Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Topics include SOF history, Afghanistan, Little Bird, Somalia, NSW, Russian’s SOBR, ransomware attacks, upcoming SOF events, and more.
General Scott Miller Finishes Long Tour. The commander of the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan has finally passed his command on to a new commander effective Monday, July 12, 2021. General Scott Miller leaves Afghanistan after serving almost three years as the RSM head military officer. All told, he has spent many years in Afghanistan to include commander of CFSOCC-A and later as commander of NSOCC-A/SOJTF-A. He is a veteran of the Battle of Mogadishu and a former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). See “In symbolic end to war, U.S. general to step down from command in Afghanistan”, Reuters, July 12, 2021. Navy Rear Admiral Peter Vasely, a Navy SEAL, will lead a newly created organization called U.S. Forces Afghanistan – Forward. The primary mission will be protecting the embassy and international airport in Kabul.
GB Silver Star Award Reveals Somalia Operations. Six years ago a brutal firefight took place when Somali soldiers, backed by Kenyan forces, retook an important al-Shabab stronghold. A member of the 10th Special Forces Group, played a key role in the battle – code named Operation Piga Jangili. “Green Beret’s Silver Star Sheds Light on US Ground Combat in Somalia”, Miltary.com, July 7, 2021.
Q & A With IWTSD Director. Bob Newberry, the director of the Pentagon’s Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate, is interviewed by the directorate’s priorities and working with industry. He reports to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict. (National Defense, Jul 7, 2021).
Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins Honored. The Alabama State Board of Veterans Affairs has approved naming the new state veterans home in South Alabama in memory of a Green Beret Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins. (Alabama News, Jul 9, 2021).
919th SOW CoC. The 919th Special Operations Wing has a new commander. Colonel Jason Grandy took command during a ceremony on July 11, 2021 at Duke Field, Florida. (919th SOW, Jul 11, 2021).
Update on NSW Programs. Peter Ong provides some details on NSW developments ranging from Combat Crafts to mini submersibles that were briefed at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) held virtually in May 2021. All contracted Combat Craft Mediums (30) have been delivered, two of the Combat Craft Heavy have been delivered, and all of the Combat Craft Assault (32) have been fielded and are being sustained. The article goes on to describe the SOC-Riverine Craft, SDVs, and more. “Naval Special Warfare Programs Update With USSOCOM at SOFIC 2021”, Naval News, July 10, 2021.
AC-130 Gunship and SOF. Stavros Atlamazoglou informs us on the long-time service of the gunship that has provided close air support for special operations troops all over the world for decades. (Business Insider, Jul 12, 2021).
SOF, Submarines, and ‘Lockouts’. Kris Osborn provides the details on how special operations forces can quietly conduct clandestine undersea missions without needing to surface or generate a large acoustic signature. He describes the ‘lock out trunk’ – a specially configured compartment near the top of a submarine that can fill up with water and then empty as needed. Read about it in “Special Forces Can Conduct Undersea Ops Without Making a Sound”, The National Interest, July 8, 2021.
Marine Raider Reduced in Rank for Death of Green Beret. A Marine has received a light sentence for his role in the killing of a Green Beret in Mali in 2017. He is being reduced in rank, received a reprimand, and will be confined for six months. He will not receive a bad conduct discharge nor dishonorable discharge. And he will not have to forfeit any salary or pay any fines. “Marine Raider gunny busted to private but no discharge in Green Beret hazing death”, Marine Corps Times, July 12, 2021.
Little Bird – Being Phased Out? USSOCOM has reached a decision point on the AH-6 and MH-6 Little Bird used by the Night Stalkers of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The helicopters conduct close air support and assaults and transport commandos to targets. “The Ferrari of US special operations helicopters may soon be headed out of service”, Business Insider, July 7, 2021. See also “The famous Spec. Ops. “Little Bird” might be retired soon”, War is Boring, July 9, 2021.
Russia’s SOBR. The majority of terrorism incidents in Russia are handled by the Special Squad, Rapid Reaction teams. These regional teams are elite police units that were formed after the fall of the Soviet Union to combat organized crime. However the SOBR teams soon found themselves on the front line against terrorists from the republics of Chechnya and Dagestan. Find out more in “SOBR: The Killer Russian Special Forces Unit You Need to Know About”, 1945, July 7, 2021.
1st SFG(A) and Thai CT Force. Green Berets from the 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) recently worked with the Thailand Counter-Terrorism Operations Center Assault Force. The focus of the training was on CQB, combat marksmanship, tactical combat casualty care, rapelling, and crisis response planning. (Army.mil, Jul 12, 2021).
JCET and Côte d’Ivoire Forces Speciales Ivoirennes. A Joint Combined Exercise Training event concluded on July 9, 2021 in Cote d’Ivoire. The country will be one of the training locations for Flintlock 2022. A SOCAFRICA SOF team conducted CQC, first aid, mission planning, and jungle warfare training. (DVIDS, Jul 9, 2021).
