Curated news, analysis, and commentary on special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
SF Training Continues Despite COVID-19. The roughly 2,500 students in the Army’s special operations pipelines is not stopping for coronavirus. The SF, CA, and PSYOP have continued with some modifications. Some advanced specialty training courses have been shut down to include shooting and diving courses. The Commandant of USAJFKSWCS says that ARSOF courses are “mission critical” and the Army needs an uninterrupted stream of new special operations soldiers. Read “Green Berets’ training pipeline continues despite COVID-19 concerns”, Army Times, April 10, 2020.
ST Airmen Receive Awards. Eight special tactics airmen received awards following a three-month long deployment to Afghanistan last summer with the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. The airmen were attached to Rangers who were conducting nighttime raids across the country. (Air Force Times, Apr 10, 2020).
Green Berets Speak Out. Eight Special Forces veterans were asked what it meant to be in Special Forces. Ken Galbraith, John Stryker Meyer, Fred Dummar, Rudy Gonsior, Phil Mahla, Roger Dail, Travis Wilson, and George Hand IV all provide input. Read “What It Means to be a US Army Green Beret, According to 8 Green Berets”, Coffee or Die Magazine, April 9, 2020.
PT Boats Supporting the OSS. The heritage of the special boat teams of today’s Naval Special Warfare community can be traced back to the Patrol Torpedo boats of World War II. Read more in “Origin of the First Special Boat Team, PT Squadron 2(2)”, by James D. Gray GMCM SWCC Ret., Combatant Craft Crewman Association Historian, Ethos Live, July 30, 2015.
COVID-19 and the Military
The U.S. military along with the rest of the U.S. society has been drastically affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Movement of personnel has been halted. Troops returning from overseas deployments have been placed in mandatory quarantine, and training curtailed. The Marine Corps has taken a readiness hit with the cancellation or scaling back of numerous exercises. The Navy suffered a public relations fiasco with the drama over the firing of the Captain of the USS Roosevelt. The Pentagon is still recoiling over the event and has worries that Capt. Crozier’s concern for his sailors may be contagious. (DuffelBlog, Apr 9, 2020).
Trump Fixed NG Mobilization Orders. Most National Guard troops activated for the COVID-19 pandemic initially received 30 days orders – one day short of what would qualify them for full federal benefits including insurance and medical coverage under the military’s TRICARE system. When asked at a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, April 8th, General Joseph Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau (NGB) was unable to explain why NG troops were called up for just 30 days. Well, okay. Sure. Trump fixed that with a memo.
USS Roosevelt. As of Thursday hundreds of the aircraft carriers’ Sailors tested positive for COVID-19 – comprising 1/2 of U.S. Navy’s Wuhan virus cases. One Sailor in intensive care.
Seen on Facebook:
“It’s just the flu. A lot of media hype.”
Seen Outside Hospital Back Entrances and Adjacent to Morgues:
Army Corps of Engineers and Ad Hoc Hospitals. There have been or soon will be 17 ad hoc hospitals constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers providing about 15,000 beds. The Corps has contractors urgently at work converting stadiums, hotels, and other sites into hospitals. The Corps is waiting on permission from city mayors and state governors to go ahead with the construction of 23 ad hoc hospitals that would provide more than 8,000 more beds. But if these local government officials don’t respond soon they will run out of time to be ahead of the virus curve. Read more in “COVID-19: Army ‘Running Out of Time’ to Start New Hospitals”, Breaking Defense, April 9, 2020.
Duct Tape et al. It now seems that having a mask, rubber gloves, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and rope in the trunk of your vehicle is perfectly acceptable.
Air Advising is Essential. Ryan Hill, USAF officer and Military Professor at the U.S. Naval War College, believes that the U.S. Air Force needs to continue and expand its air advising capabilities. Read “Three Reasons Air Advising is Essential to America’s National Defense Strategy”, Small Wars Journal, April 11, 2020.
A Nation Unprepared: Bioterrorism and Pandemic Response. In 2017 John B. Foley published an article entitled “Bioterrorism and Pandemic Response”. It has been republished by the Arthur D. Simons Center for Interagency Cooperation in the March 2020 InterAgency Journal. The 9-page PDF is available for reading or download.
