Special Operations News Update – September 5, 2023

Green Beret Spanish JCET 2023

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

Photo / Image: A U.S. Army Green Beret with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) during a Joint Combined Exchange Training exercise, June 29, 2023, near Alicante, Spain. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Dunlap, Special Operations Command Europe)

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SOF News

SOTG-C, MC-130Js, and JASSMs. U.S. Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central) service members demonstrated the capability for the MC-130J Commando II to load, unload, forward arm, and arm the aircraft with the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, or AGM-158 JASSMs (SOF News), as part of Rapid Dragon, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Aug. 6, 2023. JASSM is a low observable standoff air-launched cruise missile, intended to keep aircrews out of range of hostile air defense systems without compromising lethality. Rapid Dragon is a precision munitions capability for medium-sized or larger cargo aircraft that allows U.S. forces a flexible rapid response option. “AFCENT Special Operations Task Group prepares JASSM capabilities”, by Jennifer Zima, U.S. Air Force Central, August 26, 2023.

SOCOM Needs New Tech. The vice commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Francis Donovan, outlined the needs of the SOF community during a conference in Austin, Texas. He said we need to leverage the lessons learned during the Global War of Terrorism (GWOT) era; but also look ahead to the change in mission (strategic competition with Russia and China) and how technology can be leveraged by the SOF community. “SOCOM Needs New Tech, Old Approaches, Senior Leader Says”, by Sean Carberry, National Defense Magazine, August 25, 2023.

3rd SFG(A) Soldier Charged with Murder. Army Sgt. Rolondo Boone was arrested on August 28, 2023, and charged with first degree murder in connection with an April 2, 2023, shooting at an off-base hookah bar. Boone is a unit supply specialist for 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Liberty (formerly FBNC), North Carolina. “Soldier assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group charged with murder”, Task and Purpose, August 30, 2023.

USAF Special Warfare Assessment & Selection. Air Force Special Warfare Guardian Angel and Special Tactics (GA/ST) operators, comprised of pararescuemen, combat controllers, special reconnaissance Airmen, special tactics officers and combat rescue officers must be selected into their career fields before continuing on to career-specific courses and training. “What is Assessment & Selection?”, Special Warfare Training Wing, by Miriam A. Thurber, August 28, 2023.

CSOJTF-L Casualty. A contractor assigned to Combined Special Operations Joint Task Force – Levant died of suspected natural causes in the vicinity of Mosul, Iraq, Aug. 31. The contractor’s identity will be released at the discretion of the pertinent national authorities. (CJSOJTF-L, Sep 3, 2023)

Arrest Made in 2020 Death of SF Soldier on FBNC. A 23-year-old man has been arrested for the December 2020 slayings of a Green Beret and veteran whose bodies were found on Fort Bragg. (Fayetteville Observer, Aug 25, 2023).

26th MEU(SOC) in Norway. Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (Special Operations Capable), embarked on the USS Mesa Verde, with attached elements of Italian Marines from the San Marco Brigade, concluded a successful bilateral training exercise with Brigade North Norwegian Soldiers, aimed at enhancing their warfighting lethality and interoperability with our ally and partners above the Arctic Circle, from August 5 – 21, 2023. “26th MEU(SOC) Concludes Bi-Lateral Training in Norway”, by 1st lt. Stephanie Downing, marines.mil.

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International SOF

Afghanistan’s CF333. The British were instrumental in the formation, training, funding, and support of the Afghan Special Police Command Force 333 that was based in Logar province, Afghanistan. Since the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in August 2021 the men of CF333 have been on the run. Some were evacuated out of Afghanistan during the Kabul NEO but most remain in Afghanistan or have fled to neighboring countries. Those remaining in Afghanistan are subject to arrest, torture, and death by the Taliban. The UK governments Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) has been less than helpful in assisting former members of CF333 with a safe and legal future in the United Kingdom. “Afghanistan: A Final British Betrayal”, by Tim Willasey-Wilsey CMG, Royal United Services Institute, August 30, 2023.