It’s Not Over Yet? Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton says that Australia could send SOF personnel back into Afghanistan if needed to prevent terrorist attacks. That last Australian soldiers – about 80 – flew out in June 2021. (The Sidney Morning Herald, Jul 11, 2021).
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Some Historical Milestones:
On July 9, 1941 the First Special Service Force was officially activated.
On July 8, 1961 the 20th Special Forces Group (A) was activated in Birmingham, Alabama.
On July 9, 1961 teams of Green Berets began organizing and training tribesmen in the Central Highlands of Vietnam into the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG).
Wild Bill Donovan and the OSS. Steve Balestrieri provides details on the career of the head of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. “Wild Bill Donovan, The Grandfather of American Intelligence”, SOFREP, July 11, 2021.
Srebrencia Massacre. 26 years ago Serbian forces killed over 8,000 Bosniak unarmed men and boys in July 1995. The town was captured by Serbian forces and the men and boys were gathered up, transported to areas outside of the city, and then killed.
COVID-19 and the Military
COVID in the US and Around the World. Death rates from COVID in the United States are sharply down; however new cases are starting to appear with the rise of the Delta variant among those locations with low vaccination rates. Other parts of the world are continuing to experience high death rates due to COVID.
COVID and the Military. The Department of Defense could begin mandatory vaccinations for COVID among military personnel by September 2021. The military has a long history of ‘mandatory vaccinations’ – so it should come as no surprise that the COVID vaccine will be mandated. Read more in “Military weighing mandatory COVID-19 vaccine after full FDA approval”, by Davis Winkie, Army Times, July 6, 2021.
The U.S. and Modern Conflict. James Jay Carafano provides insight into the ‘principles of war’ – saying that it is one of the first and most enduring doctrinal constructs to arise in Western warfare. He says newer concepts on warfighting are more sophisticated and complicated but that they haven’t really helped in winning wars. “America and the March Toward Modern Conflict”, The National Interest, June 24, 2021.
A Shabby Ending. Andrew Milburn, a retired MARSOC officer and author of When the Tempest Gathers, expresses his concern about the situation in Afghanistan.
“Everyone knew of course that we were going to leave — but surely not without any coherent plan to shape what comes next. No ceasefire, no political agreements or military support arrangements to mitigate the likely onset of mayhem and civil war. Instead, a stealthy departure under the cover of darkness. A turning point without destination. A shabby, furtive end to America’s longest war.”
Milburn makes the case that keeping a small, elite force of 2,000 to 3,000 personnel and contractors to assist with the Afghan army’s vehicle and aircraft maintenance and logistics system would have made a big difference. Read more in “A shabby ending: The US flight from Afghanistan was a mistake”, Military Times, July 11, 2021.
“Doing Too Much”. LTC Mike Nelson (SF) and Jennifer Cafarella provide their perspective on the past two decades in Afghanistan. In a two part commentary (part one and part two) they argue that the United States lacked clearly definable goals in the Afghan conflict. “Doing Too Much Loses Wars – Like Afghanistan”, The Scif, July 6, 2021.
Great Power Competition
China, YouTube, and Disinformation. Co-ordinated videos have recently been appearing online (YouTube and other media) to counter reports from independent media on the treatment of the Uyghur community in the Xinjiang region of China. Some of these videos are produced by foreigners who seem to be quite favorably disposed to Red China. Read more in “The foreigners in China’s disinformation drive”, BBC News, July 11, 2021.
Russia and Ransomware Attacks. The U.S. may strike back against online criminal organizations in Russia that are responsible for cyber attacks against U.S. firms. There are fears that if the attacks continue they could cripple key sectors of the U.S. economy. President Biden has put in a call to President Putin (again) to get the Russians to do something about the problem.
Lithuanian President Visits Polish SOCC. Gitanas Nauseda spent some time visiting the Polish Special Operations Component Command on Sunday, July 11, 2021. The visit was part of a tour of historical places in Poland. Nauseda was a member of a Polish special operations unit in his younger days. “Polish-Lithuanian union times best for two countries – Duda”, The First News (PL), July 11, 2021. In other news the Lithuanian Prime Minister announced that her government would build a barrier between Lithuania and Belarus to prevent migrants from crossing the border into Lithuania. EU officials believe Minsk is seeking revenge for Western sanctions over a number of issues and has assisted migrants in moving through Belarus into Lithuania. “Lithuania to build wall along Belarus border“, Deutsche Welle, July 7, 2021.
