Special Operations News Update – Monday, February 8, 2021

HH-60G Pave Hawk Helicopter

Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.

SOF News

Former Green Beret Appeals Extradition Order. Mike Taylor’s lawyers have filed another appeal to prevent the extradition of their client to Japan. Taylor is accused of assisting with the escape of former Nissan Motor Co. Chair Carlos Ghosn out of Japan. (Army Times, Feb 1, 2021).

CSM Cook to SOJTF-OIR. Army Command Sgt. Maj. James “J.R.” Cook, currently assigned as the command sergeant major, 3rd Operational Support Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, NC, has been selected to serve as the command senior enlisted leader for the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.

Former USSOCOM Official is #2 at Navy. James F. “Hondo” Geurts has been designated as “performing the duties of” under secretary of the Navy. Geurts had previously served as the acquisition executive at USSOCOM. (Seapower Magazine, Feb 4, 2021).

SF Vet Leads Private Aid Mission in Burma. Former Green Beret David Eubank has been providing medical and humanitarian aid to inhabitants of the eastern Burma Karen State. In 1997 Eubank formed his group – The Free Burma Rangers – to deliver humanitarian aid to oppressed ethnic minorities in conflict zones in Burma, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and Kurdistan. (Just the News, Feb 3, 2021″. See also a story about how the village health defense concept builds upon and extends health to rural village self-protection techniques in Burma. (SOF News, June 2018).

HALO Mishap During Covert Insertion into Iraq. A Delta operator and SAS trooper collided in mid-air during a high altitude low opening parachute insertion for a night mission against Islamic State fighters in Iraq in January 2021. Their parachutes became entangled and they both hit the ground hard suffering severe injuries. Fortunately they were quickly recovered by helicopter and were eventually receiving medical treatment. “Iraq rescue: SAS, Delta Force in Skydiving mishap”, Asia Times, February 5, 2021.

Carstens – Staying on as Ambassador. The Trump-appointed special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, Roger Carstens, is being retained by the Biden administration to continue his role of reuniting Americans who have been detained overseas with their families. Carstens is a retired Special Forces officer.

Waltz to Serve on Intel and SOF Subcommittee. Representative Mike Waltz (R-FL) will be serving on an important subcommittee of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. Waltz served two tours in Afghanistan as a Special Forces officer. He will serve on the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations. Representative Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) will also serve on the subcommittee. She is a former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot.

Navy’s Search and Rescue School. Brandon Webb, a former Navy SEAL, started out his Navy career as a member of the SAR community. Read his account of going through the SAR training. (SOFREP, Feb 3, 2021).

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International SOF

Swedes Now Part of SOF TF in Mali. Sweden has deployed its an element of its special operations forces to Mali to be part of Task Force Takuba. The Swedes are stationed in the Liptako region close to Mali’s border with Niger and Burkina Faso. (France 24, Feb 5, 2021).

JTF-2 Soldier Injured by Pistol. A soldier belonging to Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 suffered a minor flesh wound when his SIG Sauer P320 pistol malfunctioned. The newly fielded pistol has been withdrawn from service pending the results of an investigation and replaced by older SIG Sauer P226 pistols. Read “Special Forces pulls new pistols from service after soldier injured in misfire”, CBC News, February 4, 2021.

“Wild Bill” Donovan – RIP. On this date – February 8, 1959 – William Donovan passes away. He was an intelligence officer, diplomat, and served as head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. He received some of the U.S.’s highest awards. The Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, and Purple Heart. The OSS was the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Army Special Forces. Wikipedia bio.

Iraq’s CTS. The Counterterrorism Service of Iraq is busy hunting down leaders of the Islamic State who have gone underground. The IS is still conducting attacks across the country but at a lower scale than previous years. The CTS continues to get assistance from the U.S. and other nations in the form of advice, intelligence, and other types of support. Read the account of a typical night raid to apprehend a suspected former member of the Islamic State on January 17, 2021. “Stalking ISIS”, by Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim, The Washington Post, February 3, 2021.

