Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts from around the world.
Top Story – COVID-19 . . . of course
Update on Italy by SF Officer (Ret). A former Special Forces officer living in Rome, Italy details the experience of living through the coronavirus pandemic. He warns the U.S. that things will get worse for us. Read “Advice from a retired SF officer locked down in COVID-19 ravaged Italy”, Army Times, March 30, 2020.
SOF Units On High Readiness. Due to the health concerns about coronavirus some tier one units are now operating under extraordinary protection health protection measures. Read “DoD isolating critical troops and commanders to be ready in a crisis amid pandemic”, CNN.com, March 30, 2020.
Stories about COVID-19 and the Military. There are a multitude of stories of how the U.S. military is providing assistance to the nation during this emergency. Hospital ships are being deployed, field hospitals set up, reserve and guard units activated, and retirees recalled. And there are the stories about how the military is messing up a bit. Marines not relaxing grooming standards – requiring regular haircuts, Army holding formations that are unnecessary, exercises being held so we are ‘ready for war’, and more. One of the more compelling stories is of the aircraft carrier captain pleading for help with a coronavirus outbreak on his ship. He is quoted as saying “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die.”
Hurlburt Field – “Mission-Essential Only. AFSOC and the 1st Special Operations Wing will be closed to all personnel except for those who are essential for the conduct of daily operations. I guess this is where you find out how important you are to the organization. (NWF Daily News, Mar 30, 2020).
Recall for Retired Soldiers. The U.S. Army is seeking retired Soldiers to return to active duty. Army G-1 recently reached out to over 800,000 retirees and more than 14,000 have shown interest. Currently the Army is looking for Critical Care Officers (60F), Anesthesiologist (60N), Nurse Anesthetist (66F), Critical Care Nurse (66S), Nurse Practitioner (66P), Respiratory Specialist (68V), and Medic (68W). Somehow 18D didn’t make the list. Read more in “Army seeks retired medical soldiers to support COVID-19 efforts”, Army News Service, March 27, 2020.
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”Michael Corleone
Jade Helm 2020 Cancelled. Bearded SOF operators about to fly in Black Hawk helicopters on a secret, covert, ‘deep state’ mission were instructed to stand down. They were disappointed to find out that plans to use Army special operations forces in the southwestern region of the United States have been cancelled. Read more in “Jade Helm 2020 cancelled over COVID-19 concerns”, DuffleBlog, March 27, 2020.
America’s Global Commandos. Nick Turse – always a favorite of SOF – provides a description of where U.S. SOF are deployed. (Salon, April 1, 2020).
Scholarships Available from Navy SEAL Museum. Learn about the various opportunities for college scholarships that are available from the Navy SEAL Museum. The Museum’s Scholarship Program offers gifts in various amounts to the children of Special Operations individuals.
OV-10 Broncos, SOF, and JTACs. The light attack OV-10 is currently being used by SOF in the fight against ISIS and for JTAC training. (The Aviation Geek Club, Mar 30, 2020).
Great Power Competition
China, Propaganda, and COVID-19. John Lee, a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, describes how China is exploiting COVID-19 to reshape the global order and enhance China’s international leadership. China is doing this at the expense of the US – which seems to be failing in its counter-IO efforts. (Hudson Institute, Mar 24, 2020).
China’s Special Mission Aircraft. China’s military transformation over the past decade and a half has been applied to its air component that supports airborne forces. Read “China’s Unique Special Missions Aircraft”, Defence Review Asia, March 31, 2020.
Baltic States Worry about China Too! The countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are constantly on the alert for activities by Russia’s military and intelligence agencies. These three countries are confronted with threats of hybrid warfare, espionage, extremism, cyber warfare, disinformation, and more. They are also concerned about hostile Chinese activities as well. Read “Baltic Intelligence Agencies Increasingly Worry About Threats From China in Addition to Russia”, Eurasia Daily Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, March 30, 2020.
