Special Operations News – September 18, 2023

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

Photo / Image: A Navy combatant craft returns to the USS John P. Murtha, not pictured, during Operation Polar Dagger in the Bering Sea, Aug. 28, 2023. The operation is designed to sharpen joint special operations integration and provides the forces the opportunity to test new capabilities and advance response options. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Samoluk.

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SOF News

SOF Pop Culture and Politics. Edward Salo, an associate professor of history at Arkansas State University, is worried about the effect of credibility of special operations amongst the public and the adverse effects on civil-military relations. The days of the “Quiet Professional” seem to be in the past with the emergence of books, movies, podcasts, and more about special operations. This has found its way into the American political arena as well. “Politicization and Pop Culture: How Public Perception of Special Operations Units Intersects with Civil-Military Relations”, Modern War Institute at West Point, September 11, 2023.

Pararescue Competition. The Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron hosted the 2023 PJ Rodeo. This event saw 30 pararesecuemen from around the world compete in two-person teams to demonstrate skills in precision parachuting, marksmanship, technical rescue, and tactical medicine. The PJ Rodeo is facilitated by the Pararescue Association, a non-profit veterans group comprised of Special Warfare Airmen. The rodeo takes place every two years. “Special Warfare Operators Compete for Title as Top Pararescuemen”, 123rd Airlift Wing, September 8, 2023.

24th RDS. The 24th Special Operations Wing redesignated Detachment 1, also known as Deployment Cell or “D-Cell,” to the Rapid Deployment Squadron during a ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 6, 2023. A geographically separated unit from the 24 SOW at Hurlburt Field, Fla., the Rapid Deployment Squadron consists of members across 15 career fields, forming four agile teams. These teams of multi-capable Airmen are trained in 49 cross-functional tasks including survival, evasion, resistance and escape training, advanced shooting and advanced combat casualty care. “D-Cell Redesignated 24th Rapid Deployment Squadron”, 24th Special Operations Wing, September 11, 2023.

SF Mortar Training and Interaction with Cadre. George Hand writes of his experience in attending Special Forces weapons training during Phase II (when there were 3 phases) of the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC). “Incredible Mortar-Assembly Challenges with the Green Berets”, SANDBOXX, September 15, 2023.

U.S. Secret Service SOD. Learn about employment opportunities with the Special Operations Division. The Counter Assault Team (CAT) is a specialized unit within the U.S. Secret Service that provides full-time, global tactical support to the Presidential Protective Division. On order, CAT will also provide tactical support to designated protectees, protected venues, and National Special Security Events. https://www.secretservice.gov/careers/special-agent/CAT

New 25th ID Cdr Has SOF Background. U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Marcus S. Evans is the incoming 25th Infantry Division. He has a deep background in the special operations community with time spent in Airborne, Ranger, Light Infantry and Mechanized formations. He has previously commanded the NATO Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and the forward deployed Joint Special Operations Task Force. “SOF General Takes Command of 25th ID”, SOF News, August 25, 2023.

26th MEU(SOC) JTACs Train in Kuwait. “This Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) element consisted of Marines from the MEU(SOC)’s Air, Naval, Gunfire, Liaison Company (ANGLICO) Firepower Control Team, Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/6 Fire Support Team, and Direct Air Support Center (DASC). The detachment traveled to Kuwait in support of bilateral training between a detachment of Kuwait armed forces and Marines a part of the 26th MEU(SOC).” “26th MEU(SOC) ANGLICO Marines showcase warfighting expertise during Kuwait training”, DVIDS, September 15, 2023.

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International SOF

Swedish Amphibious Raiders. Combat divers assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the Swedish Amphibious Raiders (SAR) partnered together to conduct an annual dive requalification, Aug. 11 – Sep. 1, 2023. The joint training was conducted primarily on Camp Pendleton and the surrounding oceanic area. “10th SFG(A) teams up with Swedish partners for bilateral maritime exercise”, DVIDS, September 12, 2023.

Philippines SFR-A Establishes Maritime Training Center. the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School (NAVSCIATTS) and the Philippines Army’s Special Forces Regiment – Airborne (SFR-A) recently signed a letter of intent (LOI) to collaborate on the establishment of a maritime training center in the Philippines province of Bohol. the Philippines army’s training center in areas to include maritime security, curriculum management, and instructor and training center development. (DVIDS, Sep 15, 2023)

FFL Jaguar Course. A Marine Raider with Marine Forces Special Operations Command participated in the French Foreign Legion’s Jaguar Course earlier this year. The Jaguar Course is an international, eight-week jungle warfare course held in the French Guiana rainforest. This course was taught exclusively in French, testing participants’ language skills on top of the physical demands of intense training in a jungle environment. “Marine Raider Participates in the French Foreign Legion’s Jaguar Course”, SOF News, August 24, 2023.

