Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
AFSOC Training – On the Wrong Path? At a recent defense industry conference the AFSOC commander said that the selection process of future AF special operators will less about physical prowess and more on algorithms and analytics. A former Navy SEAL has some doubts about this new approach. Read “Military training develops mindset, not muscle”, Military Times, June 19, 2020.
Investigation of PJ’s Death. A pararescueman who died in a mountain rescue training accident in Idaho in October 2019 was pulled from the mountain after a team member’s anchor slipped out. (Air Force Times, Jun 18, 2020).
Gold Medal for WWII Rangers. World War II era Rangers may soon be receiving a Congressional Gold Medal for their heroic service in the European theater. (Connecting Vets, Jun 17, 2020).
TACP Officer Recognized. Khristopher Krueger has been cited for his leadership in PROJECT FLASH by the TACP Association. Kris and other colleagues developed some complicated cyber capabilities that can be used by the SOF community. (TACP Association, June 2020).
NC NG SF Unit Conducts Airborne Operation. B company, 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group recently conducted a static line parachute jump in New London, N.C. (Army.mil, June 19, 2020).
SOW Receives Award. The Fort Worth Airpower Council announced the 919th Special Operations Wing as the recipient of the 2020 Power and Vigilance Award. (DVIDS 919th SOW PA, May 18, 2020).
Intruder Killed at Navy SEAL Training Base. A civilian was shot and killed after brandishing a knife at a duty officer on an Alaska military base used by Naval Special Warfare for cold weather training. (Alaska Public Media, June 17, 2020).
SF Mentor and Leader Retires. After three decades of military service SGM Troy Williams is retiring. (Tampa Bay Times, Jun 19, 2020).
2/20th SFGA Soldier Killed in Shooting. A Mississippi National Guard soldier was killed in a Jackson, MS shooting on Thursday. A NG spokesman said that he was an innocent bystander. (WAPT 16abc, Jun 19, 2020).
Taiwan SOF Train Up to Defend Country. Special Forces are training up respond to possible future attacks by forces of the Peoples’ Republic of China. See “Taiwan special forces train to counter Chinese incursions”, Taiwan News, June 19, 2020.
Officers Graduate from Afghan SOF Training. More personnel are on the way to filling the ranks for the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) after graduating from special operations training. (Tolo News, Jun 17, 2020).
Turkish SOF Conducts Cross-Border Raid into Iraq. Turkish special forces conducted an operation into Iraq on Wednesday, June 17, 2020. They were supported by helicopters and drones in their actions against Kurdish forces. (Aljiazeera, Jun 17, 2020).
Five SOF Failures. Robert Farley writes about some special operations missions that were not quite successful. (He does confuse the two terms of SF and SOF). Read “Mission Failed: 5 Times U.S. Special Forces Couldn’t Get the Job Done”, The National Interest, June 21, 2020.
French Resistance Fighters Honored. Four resistance fighters from World War II will receive honorary MBEs from Britain in recognition of their role during the Second World War. (UK Govt, Jun 18, 2020).
History Being Erased. Theodore Roosevelt’s statue will be removed from the Museum of Natural History in New York city. Apparently the memorial has raised objections – the statue was seen by some as a symbol of colonialism. (NYTs, Jun 21, 2020).
Closing of the Special Warfare Museum. There are some hot button issues that get current and former Green Berets’ blood pressure rising – such as female soldiers on operational detachments or lowering the standards of training in the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC). Recently, the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) has decided to close the Special Warfare Museum on Fort Bragg, North Carolina. This action has been the source of great concern among SF veterans and others. Read a recent article on this topic in “Military widow: Sign the petition to save the JFK Special Warfare Museum on Fort Bragg”, Fayetteville Observer, June 17, 2020.
SOF and Great Power Competition
SOF and Great Power Competition. Most of the competition is far short of combat, which makes the principles and expertise of SOF keenly relevant. See “Look at Great Power Competition Through a Special Operations Lens”, by Kevin Bilms and Christopher Costa, Defense One, June 18, 2020.
SOF Networks and GPC. John Wilcox, a member of the Global SOF Foundation Advisory Board, argues that SOF C4ISR must make the shift from from a focus on fighting violent extremist organizations to a focus on great power competion. Read “The networks that special operators need”, C4ISRNET, June 21, 2020.
