Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Photo: Members of Greek Special Forces (SOF) prepare for Exercise Orion 22 as they jump from the ramp of a Greek Air Force C-130 aircraft during airborne operation over a coastal area near Elefsina, Greece, March 30, 2022. Exercise Orion reinforces Greece as a regional SOF leader, enhances interoperability across multiple domains, and strengthens relationships with NATO and non-NATO partners. The exercise focuses on highlighting operational capabilities, international collaborations and conventional and hybrid warfare training. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Hannah Hawkins)
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SOFIC 2022. The annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference will be held in Tampa, Florida from May 16-19, 2022. The event features the latest in SOF equipment and capabilities from over 400 companies in the exhibit hall. There are a host of speakers from the United States Special Operations command and industry experts that will provide presentations as well as engage in discussions in panel events. https://www.sofic.org/
Pentagon Bureaucracy and USSOCOM. The Special Operations Forces Digital Applications program office is bypassing the traditional DoD bureaucracy to field software such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) at a rapid pace. In existence for over two years, the SDA has done well. “Special Ops Software Office Takes on Pentagon Bureaucracy”, National Defense Magazine, May 9, 2022.
SOCOM and IT. United States Special Operations Command is incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning into its digital world. SOCOM’s efforts in this area is having benefits for the Department of Defense as well. Technologies that are unique to the special operations communities will soon be used across the department. “SOCOM Technologies Blaze Trails for Others in Defense”, The Cyber Edge, May 1, 2022.
Exercise Northern Viking 22. In April 2022, the U.S. Sixth Fleet and units from other NATO and partners joined together in an exercise held in Iceland. “Northern Viking 22: How US Special Forces Trained for War (In Iceland)”, 1945, May 7, 2022.
UK’s SF Getting Increased Firepower. Britain’s Special Forces are to get a major boost to their offensive capability when a mobile artillery gun is mounted on their all-terrain vehicles. “Huge boost for UK special forces as 105mm howitzer gun added to vehicles”, Express, May 9, 2022.
Two NATO SOF Units Almost Fought Each Other in the 1990s. In early 1996, Greek and Turkish special operations forces came very close to fighting each other over a pair of small Aegean islands. (Business Insider, May 8, 2022).
1980 Hostage Rescue. In 1979, a group of Iranian students took American hostages in the U.S. embassy in Tehran. A failed rescue operation by the United States led to some significant changes for U.S. SOF and the establishment of U.S. Special Operations Command. “Special Operations Were Changed Forever After a Disastrous 1980 Hostage Rescue Mission”, War History Online, May 4, 2022.
Maj Gen “Swede” Svendsen Remembered. An Air Force officer who served in three wars once served with the 1st Air Commando Wing in Vietnam. His career is detailed in “What’s in a Photo?”, Air Force’s Personnel Center, May 9, 2022.
Soldier of Fortune Magazine. In the 1970s, one of the more interesting print journals available for members of Special Forces was Soldier of Fortune Magazine. The magazine provided stories of the Vietnam War, elite units of the U.S. military like the Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces, and covered conflict areas in Africa, Central and South American, and around the world. If you entered the ‘team room’ of a SF detachment, you would likely find Soldier of Fortune magazine on a shelf or table. The magazine no longer has a print edition but maintains a presence online. The magazine publisher is turning the enterprise over to a new publisher. “Soldier of Fortune Founder Robert K. Brown Passes the Torch to New Publisher After 47 Years”, SOFMAG.com, May 6, 2022.
OTH CT and Risk to Civilians. Katherine Zimmerman offers her thoughts on the use of drones and proxy forces to combat terrorists in foreign countries. “Relying on ‘over-the-horizon’ counterterrorism increases risks to civilians”, The Hill, May 9, 2022.
H&K MP5. One of the most recognized and popular sub-machine guns ever is the MP5. One of its first uses took place in 1977 at the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, when members of the West German counterterrorism unit GSG-9 rescued 91 passengers and crew on the hijacked Lufthansa Flight 181. A few years later the British SAS would use the weapon when doing the hostage rescue at the Iranian Embassy in London. “Meet the Heckler & Koch MP5: The Most Popular Submachine Gun Ever?”, 1945, May 9, 2022.
Report on Cyber Incidents. For more than 20 years cyber-enabled espionage against the United States has been a challenge and the future seems likely to see more and more of these challenges. A recent report examines recent cyber attacks by Russia and China against the U.S. and our governments response to the cyber threat. The publication provides four general recommendations. Read Many Hands in the Cookie Jar, RAND Corporation, May 2022, PDF, 52 pages.
Anti-Terrorism and Cyberspace. One of the most crucial missions performed by intelligence services is the fight against jihadist terrorism on the internet. But the effort has little publicity and is mostly fought behind the curtains. The United States Cyber Command has acknowledged publicly that it is conducting offensive operations in cyberspace to combat the Islamic State and other jihadist terrorist organizations. “How to Erode Terrorists’ Trust in Cyberspace: The Role of Intelligence Services”, Homeland Security Today, May 9, 2022.