Colombia’s AFEAU. The Agrupación de Fuerzas Especiales Antiterroristas Urbanas (AFEAU or AFEUR), in English “Urban Counter-Terrorism Special Forces Group”, is a Class 1 special operations unit of the Colombian Armed Forces. Its main mission is to conduct counter-terrorism operations, as well as HVT kill or capture and hostage rescue. There are several AFEAU groups, which are divided into the Army’s Alfa, the Navy’s Bravo, and the Air Force’s Charly. This unit is under the direct command of the Comando Conjunto de Operaciones Especiales (CCOES) or Joint Special Operations Command, and the President of the Republic. “The AFEAU: Colombia’s Urban Counter-Terrorism Unit”, by Javier Sutil Toledano, Grey Dynamics, September 1, 2023.

French SOF NCO Dies in Iraq. A French Special Forces sergeant, Nicolas Mazier, died in Iraq on August 28, 2023, during a terrorist attack by ISIS. He was the third French military casualty in August. The incident took place during a reconnaissance mission about 100 miles north of Baghdad. Four other French soldiers were injured. “French Special Operations Soldier Killed by ISIS in Iraq”, SOFREP, September 1, 2023.

Sudan’s SOF Force to Reconstitute. The General Intelligence Service (GIS) issued a call for its former Special Operations Forces members to return to service, signaling the revival of these units notorious for their friction with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). “Sudan reinstates GIS’s Special Operations Forces”, Sudan Tribune, September 1, 2023.

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SOF History

WWII OSS Vet Awarded SF Tab. Mr. Ellsworth Johnson, a veteran of the Office of Strategic Services, was awarded the Special Forces Tab and Green Beret by USASOC on September 1, 2023. This honor was given to him at the age of 100! He served as a member of OSS Operational Groups (OG) in both France and China. Johnson is believed to be the last living member of the OSSOG. As a result of his service as a member of the OSSOG, he is qualified to become a member of the Special Forces Regiment.

Honoring Secret Warriors (Vietnam). A recent Medal of Honor recipient, Col. Paris Davis, is advocating for more recognition for the elite members of the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) with a Congressional Medal of Honor. Casualty rates for SOG recon teams exceeded 100% – wounded or killed. “The time is right to honor the Vietnam War’s most secret warriors”, Military Times, August 30, 2023.

Best-Kept Secret of Vietnam War. A former member of Studies and Observations Group (SOG) recently spoke at the American Legion’s 104th National Convention. “Legionnaire and former Green Beret shares story of ‘best-kept secret’ of Vietnam War”, Legion.org, August 30, 2023.

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

1st Defensive Belt Breached. Ukrainian generals claim they have breached Russia’s formidable first line of defenses in the south, as the counteroffensive launched earlier this summer may be poised to gather pace. There are, according to observers of the conflict, three Russian defensive belts. “Ukraine War: Counter-offensive troops punch through Russia line, generals claim”, BBC News, August 3, 2023.

Counteroffensive. In early June 2023, Ukraine launched its long-awaited counteroffensive. It wasn’t a quick, decisive deep strike to the coast severing Russia’s lines of communication and disrupting its logistical nodes. Instead, it has developed into a set-piece battle against a heavily entrenched force along three avenues of approach. Artillery fire and drones dominate the battlefield with slow and costly advances by Ukranian infantry tree line by tree line. A comprehensive report on the summer offensive is provided by Michael Kofman and Rob Lee in “Perseverance and Adaptation: Ukraine’s Counteroffensive at Three Months”, War on the Rocks, September 4, 2023.

Former SF General Says 2024 is the Year. Privately, some senior U.S. military officers are disappointed that the Ukrainians have conducted a successful deep strike to the coast. However, one former Green Beret officer with experience in Ukraine says that is based on false assumptions and hopeful thinking. Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Arnold says that next year the Ukrainians will have greater success on the battlefield once their armor and mechanized vehicles arrive in country. “Ukraine may have a better chance to win in 2024, a retired U.S. general says”, The Washington Post, September 4, 2023. (subscription)

Ukrainian Resistance. A resource about resistance concepts and Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territory. Ukrainian Resistance, National Security Info.

U.S. Assistance. The Congressional Research Service has updated its U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine report on August 25, 2023. This three-page PDF provides an overview of programs since 2014, the provision of defense equipment, and a discussion on future assistance.

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Counter-SOF Strategy. Alex Crosby (U.S. Navy) argues that in a potential strategic conflict, the U.S. joint force must be prepared to counter adversary special operations forces (SOF) threatening U.S. national interests at home and abroad. The severity of these threats and the differences between conventional and special operations forces call for a joint strategy that better integrates U.S. Special Operations Command expertise with conventional force capabilities. “The Joint Force Needs a Counter-SOF Strategy”, Proceedings, U.S. Naval Institute, September 2023.