SOCKOR and ROKSOC Training. U.S. special operations personnel regularly conduct combined jump training with their ROK counterparts, ensuring proficiency in special operations forces-related skills and their ability to meet mutual defense priorities. What’s more, as a part of its role as the UN Special Operations Command, SOCKOR regularly conducts exchanges with other member states’ SOF personnel. “SOCKOR and ROKSOC Promote SOF Truth #1”, SOF News, August 27, 2023.

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SOF History

Horse Soldiers of Afghanistan. In 2001, shortly after 9/11, a group of U.S. Green Beret soldiers began a mission that used some special horsepower to succeed. On the night of October 19, 2001, an MH-47G Chinook flew from Uzbekistan to Dehi, Afghanistan (Google Maps) and inserted Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 595. The men soon found they would be moving on the battlefield on Afghan horses. “The Role Horses Played in 12 Green Berets’ Historic Mission”, Horse Illustrated, September 11, 2023.

10th SFG(A) Celebrates past at Devens. Fort Devens, Massachusetts served as the home of the 10th SFG(A) starting in 1968 and then most of the Group moved to Fort Carson, Colorado between 1994 and 1995. Currently, 10th SFG(A) operates out of Fort Carson housing three battalions including a Group Support Battalion. 1st Battalion continues to operate as a permanently stationed battalion in Germany. 10th SFG(A) still maintains its historical connection to the Fort Devens installation after decades of their departure from the New England area. Some of the current 10th SFG(A) operators attended a recent festival at Fort Devens, providing a link to their heritage at the installation and interacting with community members and retired Special Forces veterans. “10th Special Forces Group Celebrates Their Past at Fort Devens”, SOF News, August 26, 2023.

Operation Market Garden. On September 17, 1944, Operation Market Garden (Wikipedia) began. The intention of the ambitious operation was to secure key bridges over a series of rivers and canals in Holland that would lead to a rapid strike into the North German plain. It would be featured in two films: ‘A Bridge Too Far” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pILlitb8Acc and ‘Theirs is the Glory’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaiOLrzO9X8

SOF C2 in Early OEF. A paper by a SF officer who served with 3rd SFG(A) in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) examines the nature of the command and control (C2) relationship between Special Forces and conventional forces. His thesis provides an analysis of the complex issues arising from the necessity to fight jointly. Special Forces Command and Control in Afghanistan, by Richard Rhyne, U.S. CGSC, Fort Leavenworth, KS, 2004, PDF, 70 pages. https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA429053.pdf

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

Report – Russia’s War in Ukraine: Military and Intelligence Aspects, Congressional Research Service, CRS R47068, updated September 14, 2023, PDF, 36 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R47068

Taiwan Learns from Ukraine Conflict. The aggressiveness of the People’s Republic of China towards Taiwan has the island nation looking to increase its defensive posture. It has closely looked at the Ukraine conflict for lessons to apply to its own defensive capabilities. “In defense report, Taiwan highlights lessons learned from Ukraine”, The Japan Times, September 14, 2023.

Video – Ukraine’s Sea Drones. The Ukrainian Self Made Kamakazi drone works by sucking in water from a hatch and flushing out a jet of water that propels the Naval drone at a speed of 50 miles per hour. All this at a cost of $250,000 while its high-value targets are worth more than $650 million. They usually work like a wolf pack hunting its target, while they are being controlled through Starlink Video link, destroying bridges, and recently managed to penetrate an important harbor and damage two vessels. “Naval Kamikaze Sea Drone How it works using Starlink Satellite”, AiTelly, September 7, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFhADRYXi_8

Ukraine’s Commandos. The news from Ukraine has its government touting the daring successes of its special operations forces. Certainly, the commandos are having an impact on the overall campaign; but only after the war is over will there be an opportunity to assess exactly how impactful the country’s commandos have been. “Zelenskyy’s secret ‘Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare'”, Politico.eu, September 18, 2023.

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National Security

NSW Needs a Robin Sage. Kevin Bilms identifies a gap within the Joint Force for campaigning in the maritime domain. There is a gap within the Naval Special Warfare community that prevents it from operating effectively with the human aspects of maritime operations. He believes a Robin Sage approach to training could fill this gap. “Solving for the Missing Element of Maritime Campaigning”, Irregular Warfare Initiative, September 14, 2023.

SF Officer on National Defense (Interview). A retired Special Forces Officer, career public servant, and principal architect of the historic Abraham Accords, Robert Greenway, joins Kevin to discuss conservative national defense priorities. Now serving as director of Heritage’s Center for National Defense, Robert lays out his vision to ensure military readiness and promote American strength on the world stage and security here at home. “Keeping America Safe: Conservative National Defense Priorities”, The Heritage Foundation, September 14, 2023.

