Katherine Zimmerman believes that the U.S. needs to remain committed to the counterterrorism mission in Africa. The jihadists are gaining ground and Russia and China are increasing their influence. (Marine Corps Times, Mar 12, 2020).
Africa Lion – Scaled Back. The U.S. Army Africa has reduced the scale of its largest exercise due to concerns with COVID-19. The exercise is due to start March 23 and involves over 4,000 U.S. troops. (Military Times, Mar 10, 2020).
British Military in Africa. The UK armed forces are currently running training courses for troops in 14 African nations. “How the British Military Are ‘Opening Doors’ in Africa”, Forces.net, March 10, 2020.
Photo: Members of the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and Norwegian SOF, conduct RAPIDS infiltrations / exfiltration training with snowmobiles, March 8, 2020, in Northern Norway, using the U.S. Air Force’s CV-22B Osprey, assigned to the 352d Special Operations Wing. RAPIDS is a Special Forces tactic for quickly inserting and removing personnel into and out of an area. The training was conducted to allow the special forces members to maintain proficiency in the RAPIDS procedures. (photos by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)