Book Review – The American Way of Irregular War: An Analytic Memoir. A book by General Charles Cleveland and Daniel Egel (research and cowriting) is reviewed by Brian Nau, a Special Forces Intelligence Sergeant. The book identifies reasons for U.S. failures in irregular warfare over the past several decades and why the United States was unable to achieve it strategic objectives in nearly every military campaign in which it was involved in since the mid-1970s. Cleveland proposes three different and very significant options for addressing this issue. “Three Proposals to Raise the Profile of Irregular Warfare (Book Review)”, Irregular Warfare Initiative, August 31, 2023.

SOF Needed for National Strategy. Michael Bayer argues that special operations forces will need to rapidly develop and scale new capabilities relevant to today’s strategic competition. He also puts a plug in for the 34th Annual SO/LIC Symposium to be held the later part of October. “Special Operators Essential for National Security”, National Defense Magazine, August 30, 2023.

Thoughts on an American Foreign Legion. Tom Ordeman has put forth a radical concept that is very interesting. Although one could take fault with some of his observations the article is worth reading. He argues that the Marine Corps is the best military service for SFA, FID, and UW (hmmm). He also thinks that we should establish an American Foreign Legion – similar to that of the UK’s Gurkhas or the French Foreign Legion – under the control of the Marines – starting with a Kurdish legion. Read more in “Legio Patri Nostra: A Blueprint for an American Foreign Legion”, Small Wars Journal, September 3, 2023.

Professional Military Journals. Maj. Zachary Griffiths (U.S. Army) argues that the Army has to improve its branch publications to offer enhanced educational opportunities to Army leaders. “Low Crawling toward obscurity: The Army’s Professional Journals”, Military Review, September – October 2023.

PMCs vs SOMCs. The aborted Wagner Group mutiny likely gives leaders around the world a reason to contemplate the risks of relying too heavily on private military companies. “Are State-Owned Military Companies the Future?”, Lawfare Blog, August 21, 2023.

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National Security

CRS Report – Crisis in Haiti. This Caribbean nation has experienced decades of strife. This year, 2023, has seen more violence and insecurity. Armed gangs are patrolling the streets and the government is powerless to restore law and order. The international community may soon be deploying a police task force – possibly led by Kenya – to restore order. The Congressional Research Service has published a document entitled Haiti: Recent Developments and U.S. Policy, CRS R47394, August 21, 2023, PDF, 23 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R47394

Border Security – Not So Much. The U.S. Border Patrol arrested at least 91,000 migrants who were in family groups that crossed the border in August, exceeding the prior one-month record of 84,486 set in May 2019. Overall, border the Border patrol made more than 177,000 arrests along the Mexico border in August. Border apprehensions have risen more than 30 percent for two consecutive months. “Families crossing U.S. border illegally reached an all-time high in August”, The Washington Post, August 31, 2023.

5th SFG(A) and Nuclear Disablement Team. The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and a team from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command took part in an exercise that took them from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to Hollywood, Alabama, where they successfully simulated powering down the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant. “Nuclear Disablement Team validates mission at simulated nuclear power plant in Alabama”, DVIDS, August 28, 2023.

Foreign Terrorist Groups. The State Department’s FTO list is administered by the DoS Bureau of Counterterrorism (CT). When assessing entities for possible designation, CT has to follow certain criteria. Read about FTO designation criteria, consequences of designation, the FTO revocation process, entities currently designated as FTOs, and delisted FTOs. Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), Congressional Research Service (FTO), CRS IF10613, updated September 1, 2023, PDF, 3 pages.

Russian PMCs. Independent Russian news outlets reported that the Russian State Duma was pushing through an amendment to allow Russian regions to form their own private military companies (PMCs). These PMCs are employable during mobilization, military emergencies, or wartime to aid security forces against internal security threats. “Russian Regional Private Military Companies: Key Implications”, by Alex Bertina, Grey Dynamics, August 21, 2023. (subscription)

CRS Report – Chinese Nuclear and Missile Proliferation. China-based companies and individuals continue to export goods relevant to nuclear- and missile-related technologies to other countries. Congressional Research Service, CRS IF 11737, updated August 28, 2023, PDF, 3 pages.