South of the Border
Haiti – A President Assassinated and Request for U.S. Military Assistance. The president of Haiti, Jovenel Moise, was killed by a group that included two Americans of Haitian descent and 26 Colombians. Now the country is in a state of turmoil and the government has asked the U.S. to send in troops to protect key facilities. The U.S. is sending in some law enforcement and homeland security officials to assist in the investigation of the assassination. Apparently the plot to assassinate the Haitian president was connected with a security firm in Miami, Florida. The firm, called CTY Security run by a Venezuelan emigre, is formally registered as the Counter Terrorist Unit Federal Academy LLC. Read more in “Colombians held in Haitian assassination say Florida firm hired them”, Tampa Bay Times, July 10, 2021. A Haitian doctor has been arrested under suspicion that he was one of the leaders behind the nighttime assassination of the President.
Cuba Happenings. Some news reports indicate that demonstrations are taking place in the streets in opposition to some government policies. The country is having some economic difficulties and poor services offered by the socialized medical system. Something to keep an eye on over the next few weeks. For more see “Freedom! Thousands of Cubans take to the streets to demand the end of dictatorship”, Miami Herald, July 12, 2021.
Meanwhile, Julie Chung, the Acting Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs tweeted on Sunday night:
“Peaceful protests are growing in #Cuba as the Cuban people exercise their right to peaceful assembly to express concern about rising COVID cases/deaths & medicine shortages. We commend the numerous efforts of the Cuban people mobilizing to help neighbors in need.”
Border Crisis. The deployment of up to 3,000 troops to the U.S. border with Mexico has been authorized by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Thousands are currently at the border providing surveillance assistance to the Customs and Border Patrol. “Southern border mission for US troops extends another year”, Military Times, July 7, 2021.
ISIS Regrouping in Iraq. The special operations forces of Iraq are busy hunting fighters of the Islamic State in the area south of Kirkuk – territory where ISIS hopes to regain a foothold. The terrain is difficult for counterinsurgency operations and favors ISIS. Small bands of fighters have been attacking military and police checkpoints, assassinating local leaders, and interrupting electrical grids. Read more in “They Will Never Let Go: ISIS Fighters Regroup in the Heart of Iraq”, The Guardian, July 11, 2021.
Iran, Iraq Militias, and U.S. The military personnel stationed in Iraq are continuing to experience rocket and drone attacks by militia groups affiliated with Iran. Drone attacks have increased in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Some news reports indicate that Iran is putting pressure on the Kurds to distance themselves from the United States.
U.S. Policy for the Sahel and Coastal West Africa. The United States has some difficult policy choices to make when considering the violent extremism, democratic backsliding, and strategic competition (Russia and China) in the Sahel and coastal West Africa. Judd Devermont, the director of the the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, has some thoughts on this topic. “False Choices: U.S. Policy toward Coastal West Africa and the Sahel”, CSIS, June 24, 2021.
France Looks for ISR and SOF Help from US in Sahel. A request for continued ISR support and US Special Forces from France has the Pentagon and Biden Administration pondering how much involvement in the Sahel they wish to endure. France is pulling about 2,000 out of the region where they currently have 5,100 personnel – including those assigned to Task Force Takuba – an elite special operations force made up of European SOF. “France Stresses Need for Continued American ISR in African Sahel”, by Abaham Mahshie, Air Force Magazine, July 9, 2021. Jacqueline Feldscher reports that France and the United States signed an agreement on Friday, July 9, 2021, to cooperate more closely on counterterrorism operations. “French, U.S. Special Forces Agree to Beef Up Partnership in Africa”, Defense One, July 9, 2021. At a joint press conference with the French Minister of the Armed Forces on July 9, 2021 Secretary of Defense made reference to a “Special Operations Forces roadmap”:
“. . . I’m looking forward to signing the Special Operations Forces roadmap, which paves the way for enhanced cooperation between our Special Operations Forces, who have a long history of working together on a number of issues.”
More Foreign Troops for Mozambique. Rwanda says it is sending help to Mozambique to help fight Islamist militants in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. Rwanda is joining other nations in the South African Development Community in providing security forces to Mozambique. “Rwanda Sends 1,000 Soldiers, Police to Fight Mozambique Militants”, Voice of America, July 9, 2021.
The news coming out of Afghanistan is disheartening. The Taliban are making rapid advances throughout the rural areas and continuing terror attacks in the large and mid-sized cities. Afghan Air Force pilots are being assassinated by the Taliban if they venture off base. The Afghan Commandos are exhausted – being sent to put out one fire after another.