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SOF History

Battle of Lang Vei – 6 Feb 1968. A Special Forces detachment’s camp was overrun by North Vietnamese forces. The battle featured the first use of armor by the NVA in the conflict. Of the 24 Green Berets, 7 were KIA and 3 were captured by the enemy. Read “After Action Report Battle of Lang Vei“, 5th SFG, 22 February 1968, PDF, 41 pages, posted on the Defense Technical Information Center (dtic.mil).

Desert Storm. In the early morning of January 17, 1991 the U.S. and its coalition of allies began the air campaign with aircraft and missile strikes. Targets included Iraq’s air defense, communications, transportation, and other important infrastructure. By early February the air campaign’s focus had shifted to attacking Iraq’s ground forces in preparation for a ground assault by coalition forces into Kuwait and Iraq. Special operations elements began to infiltrate into Kuwait and Iraq.

Bryant Hall to be Re-dedicated. A building well-known to members of the SF community will be re-dedicated in February 2021. The hall was named in honor of SFC William M. Bryant – a Medal of Honor recipient who died in South Vietnam in March 1969 while serving with the 5th Special Forces Group. The six story building was originally dedicated in his honor in June 1973.

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National Security

IW School for Marines. Nathaniel Lambert, a Marine Corps officer, argues that the Marine Corps should establish an Irregular Warfare School that seeks to institutionalize the experience gained during the last two decades. Read “Fighting Dirty: How the Marines Can Sustain Versatility and an Irregular Warfare Edge Through a Dedicated School”, Small Wars Journal, February 3, 2021.

Resettling Refugees. No One Left Behind, the Special Forces Association, and the Special Operations Association are supporting the recent signing of an Executive Order (EO) entitled “Rebuilding and Enhancing Programs to Resettle Refugees and Planning for the Impact of Climate Change on Migration“. The EO addresses many categories of potential refugees – but of great interest to the SOF community is the attention given to Special Immigrant Visas for the brave Afghan and Iraqi partners who risked their lives to advance America’s interests.

Global Posture Review. The Biden administration and the Department of Defense will be conducting a global posture review to ensure the footprint of American service members worldwide is correctly sized and support U.S. strategy. Part of this new approach will be a greater working relationship between DOD and State. Moves have already been made in this area. U.S. support for the Yemen conflict is being scaled back, unit relocations out of Germany to other countries is currently on hold, and there are indications that troop cutbacks in Somalia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere may be reversed. (DOD, Feb 5, 2021).

DOD and Extremism. The Department of Defense has ordered a one-day “stand-down” to all units to conduct discussions on extremism in the ranks. See “Stand-Down to Address Extremism in the Ranks”, Secretary of Defense, February 5, 2021, PDF, 2 pgs.

Abu Sayyaf’s Resilience. Despite successful counterterrorism efforts by the Philippine government a long-time insurgency has survived. Michael Van Ginkel describes how it has stayed active in “Deconstructing Abu Sayyaf’s Resilience to Counter-Insurgency Operations”, The Diplomat, February 5, 2021.

Great Power Competition GPC

Great Power Competition

BPC is GPC. Phil Reynolds, a visiting scholar at the Center for Futures Studies at the University of Hawaii, argues that there is a very real deterrent in strengthening small partners quickly and effectively. Read “Building Partner Capacity is Great Power Competition: The Future of 333 Funds”, Small Wars Journal, February 6, 2021.

Russia, Ukraine, Hybrid War, and Tweets. The Russian Federation has exploited the growing importance of social media platforms to diplomacy. This is especially true in the case of Crimea and Ukraine. Read “Russia’s Hybrid War in Ukraine: Historical Revisionism and Twiplomacy”, Small Wars Journal, February 3, 2021.