China-India Border Dispute. On June 15, 2020 a dispute escalated along the border of these two countries resulting in the deaths of scores of military personnel from both sides. Indications are that the dispute is the result of a broader pattern of Peoples’s Republic of China’s territorial assertiveness. A recent report by the Congressional Research Service provides greater detail. See “Conflict at the China-India Frontier”, CRS, June 17, 2020, PDF, 4 pages.
U.S. Defense Space Strategy. The DoD has released a new strategy to maintain U.S. military superiority in space amid growing counter-space efforts other countries. Read “Pentagon released its Defense Space Strategy to counter Russia and China”, Defense News, June 17, 2020.
Foreign Aid and GPC. Andrew S. Natsios writes that the political and strategic competition with Russia and China has now crossed over into the international development space. Many western donor governments are cutting back on their aid programs while Russia and China are expanding theirs. In his article Natsios reviews how the U.S. conducted foreign assistance in the past and provides a new strategy for the future. Read “Foreign Aid in an Era of Great Power Competition”, PRISM, National Defense University Press, June 11, 2020.
Wuhan Virus and the Military
The U.S. national death toll has reached 120,000 deaths as of June 22, 2020. More deaths are expected. Some states are recovering while other have since an increase in COVID-19 cases. Hospitalizations are increasing in 17 states.
Captain Crozier – Still Fired. The decision has been made to make the removal of the captain of an aircraft carrier permanent has been made. He had raised the alarm about the spread of coronavirus on his ship. Read more in “Navy upholds firing of carrier captain who warned of coronavirus”, Politico, June 19, 2020. Read a news release on this topic by the U.S. Department of Defense (June 19, 2020).
Lessons Learned. MacKenzie Eaglen, a researcher with the American Enterprise Institute, explores how the U.S. military has adapted to the pandemic. Read “5 Lessons the U.S. Military Learned From the Pandemic”, Lawfire, Duke University, June 17, 2020.
Army Training Increasing in Europe. The pace of U.S. Army training, exercises, and other activities are stepping up in the European theater even with the continued danger of the coronavirus. New mitigation measures and health protocols have been introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the European-based U.S. military units. (Defense News, Jun 22, 2020).
US Media Agency Heads Fired. The leadership of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting, and the Open Technology Fund were all dismissed by a Trump appointee heading up the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM). Most national security observers, unless you are a Trump supporter of course, find this concerning. In the current era of great power competition other nations are outpacing the United States in the information operations realm. This certainly is not going to help. Read more “Wednesday Night Massacre as Trump appointee takes over at USAGM”, CNN News, June 17, 2020. See also “New Conservative Media Chief Dismisses Heads of U.S. News Agencies”, The New York Times, June 17, 2020 (subscription required).
CT Intelligence. Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware identify how the terrorism threat might morph in the months and years to come and the implications for counterterrorism. Read “The Challenges of Effective Counterterrorism Intelligence in the 2020s”, Lawfare Blog, June 21, 2020.
Social Science and PME. Dr. Jim Golby, a senior fellow at the Clements Center for National Security, says that U.S. professional military education programs are stuck in the past. The author makes the “. . . case for why social science education should provide the core of a professional military education program aimed at developing strategically-minded officers.” Read “Want Better Strategists? Teach Social Science”, War on the Rocks, June 19, 2020.
Importance of Intelligence in Influence Activities. Ajit Maan, Ph.D., writes on the need for information about the audience we want to influence. She says we need intelligence about context and how the target audience fits into the context. Read “The Intelligence We Need to Succeed at Influence”, HS Today, June 15, 2020.
Zero Troops in Afghanistan? Jonathan Schroden examines the “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” (signed in Feb 2020) which calls for the U.S. to withdraw all of its troops within 14 months. He argues that the U.S. should pursue the continuation of an advisory mission to Afghanistan’s air force and special security forces. Read “Will the United States Really Go to Zero Troops in Afghanistan?”, Lawfare Blog, June 15, 2020.