Future US Goals. The Department of Defense has outlined future goals that it is focused on in Afghanistan: protecting the diplomatic presence in country, enabling for the sae operation of the Kabul airport, providing appropriate advice and assistance to the ANDSF, and supporting U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
Plight of the Afghan Interpreters. The Biden administration is providing a lot of lip service to helping Afghan interpreters out of Afghanistan. But thus far it is not apparent that any have been flown to safety as of yet. Many national security observers, veterans of the Afghan conflict, and others are wondering what awaits those who risked their lives to help us. Some US Army Special Ops veterans are taking matters into their own hands to get trusted allies out of Afghanistan. Some veterans have suggested that the quickest way for an Afghan interpreter to get into the United States is to fly to Central America – and then head north until they hit the U.S. southern border. Should be a piece of cake at that point.
Afghan Briefing. Abubakar Siddique offers a summary of the past weeks events in Afghanistan. Topics include the plight of interpreters, Taliban’s legitimacy, end to America’s war, Turkey’s future with Afghanistan, and more. “Taliban Gains, Afghan Borders, Biden Speech”, Gandara Briefing, July 9, 2021. His newsletter (emailed once a week) is a good news update on Afghanistan to follow if interested in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s Northern Districts, the Border, and Central Asia. A few of the nations that share Afghanistan’s northern border have some deep concerns on the rapid Taliban advance in the northern provinces of Afghanistan. A large base of support for the Afghan government has always been from the people of the northern provinces. The north has been considered the home of Afghanistan’s elite power brokers and many of the government officials. Afghan military personnel and government officials based in districts along the northern border have fled to neighboring Tajikistan or Uzbekistan. Tajikistan has been reinforcing its border as the Afghan forces have collapsed.
Captured ANDSF Vehicles. An investigation of social media found that during the month of June the Taliban captured over 700 trucks and Humvees from the Afghan security forces. This included armored vehicles and artillery systems. Many of the Afghan police and army units are evaporating or surrendering without a fight – and turning over vehicles, weapons, equipment, and small outposts and bases to the insurgents. The lost vehicles include Ford Ranger light trucks, Navistar International 7000 medium trucks, Humvees, and Oshkosh ATV mine-resistant armored vehicles. “One Month, 700 Trucks: Afghanistan’s U.S. Military Vehicles Fall Into Taliban Hands”, Forbes, June 30, 2021.
U.S. State Department’s Air Wing. Travel between the embassy and the international airport used to be primarily via a ground route – almost a straight line for 2 miles on a two lane (each way) hard surfaced road. However several years back – as the IED attacks against the movement of personnel increased (as did the casualties) travel became more frequent on helicopters. Both the embassy and the International Security Assistance Force or ISAF (later called Resolute Support Mission or RSM) increased the use of helicopters for the short journey. Read more about how the State Department’s Air Wing will be critical to keeping American’s safe if the security situation in the country continues to deteriorate. “State Department’s New Black Hawks in Afghanistan Could Prove Especially Important After Withdrawal“, The Drive / War Zone, July 2, 2021.
Medical Advances. One of the more positive outcomes of the long Afghan conflict has been the medical advances that were first done on the battlefield and then later incorporated into the civilian world. During 20 years of operation in Afghanistan, battlefield medicine and treatment have advanced in ways which would have been thought impossible in peacetime, “Medical Advances in Afghanistan Bring More Soldiers Home From Operations”, Army UK, July 9, 2021.
July 13-16, 2021
Fort Bragg VA Disability Claims and Benefits Seminar
Green Beret Foundation
July 14, 2021. Webcast
The State of Special Operations Forces
Conversation with Rep. Stephanie Murphy and Seth Jones
Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS)
July 16, 2021. Newport, Kentucky
Riverboating for Berets
Green Beret Foundation
July 29, 2021. Washington, D.C. (Can be viewed online)
Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations Markup
National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2022
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Book – Handbook of U.s. Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations. Essays by leading scholars and practitioners on the topic of CT and IW campaigns and operations around the globe. Routledge, 2021, 536 pages.
CTC Sentinel. The July / August 2021 issue is now online. Several articles about right wing extremism in the U.S. and New Zealand. Combating Terrorism Center, West Point. PDF, 56 pages.
Book on Iraq War. Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) is co-authoring a book about his time while serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq. Gallego is the chair of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations. Read about his book in “Iraq War combat a focus of new book co-authored by Marine veteran congressman”, Miltary Times, July 6, 2021.
Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Video – Liberation of Manila. In January 1945 the U.S. Army returned to the Philippines to oust the Japanese from the islands. Elements of the Sixth Army participated in a month-long block by block, building by building battle to liberate the Philippine capital of Manila. DVIDS, July 2, 2021, one hour.
Video – Ft. Carson Paradrop. A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the Wyoming Army National Guard conducted a joint paradrop training mission with the 10th special Forces Group on May 20, 2021. Both high altitude and static line jumps are featured. Video, 197th Public Affairs Detachment, May 20, 2021, 3 minutes.
Photo: Navy SEALs conduct diving operations alongside the attack submarine USS New Mexico during training in the Mediterranean Sea, June 28, 2021. (photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)