The “Ice Curtain”. Matthew Melino and Heather Conley collaborate on an article that showcases Russia’s activities in the Arctic region. Russia’s military moves in the Arctic has strategic implications for the United States. Read an informative article on this topic entitled The Ice Curtain: Russia’s Arctic Military Presence”, Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), March 2020.
Cancelling Exercises and the Baltic States. The Defender Europe 20 exercise was cancelled due to the ongoing Wuhan virus pandemic. Even though it has been cancelled the exercise signaled the US commitment to Baltic defense. Read more in “Military Exercise Defender Europe-20 is Cancelled: What Does It Mean for the Baltic States?”, Foreign Policy Research Institute, March 30, 2020.
US Service Member Dies in Iraq. The Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve announced that s service member died in a non-combat related incident in Erbil, Iraq on March 30.
Technicals, Rusty Pickups, and the “Toyota War”. Learn more about how pickup trucks have been used over the past few decades in wars big and small. Read “Here’s Why Old Rusty Pickups Are Used in Combat”, HotCars, March 29, 2020.
Our Counterterrorism Wars. The New America organization has a site that describes the various “CT Wars” that the U.S. is currently engaged in. These include the drone war in Pakistan, the war in Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. A good resource for those interested in counterterrorism.
The UN, Counterterrorism, and Human Rights. The 7th binannual review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is underway. There are four pillars of the strategy: addressing conditions conducive to terrorism, measures to prevent and combat terrorism, measures to build capacity and prevent terrorism, and measures to ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law. The last pillar is the one that is supported the least according to Fionnula Ni Aolain, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism. (Wow, try putting that title on your business card!). Read “Negotiating a Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in a Time of COVID-19”, Just Security, March 30, 2020.
Houthis Attacking Riyadh. On March 28, 2020 two missiles were fired at the Saudi capital. The Houthis in Yemen took credit for the attack. See “Why are Yemen’s Houthis attacking Riyadh now?”, Brookings Institute, March 30, 2020.
Turkish SOF in Syria. In the last two months Turkey has deployed roughly 20,000 troops to the Idlib province region of Syria. Among these soldiers are commandos and special forces units.
EU Naval Mission for Libya. The European Union is launching a new naval mission in the Mediterranean Sea that will enforce the United Nations arms embargo on Libya. The action had been delayed because of worries that migrants will make their way to the EU ships in hopes of being rescued at sea and brought to Europe. Read “EU launches new naval mission to police LIbya arms embargo”, Defense News, March 31, 2020.
Boko Haram Strikes Again. Islamist militants in the Lake Chad region conducted a series of attacks on March 20th that killed 92 Chadian and 47 Nigerian troops in separate attacks. Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon are members of a multinational force formed to defeat Boko Haram. (Bloomberg, Mar 25, 2020).
Nigeria Officer Corps Moves. A big shakeup in the leadership positions of the military of Nigeria is taking place. Nigeria is facing a resilient insurgency and has failed to secure the northwest area of the country. Read “Massive Shake-up as Army Redeploys Senior Officers”, This Day, March 31, 2020.
“Accidental Guerrilla”. James Houser writes in this historical summary of a rebellion that took place in the mid-1800s in California. Read “Accidental Guerrilla Syndrome in California, 1836-1846”, Small Wars Journal, April 1, 2020.
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Paper – Local Perspectives in Mali’s Central Regions, Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), March 31, 2020. This study highlights how the people in Mali’s central regions understand and respond to the governance, development, and security challenges they face.
Videos, Podcasts, and Movies
Movie – Cloak and Dagger. This almost two hour-long movie is a 1946 film noir starring Gary cooper. It is a tribute to Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operations in occupied Europe during World War II. The title is based on the 1946 non fiction book Cloak and Dagger: The Secret Story of O.S.S. by Corey Ford and Alastair MacBain. Former OSS agent E. Michael Burke acted as technical advisory. Post on YouTube.com by Noiristas, Inc. on February 27, 2020.
Photo: A CV-22 Osprey assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, sits on the flightline during a snow fall March 29, 2020, at Yokota Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)