Special Operations News Update – Monday, June 7, 2021

SF Soldier SOTF-A

Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Topics include ‘Little Bird’ replacement, SOF’s Bronco II, Eddie Gallagher in the news, Russia’s Spetsnaz, French SOF in Sahel, SOF and D-Day, diversity in SOF, IO, Afghanistan, videos, and podcasts.

SOF News

Replacement for the “Little Bird”? The U.S. Army’s fleet of A/MH-6 helicopters are small, highly maneuverable attack and transport platforms used by U.S. special operations forces. But their days may be numbered. It is difficult to imagine a small helicopter being better than the Little Bird. Read about possible replacements in “The Army’s Legendary Little Bird Might be Flying Away for Good“, Popular Mechanics, June 4, 2021.

USSOCOM’s Bronco II. An aircraft that could be used in austere environments by special operations forces looks similar to an older air platform used during the Vietnam-era. The Bronco II is designed to be rapidly disassembled, transported, and reassembled in the field by a small crew. “U.S. Special Operations advances Bronco II aircraft from prototype to flying phase”, War is Boring, June 4, 2021.

ARSOF Fielded NGLD-S TKL. Army Special Operations Forces have received special cryptographic keys to encrypt data when using tactical radios, secure phone, network encryptors, and data storage devices. “U.S. Special Forces get powerful cryptographic device”, Army.mil, June 1, 2021.

NSW and A-10s Train Together. A recent exercise conducted in late May at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas provided the opportunity for pilots wot work with Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from Naval Special Warfare Group 1. “357th FS executes Agile Dragon”, Air Combat Command, June 4, 2021.

Awards for Nigeriens On SF Mission. In October 2017 four members of the 3rd Special Forces Group were killed in an ambush in Niger by jihadists while on a joint U.S.-Nigerien patrol. In October 2019 six Nigeriens, including two who were killed, were awarded U.S. medals for combat actions and valor. “Rare awards show Nigerien valor in 2017 ambush of Army Green Berets”, Army Times, June 5, 2021.

24th SOW CoC. The 24th Special Operations Wing has a new commander as of June 4, 2021. Col. Jason Daniels will be in charge of over 2,500 Airmen of the Special Tactics unit. “Wilson native takes charge of sole USAF Special Tactics Wing”, WNCT, June 4, 2021.

Eddie Gallagher – Heading to Court Again? A former Navy SEAL who escaped going to prison has risked his freedom with some comments made during a May 2021 podcast. “The Legal Possibility for Charging SEAL Eddie Gallagher with Perjury”, Jurist, June 4, 2021.

Court-martial of Marine Raider. A member of MARSOC will appear for a court-martial to begin on June 7th. He is accused of participating in the murder of a Green Beret in Mali.

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International SOF

Russia’s Spetsnaz. A recent article provides some information about Russia’s light infantry forces and special task forces. FSB Spetznaz, Navy Spetsnaz, Airborne Forces Spetsnaz (VDV), GRU Spetsnaz, and the KSSO. Russia’s Spetsnaz, Forces.net, February 12, 2021.

UK SOF – Security Blunder. A list of personnel serving with secretive UK special operations units was accidently sent out by email to hundreds of people not cleared for the information. The SOF personnel belonged to the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), Special Air Service (SAS), Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) , and Special Boat Service (SBS). “Probe launched as names of SAS troops revealed in Army email blunder”, Daily Mail, June 2, 2021.

Exercise ORION-21. Special forces units from the USA, Greece, Israel, Cyprus, and Serbia are participating in an exercise in Greece. (Greek City Times, June 1, 2021).

Video – French SOF Cdr on the Sahel. Major General Eric Vidaud, the commander of French special forces, is interviewed about the terrorist operating in Africa’s Sahel region. “French special ops commander on adapting to terror threat in the Sahel”, France 24, June 3, 2021, 12 minutes (English).

UK SAS Departing Afghanistan. By the end of July all British troops will likely be out of Afghanistan. This includes a contingent of the Special Air Service who are safeguarding the withdrawal. “SAS unit sent to Afghanistan to complete withdrawal next month“, Express, June 6, 2021.

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SOF History

SOF and D-Day. On June 6, 1944 allied troops stormed a 50-mile stretch of beaches in Normandy in the largest amphibious operation in history. A series of special operations activities took place that assisted in the beach landings that put 150,000 men ashore at the end of the first day. These include the scaling of cliffs on the beaches, capturing bridges before the Germans could destroy them, parachuting in teams to link up with the French resistance, and more. Lucien Stervinou was one of the men who parachuted into France two days before D-Day to link up with the French resistance. A video produced by the OSS Society provides the story of the OSS and the battle for France. Read more about the exploits of the OSS in “The Special Operations That Paved the Way for D-Day”, SANDBOXX, June 4, 2021.