Marine Deaths in Australia. Three U.S. Marines were killed and twenty injured (some in serious condition) after an Osprey aircraft crashed in Australia during “routine” military exercises. The cause of the crash is unknown, and an investigation is underway. The MV-22B Osprey aircraft was flying in support of Exercise Predators Run – a joint exercise involving troops from the United States, Australia, and other countries. (DVIDS, 27 Aug 2023).

New Cdr of CJTF-OIR. Maj. Gen. Matthew MacFarlane relinquished command and responsibilities to Maj. Gen. Joel “JB” Vowell on August 22, 2023. The mission of the 28-nations organization is to train, advise, and assist the Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces. “Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve Changes Command”, Homeland Security Today, August 25, 2023.


Afghan Update. News about Afghanistan, 2-year anniversary of fall of Afghanistan, relocation, immigration, and resettlement of Afghan refugees, humanitarian crisis, commentary, books, podcasts, events, and more. “Afghanistan Update – August 2023”, Afghan Report, August 31, 2023.

NRF -Resistance to Taliban Rule. The National Resistance Front is proving to be a thorn in the Taliban’s side. A spokesman for the NRF says that “. . . we have been successful in challenging the Taliban in many parts of Afghanistan beyond our base in the remote valleys of the Hindu Kush mountains.” July and August have seen multiple attacks each week. The NRF is lacking international support and the chances of toppling the Taliban regime are remote. “2 years after US withdrawal Afghanistan resistance group yearns for Western help as they take on Taliban”, Fox News, August 29, 2023.

DoS Report on Afghan SIV Program. The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of State has released a report entitled Evaluation of Adjustments to the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program From 2018 Through 2022. This 52-page (PDF) document is one in a series of reports by the State Department responding to multiple congressional committee requests for the OIG to review the processing of Afghan special immigrant visas (SIV). The SIV program was established in 2009 to resettle Afghans who had worked on behalf of the United States in Afghanistan and had experienced an ongoing and serious threat as a result. “State Department Report on Afghan SIV Program (August 2023)”, Afghan Report, September 1, 2023.

Afghanistan – Sanctuary for Terrorists. The Biden administration needs to recognize that the threats from al Qaeda, Islamic State, and the TTP emanating from Afghanistan are as dangerous today as they were on September 10, 2021. Without a viable South Asia counterterrorism strategy, the U.S. will have failed to learn the most valuable lesson of all from 9/11 – preempting terrorists with immediate and decisive action before they cause harm to our citizens. “Terrorist Groups are Again Thriving in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan”, by Daniel Hoffman, The Cipher Brief, September 3, 2023.

Help Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel with spine injuries receive the healthcare options, education, and care they need.


ISIS in Mali. Islamic State extremists are rapidly gaining territory in Mali. The extremists have grown their presence in the more populated central Mali area since 2015. In August 2020, Mali’s president was overthrown in a coup. The new country leader has developed ties with Russia’s military and Russia’s Wagner Group. A United Nations force, known as MINUSMA, had played a crucial role in security Mail but then were told to leave this year. “UN experts say Islamic State group almost doubled the territory they control in Mali in under a year”, AP News, August 26, 2023.

Departure of MINUSMA. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali has a December 31, 2023, deadline to depart Mali. The closure involves the handover of 12 camps to the Mali government (or other parties). Almost 13,000 personnel will need to depart as well as over 4,000 vehicles and 5,500 sea containers. Read a comprehensive report of the MINUSA withdrawal by the United Nations published on August 28, 2023.

Wagner Group in Africa. Despite the failed mutiny a few months back and withdrawal from Russia and Ukraine into Belarus; the private military company is still active – in Africa. The long-term outlook probably has Moscow taken increasing control over the group (behind the scenes) and continuing with its activities in Africa. “PMC Wagner in Africa: Forecast”, by Alexandra Fokina, Grey Dynamics, August 22, 2023.

Another Coup – This Time Gabon. Army officers from all three services have taken power in Gabon (Google Maps) – and in the process annulling the results of an election held on Saturday, August 25, 2023. Many election observers had indicated that the election was fraudulent. The overthrow of President Ali Bongo will end his family’s 53-year hold on power in Gabon. The leader of the new military government will be the head of the presidential guard, Gen Brice Oligui Nguema. This is the eighth coup in former French colonies in Africa in the past three years. “Gabon coup: Army cancels elections and seizes power”, BBC News, August 30, 2023. Nguema was sworn in as interim president by the constitutional court on Monday, September 4, 2023. (France 24, 4 Sep 2023).