AFRICOM – Time for Change. Major Rose Croshier, an active duty Air Force Foreign area Officer and Intelligence Officer and assigned to AFRICOM, provides here perspective on how the combatant command can improve its efforts to build military capability with partner nations. AFRICOM “. . . will have to divest of practices that have seldom worked and commit to new approaches to training, actualizing, and assessing, and measuring success.” Read “Implementing Security Cooperation Reforms: Challenges and Practical Approaches for USSAFRICOM”, Small Wars Journal, June 19, 2020.
Russian Expansion in Libya. Elements of the Wagner Group (Russian mercenaries) and Russian aircraft have been deployed to Libya to support General Khalifa Haftar and the Libyan National Army (LNA). Read more in “Moscow’s Next Front: Russia’s Expanding Military Footprint in Libya”, by Brian Katz and Joseph Bermudez, Center for Strategic & International Studies, June 17, 2020.
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Book Review – Full Spectrum Dominance: Irregular Warfare and the War on Terror. Maria Ryan has authored a book that provides an “. . . indispensable addition to our understanding of America’s post-9/11 wars.” It is a history of America’s shift to irregular warfare and combating terrorism. Bryce Loidolt reviews the book in the latest edition of PRISM published by the National Defense University Press on June 11, 2020.
Journal of Advanced Military Studies (JAMS). The spring 2020 issue of JAMS is now online. A 228-page PDF published by the Marine Corps University Press. Several great articles and book reviews.
Pub – On Strategy: A Primer. The Army University Press has published a manuscript by Nathan K. Finney that is a collection of essays about strategy in practice. It is designed as a primer for mid-career military professionals. (June 2020, 276 pages, PDF).
Videos, Podcasts, and Movies
Podcast – Does Building Partner Military Capacity Work?, Modern War Institute at West Point, June 19, 2020. Dr. Stephen Biddle and Mr. Matt Cancian are interviewed on the topic of capacity building. (41 minutes).
Video – Inside Carlos Ghosn’s Unbelievable, Daring Escape. Just before New Year’s Eve 2019, Carlos Ghosn, the ousted leader of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, completed a daring escape from Tokyo, where he was facing criminal charges that could have put him in prison for more than a decade. Former Green Beret, Mike Taylor, is alleged to have orchestrated the escape. Watch this 13 minute long video depicting how he escaped Japan for Lebanon. June 16, 2020, Bloomberg Businessweek.
Video – Final AC-130U Spookys Retire. Three of the final AC-130U Spookys of the 4th Special Operations Squadron retire during a flyover at Hurlburt Field, Florida on June 4, 2020. The Spookys accrued over 25 years of warfighting history providing close air support, strike coordination, and reconnaissance. (2 mins, DVIDS)
Movie Planned about SF in Afghanistan. A movie that is a remake of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ set to be produced over the next year or so. It will be set in modern times about two special forces soldiers who serve in Afghanistan but follows the original script. (Task & Purpose, Jun 21, 2020).
A Veteran’s Thoughts
“I miss the battlefield. Not the burning heat, the ache of heavy armor or the cold darkness of hostile ground. I miss the clarity. We were fighting an enemy, who though often vile, was completely clear on his cause and beliefs. They were willing to live hard and die hard for what they believed in, no matter how misguided.
Most of all I miss Americans. In a war between tribes, religions, sects and ideologies, the enemy often churned, blended, twisted and turned. But Americans were like rocks, Gibraltars in a storm. In the midst of the chaos, Americans were handholds on the cliff, bridges over the abyss of terrorism and treachery. The battlefield is the great crucible. On our battlefields the one virtue that mattered was an American would stand fast and have your back. The bond and the lifeline in combat were other Americans.
The Americans to your left and right had no hyphens. I scanned for NODs and kevlars not faces or skin. In a street or alley, on the side of a mountain or sand berm all I looked for was an American uniform with a shoulder flag. The camouflage and combat literally and figuratively melted everything else together. No race, no religion, no politics, just Americans. There is clarity and a physical purity in that. Today at home, in the United States, I miss the battlefield.”James Lechner, LTC (Ret), U.S. Army, June 2020
Photo: Soldiers from the 19th Special Forces Group were in Washington, D.C. in June 2020 to assist law enforcement during the recent protests and riots. (photo by SPC Jacob Jesperson, U.S. Army National Guard, June 5, 2020)