UK SF during World War II. Nick Jacobellis details the activities of the Long Range Desert Group, Special Air Service, and other British SF units that served during World War II. “British Special Forces in WWII”, Argunners Magazine, June 3, 2021.

SOCEUR at Normandy. The Deputy Commander for SOCEUR provided remarks at a ceremony honoring members of the French Resistance and members of the Jedburgh teams. “Special Operation Command Europe pays respects to linage at the Normandy French Resistance Memorial”, DVIDS, June 6, 2021.

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COVID-19 and the Military

COVID in the U.S. Deaths and cases are going down and America is opening up.

COVID Around the World. The U.S. will distribute 25 million vaccine doses around the world – recipients include Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa. More attention is being focused on the beginnings of the pandemic. David Asher writes on this in “The World Needs Answers on Covid’s Origin”, Hudson Institute, June 3, 2021.

U.S. Military and COVID. It still is not mandatory for U.S. service members to get a vaccine. But the DoD is putting the pressure on through ‘messaging’ and the ‘carrot and stick approach’. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was tasked by Congress to report on the DoD’s response to the pandemic and examine the military health system response to COVID-19. The GAO report is entitled DOD Has Focused on Strategy and Oversight to Protect Military Servicemember Health, GAO, June 2021, PDF, 68 pages.

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Commentary on Diversity in SOF

Diversity in Special Forces. The Special Forces detachments that operate at the tip of the spear in today’s conflicts and engagements overseas have always been and will continue to be diverse. Attempts by Congress and others to force SF to become a diverse force are missing this important point. SF was, in its early days, partially filled with personnel from different countries of Eastern Europe who contributed their regional, cultural, and language ‘diversity’ to the successful completion of its missions. During the Vietnam era there were a number of minority members in Special Forces who served numerous tours in Southeast Asia. The 7th Special Forces Group has a very high percentage of personnel whose ethnic background helps them ‘fit in’ while operating in the southern part of the Western Hemisphere. Women have always played a part in the history of special operations beginning with the female operatives of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) who jumped into France during World War II, the women who have and continue to serve with the Special Mission Units (SMUs), and the female soldiers of the Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) who were attached to special operations units in Afghanistan. Steve Balestrieri provides more details in “Diversity Has Always Been the Goal in Special Forces”, SOFREP, June 6, 2021.

Our ‘Woke’ Military. A push for progressive policies in the military bureaucracy threatens the unity and meritocracy that make our armed forces effective. Robert Berg, an active duty combat arms officer with 23 years service, argues that the focus on diversity is turning the Army into a social experiment at the cost of mission readiness. He says that the DoD will create preferences that have nothing to do with merit in an attempt to make the military ‘look like America’. “The Problem with a ‘Woke’ Military”, National Review, June 6, 2021.

Social Justice and the Army’s Mission – Losing Focus? A retired SEAL, Jocko Willink, has been speaking out about an Army recruiting video (6K likes, 170 dislikes as of June 6) that features a lesbian wedding and LGBT pride parade. He thinks that recruiting videos that get into complex social issues are counterproductive. “Army’s social justice push taking focus off mission: Jocko Willink”, Fox News, June 5, 2021.

Women in SOF. Certainly the United States Army Special Operations Command is promoting the inclusion of female soldiers in its ranks. Some wonder if USASOC is going overboard in its attempts to ensure women have a place in its units. Read “Special Operations Women Have Lost Their Mind, Again”, SOFREP, June 4, 2021.

Podcast – Celebrating the Diversity We Have. Lt. Gen. (R) Nagata is featured in this episode of The Indigenous Approach. Nagata served with more than 37 years in the Army with a lot of time in SOF. 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), June 1, 2021, 38 minutes.

Women and AFSOCs Ground Combat Assignments. In 2013 the Department of Defense began the process of opening up ground combat assignments in the military to women. These jobs included the Air Force’s special tactics officers, combat rescue officers, special reconnaissance airmen, combat controllers, TACP airmen, and pararescuemen. Of the over 5,600 special warfare billets only four are filled by women. Colonel Allison Black, the vice commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, explains that it will be a slow process to recruit and train women for these special warfare billets. “For women, battlefield airmen jobs remain a distant target five years after integration”, Air Force Times, June 7, 2021.

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National Security

Another Cyber Attack. Attacks on the world’s largest meat processors have forced numerous U.S. beef plants to close. The Russians appear to the be culprits . . . of course. Thus far the attacks have taken place against the meat supply chain in Australia and Brazil.