Assessment of U.S. SFA in Sahel. Despite significant effort made by the U.S. military to train Sahelian security forces – progress has been limited. Moving these nations towards democracy has been difficult . . . judging by the number of military coups in recent years. The fight against jihadism has been problematic as well. “What Niger’s Coup Says About US Security Assistance in the Sahel”, Stimson Center, August 17, 2023.

Upcoming Events

September 18-23, 2023
5th Special Forces Group Reunion

September 24-28, 2023
Combat Diver Competition
Special Forces Underwater Operations School

October 3, 2023
2023 Virtual MOG Mile
Three Rangers Foundation

October 16-20, 2023
Special Operations Association

Books about Special Forces Training

Books, Pubs, and Reports

Sentinel. The ‘Newsletter of the Quiet Professionals’ September 2023 issue is now posted online where you can read the articles online or download the PDF (16 pages). Some of the articles include ‘Green Beret Resource List’, ‘SOAR XLVII Registration’, ‘Book Review: Nightmare in Laos’, ‘Book Review: At the Hurricane’s Eye’, ‘Michael D. Echanis Honored by Chuck Norris’, and ‘Burying the Dead with Dishonor Part II’.

CRS Report – Army Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs). The Congressional Research Service has published an updated “In Focus” brief on the SFABs. The topics of the three-page PDF include background, establishment, organization, equipment, stationing, mission, role, and regional alignment. Report has been updated on August 21, 2023. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10675

CRS Report – The Army’s Multi-Domain Task Force (MDTF). The Congressional Research Service has published an updated (22 August 2023) “In Focus” brief on the MDTF. The pub explains what the MDTF is, where they are stationed, and possible oversight issues for Congress. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF11797

CTC Sentinel. The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has published their August 2023 issue online. Topics include suppressing international terrorism, ISKP under the Taliban, Islamic State leaders, and the Russian Imperial Movement in the Ukraine Wars: 2014-2023. https://ctc.westpoint.edu/august-2023/

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Podcasts, Videos, and Movies

Video – Latvian Special Forces Dog Handling Team. Rejs is a Belgian Malinois currently serving with the Latvian army’s Special Operations Forces. During missions, as a combat assault canine, Rejs helps Latvian commandos by sniffing out explosive traps, chasing down high-value targets and using his incredible speed and agility to get the jump on foes. Rejs requires a lot of kit to do his job, which is carried by his handler, a Latvian Special Forces operator. In this video see the items the dog handling team carries in their backpack – from a dog bowl to a muzzle. “What’s in the kit of a Latvian special forces’ dog handling team?”, NATO YouTube, August 25, 2023.

Video –Special Forces Assessment & Selection News. Watch a video discussing the prospect of SFAS going from 3-weeks to 4-weeks. The Special Warfare Center and School may be adding more land navigation to SFAS. This would improve the selection rate for the land navigation course part of SF training – improving throughput of students and pass rate. The Green Beret Chronicles, August 24, 2023, 6 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78XI_4WqMPI

Video – New Human Performance Training Center opens for 10th Group Personnel. The Human Performance Training Center (HPTC) is a new facility that opened for 10th Group personnel on Fort Carson. The facility boasts a wide variety of services, including a full weight room, turf, cardio section, and physical/occupational therapy. The facility encourages Soldiers to become the best version of themselves in both body and mind. DVIDS, 10th SFG(A), August 25, 2023, 2 mins.

Video – 26th MEU(SOC): The Nation’s Immediate Response Force, America’s 911 Force. The MEU is currently afloat in the Fifth and Sixth Fleet’s area of responsibility. (DVIDS, September 2, 2023, 3 minutes.)

And Some Humor? PTSD Barbie. The Barbie movie is a hit. Folks are scrambling to theaters to watch the highly acclaimed film. However, there are some critics who worry about inclusiveness of the Barbie enterprise. “PTSD Barbie excluded from new Barbie Movie”, Duffle Blog, August 2023.


SOFCAST. United States Special Operations Command

Prep for Impact by Matt Parrish (Green Beret Foundation)

The Pinelander. Blacksmith Publishing

The Indigenous Approach. 1st Special Forces Command

Irregular Warfare Initiative

Irregular Warfare Podcast. Modern War Institute at West Point

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About SOF News 1143 Articles
SOF News provides news, analysis, commentary, and information about special operations forces (SOF) from around the world.