China, Hollywood, and Info War. Ziva Dahl describes how China uses movies to burnish its image and advance its ideological worldview. The manipulation of cinema (including the U.S. market) has been an explicit part of Beijing’s media warfare strategy for years. Hollywood has been pliable to China’s concerns. “China uses Hollywood in its Information Warfare Campaign”, Newsweek, February 3, 2021.

Update to NDS Needed. The strategic perspective of the 2018 National Defense Strategy correctly identified the threats posed by the Chinese and Russians and the shift needed to counter those threats. However, it did not identify the full scope of GPC and did not place enough emphasis on the cyber, political, and economic domains. Clementine Starling and Matthew Crouch tell us more in “How the US can regain the advantage in its next National Defense Strategy”, Atlantic Council, February 3, 2021.

Germany Drawdown on Hold. The reduction of troops strength in Germany is being reviewed by the Pentagon. The relocation of over 12,000 troops was announced last summer. (Defense News, Feb 3, 2021).

Books about Special Forces Training

Books, Pubs, and Reports

Pub – The Future of Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Update. An updated report published by the National Intelligence University (NIU) provides detailed information on the shifting roles of the great powers, new pressures on arms control and nonproliferation regimes, roles of chemical and biological weapons, use of financial sanctions as an instrument of nonproliferation, types of delivery vehicles, and other emerging and disruptive technologies with WMD relevance.
(first published in 2014, updated Nov 2020, PDF, 109 pgs).

Pub – Leadership Targeting in CT. This article reviews the existing body of literature concerning terrorist leadership targeting and identifies limitations in the prevailing approaches. The article explains research and policy implications for leadership decapitation in counterterrorism. “Decapitation Nation: A New Model for Examining Leadership Targeting in Counterterrorism”, by Jacob Finn, International Counter-Terrorism Review, January 31, 2021, PDF, 80 pages.

Paper – “Fighting ISIS in Syria. The paper analyses Operation Euphrates Shield (OES) provides lessons learned the from the al-Bab Battle”, Small Wars & Insurgencies, Feb 2021. Posted on Taylor & Francis Online. OES started with a mixed force of Free Syrian Army, Turkish special forces, and armoured units – the battle presents tactical and operational lessons for militaries on structure and execution of operations against an irregular adversary employing conventional means.

Report – The Air War Against the Islamic State. A host of authors contribute to this 511-page pub that details the role of airpower in Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). RAND Corporation, 2021, PDF.

Book Review – Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World. H.R. McMaster’s new book is reviewed by Kyle Staron in Eunomia Journal, The Civil Affairs Association, February 3, 2021.

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Podcasts, Videos, and Movies

Podcast – PSYOP and the Shining Path. A PSYWAR podcast recently hosted SF Warrant Officer Jason Heeg who has done some research on the Shining Path’s use of psychological warfare in Peru. Read more about the podcast in “PSYOP Deep Dive: PSYOP and the Shining Path”, Carrying the Gun, January 16, 2021.

Podcast – Mitchell on Prioritizing Information Operations. Col (Ret) Mark Mitchell (former SF officer) argues that the Department of Defense needs an organization that is fully resourced and reports directly to the SECDEF or Under Secretary of Defense and which centrally plans strategic communications and then executes those plans in a decentralized manner. Presented by Information Professionals Association (IPA), Jan 2021, 42 mins.

Video – SOF and Security Cooperation with C4ISR and Cyber. Mr. Andrew Strand discusses previous work in Afghanistan with cyber and automated movement and identification solutions and future implications for SOF security cooperation. Think JSOU, Feb 2, 2021, 50 minutes.

Video – History of 10th SFG(A). A video production reviewing the beginning of the 10th Special Forces Group highlights the accomplishments of the unit over several decades. Video by 10th SFG(A), DVIDS, Feb 1, 2021, 6 mins.


Photo: An Air National Guard HH-60G Pave Hawk participates in combat search and rescue training during Noble Defender in Alaska, Jan. 21, 2021. The exercise is a North American Air Defense Command Arctic air defense operation. Photo by Senior Airman Kelly Willett.

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