Patrol Boats – Going Away. The U.S. Navy has plans to retire its ‘rather new’ Mark VI Patrol Boats in the shift in focus to competition with Russia and China. It is also changing up mission sets. The Coastal River Force is now known as the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force – a name change that reflects the shift in mission to high end competition. “The Navy’s Shrinking Patrol Boat Force”, Seapower Magazine, June 2, 2021.

DoD Annual Report on Civilian Casualties. On June 2, 2021 the Department of Defense has released its annual report on civilian casualties connected to U.S. military operations in 2020. The findings state that there were about 23 civilians killed and 10 injured during this time period. Most occurred in Afghanistan. (PDF, 21 pages).

Oops! Wrong Target. The 173rd Airborne Brigade recently took part in a large-scale exercise in Bulgaria. They were in the process of hitting targets on the decommissioned Cheshnegirovo airfield when someone with less than stellar map and compass skills caused the paratroopers to hit a building adjacent to the airfield. “Oops! Paratroopers raid Bulgarian olive oil factory by mistake”, Army Times, June 1, 2021.

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Information Operations

Report – Countering Russian Propaganda. Todd Helmus and Marti Kepe have co-authored a paper that details the findings of various studies and papers that make recommendations about countering Russia propaganda. A Compendium of Recommendations for Countering Russia and Other State-Sponsored Propaganda, RAND Corporation, June 2021, PDF, 23 pages.
https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA894-1.html

Facebook Report – The State of Influence Operations 2017-2020. The security teams at Facebook have developed policies, detection tools, and enforcement frameworks to counter deceptive social media actors – both foreign and domestic. Read more in this report published by Facebook in May 2021, PDF, 44 pages.

Somalia’s Disinformation Lab. The Federation of Somali Journalists has begun a move to combat the spread of false information and propaganda. With elections coming at the end of July there is concern about the spread of disinformation on social media platforms. “Somali Journalists Launch ‘Disinformation Lab’ to Combat Spread of Fake News”, Voice of America, June 1, 2021.

Middle East

Drones Targeting US in Iraq. Drones are increasingly being used by Iranian proxy groups in Iraq to target US personnel and facilities. The US is using C-RAM and Patriot systems to guard against these attacks. “Iran’s proxies in Iraq increase drone war against US forces”, The Jerusalem Post, June 6, 2021. Read more in “IntelBrief: Welcome to the “New Normal”: Non-State Actors and the Use of Drones”, The Soufan Center, June 3, 2021.

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Afghanistan

The US and its allies are pulling out of Afghanistan. They are doing this despite the lack of any progress in peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The international community is departing Afghanistan at a rapid pace and should be completely withdrawn by September 2021. The U.S. says it will be able to reinforce the U.S. embassy with a Marine contingent from the region if necessary.

What Would Peace Look Like? A temporary truce to mark the end of Ramadan allowed Afghans to celebrate in relative peace. Franz J. Marty, a Kabul-based journalist, describes a rare respite from the fighting. “3-Day Ceasefire Gives Some Respite to Afghans”, The Diplomat, May 17, 2021.

Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In a recent speech (late May) President Biden said that the US doesn’t need to base US troops inside Afghanistan. He believes that “over-the-horizon” (OTH) operations can take care of any terrorist threats from Al Qaeda should they return to Afghanistan. Sounds good . . . except Al Qaeda is already there. Read more about Joe Biden’s problem with OTH operations and fighting terrorism in “Al-Qaeda is Still in Afghanistan, and It’s Fighting for Victory”, FDD’s The Dispatch, June 4, 2021.

Drone Warfare in Afghanistan. An excerpt from Wesley Morgan’s new book reveals some details of the drone campaign by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the mountainous region of northeast Afghanistan. “How the War in Afghanistan Revealed an Evolving Drone Fleet’s Mettle – and Shortcomings”, Popular Science, May 29, 2021.

CIA Scrambling in Afghanistan. The rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces has the Central Intelligence Agency seeking ways to maintain its intelligence-gathering, warfighting, and counterterrorism operations in the country. “C.I.A. Scrambles for New Approach in Afghanistan”, The New York Times, June 6, 2021. (subscription)

Afghan Air Power at Risk. The loss of U.S. contractors who support the Afghan Air Force could mean a game-changing shift in the military balance between the Afghan security forces and the insurgents. “Without U.S. contractors, the Afghan military will lose its main advantage over the Taliban – air power”, NBC News, June 6, 2021.