Russia, Europe, NATO, and Ukraine
Putin’s Victory Day Speech. Every year on May 9th Russia celebrates the Soviet Union’s victory over Germany at the end of World War II. There were some worries and speculation on what the President of Russia would be saying this year. Some thought he would take the occasion to declare victory in Ukraine, call on a general mobilization for a general war in Ukraine, or make threats to escalate the confrontation between Russia and NATO nations. None of this seems to have taken place. “In Speech, Putin Shows Reluctance in Demanding Too Much of Russians”, The New York Times, May 9, 2022. (subscription)
GRU Takes Lead from FSB. At the start of the invasion of Ukraine, the Fifth Service of the Federal Security Service (FSB) provided Putin with intelligence on Ukraine and had a leading role in the invasion preparation. The FSB is now being sidelined with the emergence of the GRU in the Ukrainian War effort. The man heading up the GRU’s activities in Ukraine started out his career in the GRU with the 14th Directorate – leading the Spetsnaz, the paramilitary arm of the agency. Read more in “The Shadow War: Putin Strips Spies of Ukraine Role”, Europe’s Edge, May 9, 2022.
Scandinavian Non-Alignment. For decades two northern European countries have maintained a neutral stance in the confrontation between western European powers and the Soviet Union (and then Russia). The aggressive actions of Russia over the past two decades, and now the invasion of Ukraine, have swayed both Sweden and Finland to reconsider their positions. “The end of Nordic neutrality”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, May 5, 2022.
Task Force Yankee in Ukraine. There are various non-government organizations in the U.S. and Europe assisting Ukraine with medical supplies, humanitarian aid, and other means to resist the invasion of Ukraine. Some news articles about these organizations are publishing inaccurate accounts of the activities of these organizations. One of these groups is Task Force Yankee. Read more in “Task Force Yankee: ‘We Are Not a Mercenary Group”, SOFREP, May 9, 2022.
U.S. Built RPG-7s for Ukraine. A well-known Russian designed anti-tank weapon is now being produced by America and supplied to Ukraine military forces. “American Built RPG-7s Being Used in Ukraine Against Russians”, SOFREP, May 9, 2022.
Afghan Adjustment Act (AAA). There is a big push by various organizations that are helping Afghans who fled Afghanistan during the August 2021 non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) at Kabul airport and afterwards who are now in the United States and others who still wish to leave Afghanistan. Over 70,000 Afghans who entered the U.S. shortly after the fall of the government and Taliban takeover were given Humanitarian Parole. Now there is an effort to have language inserted into the Ukraine Supplemental bill currently being considered in Congress to assist these Afghans and many thousands of others who wish to come to the United States. The Afghan Adjustment Act provides a pathway to citizenship for the many currently resettled in the U.S. There are various versions of the legislative text that goes much further. Some veteran organizations are endorsing the AAA. But some are not; displeased with a lack of transparency on the bill and some inadequacies in what the bill does. The Moral Compass Federation, a group representing 18 SOF-focused veteran organizations involved in the Afghan evac effort, has come out against the AAA.
OTH CT in Afghanistan. Jonathan Schroden proposes and evaluates several over the horizon options that would help the United States with the ability to manage the terrorism threat in Afghanistan by the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups. “New Ideas for Over-the-Horizon Counterterrorism in Afghanistan”, Lawfare Blog, May 8, 2022.
White Mercenaries in Africa. Paramilitary groups have increased their presence and influence in many countries in Africa over the past few decades. Governments have found their militaries have been unable to cope with bandits and insurgents, and are now relying on private contractors to provide security. One of the more active organizations is the Wagner Group, a group that has a close association with Russian intelligence agencies. “White Hands: The rise of private armies in Africa conflicts”, Alazeera, April 28, 2022.
Niger Replacing Mali as Western Ally? France and its European partners are leaving Mali due to increasing anti-French sentiment and military takeover of the Mali government. The redeployment of two French-led CT missions – Operation Barkhane and Task Force Takuba (European SOF) – from Mali is taking place. However, the decade long struggle against jihadists continues. Niger is stepping up – offering the Europeans a space to operate against the terrorist groups that are found in the Sahel. “Analysis: Can Niger become the main Western ally in the Sahel?”, Aljazeera, May 9, 2022.
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Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Podcast – That Post-West Point CEO Life. A retired SOF West Point alum discusses life after wearing the U.S. Army uniform. Hear about some world class information for anyone entering the civilian workplace with military experience. Pineland Underground Podcast, USAJFKSWCS, April 29, 2022.
Video – The First Green Beret in Afghanistan | Justin Sapp. After the 9/11 attacks, small CIA paramilitary teams were secreted into Afghanistan to pave the way for a larger Special Forces deployment. Amongst them was Green Beret Justin Sapp who was the first U.S. Special Forces soldier to infiltrate into Afghanistan. The Team House, April 29, 2022, YouTube.
Video – AFSOC Heritage Week 2022. The Air Force Special Operations Command celebrates its history with events and flyovers at Hurlburt Field, Florida, during the week of April 18-22, 2022. Watch a quick 2-minute video with flyovers and speeches celebrating the occasion. DVIDS, April 28, 2022, 2 minutes.
Chris Pratt – Navy SEAL. Well, maybe not in real life, but the action movie star plays one in an upcoming series to air on Prime Video July 1st. The Terminal List is based on a book by the same name. (Entertainment, May 9, 2022).
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