Editorial – Release the CITGO 6. Executives of the Houston-based CITGO Petroleum Corporation have spent more than two years in detention in Venezuela without any evidence of wrongdoing presented against them. Read an editorial on this topic – “Maduro Must Release the CITGO 6”, VOA, April 6, 2020.
West Africa Vulnerable. The region can prevent the next security and humanitarian disaster if it works collectively and innovatively through diplomacy. (Foreign Policy, April 8, 2020).
Chad Army Conducts Big Operation. During a 10-day old combat operation Boko Harem lost over 1,000 fighters. The Chad Army lost 52 fighters. The operation took place after Boko Harem killed nearly 100 Chadian soldiers in an ambush a few days earlier. (Reuters, Apr 9, 2020).
UK in the Sahel. Andrew Tchie says that the UK lacks a clear strategy in for the Sahel region of Africa yet is set to deploy additional troops there. Read “The UK Joins an Unwinnable Fight in the Sahel”, RUSI, April 9, 2020.
France’s Forever War. The crisis in Sahel is becoming the ‘Forever War’. Read more in an article posted by the New York Times, March 31, 2020.
Prisoners Freed. The Afghan government has started to release Taliban prisoners from confinement. As of 9 April there were a total of 200 released. The Taliban are still raising objections. (Ariana News, 9 Apr 2020).
Lithuanian Troops Redeploy. Part of the Lithuanian military contingent serving in Afghanistan has returned home. The troops were redeployed because the training activities are currently halted due to coronavirus. (Defense-Aerospace.com, Apr 8, 2020).
Counter Pandemic Measures by RS HQs. The Resolute Support Mission has instituted public safety measures to curb the spread of coronavirus on bases in Afghanistan. (Stars and Stripes, Apr 10, 2020).
Great Power Competition
Russia May Ban Research Institute. The Jamestown Foundation was put on notice by the Russian government and labeled an “undesirable organization”. The research and analysis institute may be banned from the country. The foundation has published a number of articles and reports that are unfavorable to the image of Russia. (Reuters, Apr 8, 2020).
Competition in the IO World. The United States is a bit behind in the ability to counter the info ops capability of Russia and China. We are seeing this played out during the coronavirus pandemic. Colonel Matthew Coughlin – Director for Cyber Planning (USSOCOM) and Paul Lieber, PhD. – a Chief Scientist for multiple DoD agencies provide their thoughts. Read more in “Battling COVID-19, is DoD prepared for an onslaught of disinfo and propaganda from foreign competitors?”, Military Times, April 10, 2020.
ISIS and Coronavirus. The pandemic has shut down counterterrorism operations and the Islamic State is relishing the extra breathing room in Iraq. Unchecked, the caliphate could reemerge. “How the Islamic State Feeds on Coronavirus”, Polico Magazine, April 8, 2020.
Ceasefire in Yemen. Saudi Arabia declared a ceasefire on Thursday. The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Houthi rebels for several years. The ceasefire is to last two weeks in an attempt to stem the spread of coronavirus. It could also prove to be part of a bigger exit strategy for the Saudis.
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Report On Iran’s ME Alliance Network. Maysam Behravesh, a political analyst, has penned a 26-page report entitled Iran’s Unconventional Alliance Network in the Middle East and Beyond, Middle East Institute, April 2020. The author believes it is unlikely that Iran will let the unconventional alliance network it has built over the past four decades unravel, unless and until a robust replacement is provided that will ensure its national security and interests.
GPC in Southeast Asia. Jonathan Stromseth is the author of a 29-page report entitled Beyond Binary Choices? Navigating great power competition in Southeast Asia. The report published by the Brookings Institute in April 2020 is available online in PDF format.
Videos, Podcasts, and Movies
“Space Force”. Steve Carell plays a 4-star Air Force general who takes command of the U.S. military’s sixth branch. Read more in “Space Force sitcom starring Steve Carell landing on Netflix in May”, Military Times, April 9, 2020.
Photo: A Soldier with the Cabo Verdean Armed Forces applies pressure on a notional wound while providing cover during simulated training events during Flintlock 20 on February 18, 2020. Flintlock is an annual, integrated military and law enforcement exercise that has strengthened key partner-nation forces throughout North and West Africa since 2005. Flintlock is U.S. Africa Command’s premier and largest annual Special Operations Forces exercise. (US Army photo by Sgt. Conner Douglas)