A Bleak Future? Since the beginning of May over 25 bases and outposts have been abandoned or surrendered by the Afghan government security forces. The future seems bleak if one reads the many news articles speculating on what a post-withdrawal Afghanistan will look like. The Afghan forces are struggling, demoralized, and rife with corruption.

The Afghans Failed. Ajmal Shams, vice president of the Afghanistan Social Democratic Party, argues that the Afghans squandered the money that was provided by the international community over the past 20 years. “Afghanistan should not blame others for its won faults”, Arab News, May 27, 2021.

Africa

Chinese, PSCs, and Africa. The investment in Africa by China has grown significantly in recent years. Along with these development ventures are the presence of some Chinese private security corporations that are protecting Chinese assets and projects on the continent. “Chinese Mercenaries in Africa”, Small Wars Journal, June 5, 2021.

Mali – SF Cdr Now Strongman. In May the Mali military detained the president and prime minister of the interim government that was installed in a coup in August 2020. The coup leader, is set to become the newest president. Read more in “Mali’s Assimi Goita: special forces commander turned strongman”, The Economic Times, June 7, 2021.

Boko Haram Leader Dead? Reports in the news indicate that Abubakar Shekau, the longtime leader of Boko Haram, has been killed by rival jihadists. Alex Thurston provides details about Nigeria’s number one enemy in “If Boko Haram’s Leader is Dead, What’s Next for Northeastern Nigeria?”, Lawfare Blog, May 30, 2021.

Food Supply in Africa. Two Civil Affairs officers detail the rise in price of food in Africa and believe that it could be a source of political instability and social unrest in Africa. “Monitoring the Growing Threat of Food Inflation in Africa”, Eunomia Journal, The Civil Affairs Association, June 2, 2021.

‘Environmental Peacebuilding’ in Africa. Two ‘Human Domain Analysts’ from Belgium discuss a new buzz term used in discussions concerning the future of military operations in the Sahel. (Small Wars Journal, June 5, 2021).

An Important Cog in AFRICOM’s Logistical Support System. A support battalion located at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti provides contractual and logistical support to U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, service components, and various task forces assigned to the continent of Africa. “405th AFSB’s Africa battalion provides multiple levels of support to AFRICOM”, DVIDS, June 7, 2021.

Upcoming Events

June 11, 2021. Virtual Event
FY22 Defense Intelligence Enterprise Posture Hearing
Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations

June 16, 2021. Virtual Event
2021 SOF Imperatives Forum
Global SOF Foundation

June 23, 2021. Virtual Event
SOF Stories Live! – MARSOC Part 2
Global SOF Foundation

July 11, 2021. Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts
11th Annual Blackbeard’s Motorcycle Ride
Matthew Pucino Memorial Foundation


Guest Writers for SOF News

SOF News welcomes the submission of articles for publication. If it is related to special operations, current conflicts, national security, or defense then we are interested.


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Podcasts and Videos

Podcast – The Daughters of Kobani: How a Group of Women Brought the Fight to the Islamic State. This podcast episode explores the story of the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units. Participants in the discussion are Gayle Tzemach Lemmon – author of several books and retired General Joseph Votel – former commander of USSOCOM and CENTCOM. Irregular Warfare Podcast, Modern Warfare Institute at West Point, June 4, 2021, 40 minutes.

Podcast – Special Forces in Great Power Competition. Jack Watling explains the conclusions in his recent paper on the challenges facing special forces over the coming two decades. The Western Way of War, June 2021, 35 minutes.

Podcast – Withdrawal of U.S. and Allies from Afghanistan. Lisa Curtis (Center for a New American Security) and Federica Mogherini (former High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs) discuss the withdrawal of European, US, and other international military forces from Afghanistan. (CNAS, April 30, 2021, 43 minutes).

Video – The Osama bin Laden Raid. The OSS Society presents a webcast featuring Hon. Leon Panetta, Hon. Michael Vickers, and Adm. William McRaven (Ret.). The video is part of the “Oh So Social” Conversation Series. On the 10th anniversary of the OBL raid these guests provide their thoughts on the historic event – Vimeo, 2 hours.
https://vimeo.com/551762043/db92a57c72

Podcast – Dan Schilling, Author and Air Force Special Operations Veteran. An air Force Combat Controller veteran talks about becoming a CCT and his missions he performed around the world. SOFREP Radio, June 5, 2021, 45 minutes.

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Photo: U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier, attached to Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, providing security prior to an assault in the Alingar district, Laghman province, Afghanistan, Feb. 18, 2018. Photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez.


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SOF News provides news, analysis, commentary, and information about special operations forces (SOF) from around the world.