Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Former Green Beret Arrested. Mike Taylor, a former member of the 10th and 11th Special Forces Groups, has been arrested in connection with the escape of Carlos Ghosn from Japan. Also served warrants were his son – Peter Taylor and an associate – George Zayek. Taylor was responsible for the escape of Ghosn on December 29, 2019. Ghosn is currently in Lebanon. He was awaiting trial for under-reporting earnings, breach of trust, and misappropriation of company funds – all charges that he denies. Japan is seeking extradition of the individuals involved in the escape plan.
New MARSOC Commander. The Marine Forces Special Operations Command will be getting a new commander. Major General James Glynn will take over the Marine Corps’ elite special operations component.
Norwegian SOF General takes Command. General Major Eirik Kristoffersen is the new defense chief for Norway. He has a special operations background and has deployed to Afghanistan five times. Read more in “New Chief’s Been in Battles Before”, Views and News from Norway, May 20, 2020.
Afghan War Crimes Investigation in Australia. A judge has recently indicated that a long-running inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by Australian SOF will result in some ‘distress’ for some soldiers involved. Some witnesses have been afforded psychological support due to the proceedings. (ABC.NET.AU, May 21, 2020).
UAE’s SOF Aviation Train with U.S. The United Arab Emirate’s Group 18 recently trained with the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf. Group 18 is a dedicated special operations aviation unit similar to the U.S. Army’s elite 160th SOAR. It has fixed wing light attack and utility aircraft as well as helicopters. See “Foreign Special Operations Gunships Train on the Navy’s Huge Sea Base in the Persian Gulf”, The Drive Warzone, May 19, 2020.
Russian Vehicles Tested in Syria. Mark Galeotti writes about how the Syrian War has been a testing ground for many of the specialized vehicles used by Russian special operations forces. Read more in “Combat Vehicles of Russia’s Special Forces”, Osprey Publishing, May 22, 2020.
Russia’s Underwater Guns. Explore the world of needleguns – used by some combat divers while submerged. Read more in “Fire the ‘Needlegun’: Yes, Russia Built Underwater Rifles”, The National Interest, May 21, 2020.
SOE and WW II. A recent online article takes a closer look at the Special Operations Executive of WWII and its top secret work. Read “Sabotage and Subversion: The Secret Operations of the SOE”, Forces.net, May 18, 2020.
Jungle Tab. Just last month we were greeted with the news that there was an ‘Arctic Tab’. Now there is news about another authorized tab. Meet the ‘Jungle Tab’. If you graduate from the 20-day Jungle Operations Training Course (JOTC) then you can put it on your left shoulder. (Military.com, May 20, 2020).
TR Back at Sea. The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is finally back at sea after the severe coronavirus outbreak among its crew. It was sidelined on the island of Guam due to more than 1,000 of its crew testing positive for COVID-19. The ship sailed with about 3,000 crew members – leaving some 1,800 on shore who are in quarantine or supporting the quarantine efforts. (Navy Times, May 21, 2020).
USMC’s New Learning Doctrine. The Marines have published a new manual entitled Learning. Read more about it in “After Mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, Marines Create New Learning Doctrine”, Military.com, May 20, 2020.
Remote Enabled Advising. Gordon Richmond, a U.S. Army Special Forces officer, believes that aligning the same advisory team with the same local partner allows for a longer and more mature relationship than is possible with a rotating cast of American advisors. Ideally this would start with a persistent presence in onsite advising to be followed by some remote distance advising. Richmond explores the pros and cons of remote advising in “The U.S. Military Should Turn to Remote-Enabled Advising”, War on the Rocks, May 20, 2020..
SFABs, Artillery, and Advising. A recent article published on the website of the United States Field Artillery Association provides information on the artillery advisor teams of the Security Force Assistance Brigades. Read “So We’re Divesting Some Howitzers”, fieldartillery.org, May 11, 2020.
SOF and Great Power Competition
SOF, IW, and GPC. Jeff Goodson, a retired career Department of State Foreign Service Officer, says the refocus of the U.S. military on great power competition does not mean a departure from irregular warfare. He states that the strategic emphasis on GPC means that the U.S. will be changing when, where, and how it will conduct counterterrorism, unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, and stability operations. These changes will most directly affect US special operations forces. Read more in “Irregular Warfare in a New Era of Great-Power Competition”, Modern War Institute at West Point, May 20, 2020.
U.S. Government Approach to China. The Trump administration has provided to Congress are report that articulates the whole-of-government approach to China under the 2017 National Security Strategy. You can read the 16-page PDF entitled “United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China”, The White House, May 20, 2020.
U.S. Casualty in Afghanistan. 1st Lt. Trevarius Bowman, age 25, died on May 19, 2020 from a non-combat related incident at Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan. He was serving with a signal unit of the South Carolina National Guard. (DoD, May 21, 2020).
Trump: U.S. “Never Really Fought to Win”. President Trump recently stated (Monday, May 18th) that the United States military never really fought to win the war in Afghanistan except in the very beginning. (The Washington Post, May 18, 2020).
Senior Officer Moves. BG William Ryan, currently chief of staff for I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, will be assigned as the senior advisor to the Ministry of Defense, Resolute Support Mission, Afghanistan. BG Michelee Schmidt, currently deputy commanding general (support), will be assigned as deputy chief of staff for intelligence, Resolute Support Mission, Afghanistan.
Remote Advising in Afghanistan. Since mid-March the Coalition has been conducting much of their train, advise, and assist mission by remote means. In many cases advisors have been restricted to communicating with their counterparts by phone, email, and text. Almost all face-to-face meetings have been prohibited due to the coronavirus pandemic. There are some drawbacks to remote advising. See “Coalition sticks mostly to remote advising in Afghanistan”, Stars and Stripes, May 20, 2020.
“It is much harder to advise troops and build the relationships and trust that’s required to do this in a foreign country, if you’re not standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the partner force.”Jonathan Schroden, director of the Special Operations Program at CNA
Need for U.S. Presence in Africa. Two writers feel that it is time to rethink the U.S. military’s contributions to peace and security in sub-Saharan Africa. They believe that the U.S. military needs to reaffirm its non-CT missions and reform how it executes its CT programs. Read “Defending the U.S. Military Presence in Africa for Reasons Beyond Counterterrorism”, Lawfare Blog, May 18, 2020.
U.S. Support to French Mission Vital. Although the U.S. contribution to the French-led Barkhane operation is small, it is very important. Read more in “US Military Support in Sahel: Allies at Work”, Breaking Defense, May 14, 2020.
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Small Wars Journal – Continues. The long-time principle editor for SWJ, Dave Dilegge, recently passes away. He was the core team at the online military blog and will be missed. However the remaining staff at SWJ will continue into the future. Read more in “An Enduring Vision for Small Wars Journal”, SWJ, May 21, 2020.
JFTC Magazine. The April 2020 issue of the magazine of the Joint Force Training Centre is now published online. The journal has several articles about the training events and exercises conducted by the NATO training institution located in Bydgoszcz, Poland. It also has articles about the pre-deployment training for advisors heading to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Videos, Podcasts, and Movies
Movie Trailer – The Outpost. A new movie about the Afghan war is coming out in early July. In 2009 a small compound – Combat Outpost Keating – came under attack in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
Photo: Maritime helicast, DoD photo, 2020.