SDF – Losing Support of Arabs. The coalition between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Arab tribes in Deir ez Zor is fracturing amid clashes over long-standing grievances. This is not a good turn of events for the U.S. effort in Syria. The SDF’s response to the clashes very likely will undermine its ability to maintain control in the province for at least the next several months. The SDF and the Deir ez Zor Military Council (DMC) began fighting after the SDF arrested the DMC commander on August 27. The conflict rapidly expanded after August 30, as other tribes joined the fighting driven by long-running grievances against the SDF. “The Syrian Democratic Forces’ Arab Coalition is Crumbling, Creating Opportunities for ISIS, Iran, and Turkey”, Institute for the Study of War, September 15, 2023.

Armenian Christian Enclave at Risk. The beleaguered Armenian Christians in Nagorno-Karabakh (map by Wikipedia), also known as Artsakh, are being subjected to death by starvation by the government of Azerbaijan. The President of Azerbaijan has the intention of displacing the Armenian Christians with Azeri Muslims. “Ilham Aliyev: The Face of Crimes against Armenians”, by Lela Gilbert, The Washington Stand.

Medevacs. There are changing approaches to air medical evacuations. There is new craft and technology but there is also the potential need for considerably more resources. This is where military air medical evacuation, often referred to as ‘medevac’, plays a crucial role in ensuring that wounded or sick service members receive the necessary medical attention in a timely and efficient manner. “The Future of Military Medevac”, by Dr. Joetey Attariwala, Air Med & Rescue, August 31, 2023.

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

Great Power Competition GPC

Great Power Competition

SOF and China. As the U.S. shifts from CT/COIN missions to ‘strategic competition’ it will need to focus on its core competencies. A new set of missions will need to be taken on by special operations forces – and senior US leaders should remember that SOF operators are suitable for ‘all’ tasks. “In a US showdown with China, there are some missions with no special-operations ‘easy button'”, Business Insider, September 11, 2023.

SOF, the Arctic and GPC. Both Russia and China have been stepping up their presence in the Arctic region for several years. The U.S. is attempting to extend its military capabilities in the ‘High North’ as well. Special operations units have increased their training in the region – one recent exercise was Operation Polar Dagger. The intent was to showcase how well special operator air, land, and sea teams work together in harsh, long-distance environments like the Bering Sea. “With eye toward Russia and China, NORTHCOM concludes special mission in the Arctic”, Defense One, September 14, 2023.

China, Hearts, and Minds. China’s influence operations have evolved to employ “information laundering” to shape global narratives. Information laundering—the process of introducing disinformation into the Internet ecosystem and legitimizing it through transitions from fringe sites to public discourse—is the next generation of information operations. “Countering China’s Use of Information Laundering Via Minds and Media”, The Strategy Bridge, September 7, 2023.

China, Disinformation, and Maui Wildfires. China has been using the wildfires that swept across Maui last month to spread disinformation and sow distrust in the United States. Social media posts said a U.S. “weather weapon caused the wildfires” and were accompanied by images that appeared to be generated by artificial intelligence. “China Sows Disinformation About Wildfires”, The New York Times, September 11, 2023. (subscription)

Report – China-Russia Relations. The Congressional Research Service has updated a publication that describes the two countries relationship as one ” . . . resembling a non-binding alignment based on shared opposition to what they describe as the U.S.-led international order.” Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Russia’s reliance on China for economic and political support has increased. China-Russia Relations, CRS IF12100, updated September 13, 2023, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12100

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Former Afghan SOF Soldier Wins U.S. Asylum. A former intelligence officer with the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) fled Afghanistan in August 2021 after the collapse of the Afghan government. He traveled a dangerous route through several countries over a period of months before crossing the U.S. southern border and asking for asylum. Instead, the U.S. government interned him for several months. After intense public pressure and Congressional inquiries, he was finally released. He has now been granted asylum and, in time, can apply for a Green Card to be a lawful permanent resident. “Afghan soldier Abdul Wasi Safi, once detained at border, wins asylum”, Military Times, September 12, 2023.

U.S. Envoy – No Support for NRF. In an interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi, Karen Decker, the chargé d’affaires of the U.S. mission to Afghanistan, dismissed any support for anti-Taliban armed factions such as the National Resistance Front (NRF) and the Afghanistan Freedom Front (AFF), saying Afghans themselves have been adamantly against the launch of any new conflict. (Editorial note: one wonders if this is the official DoS stance or just Karen with another gaffe). It is surprising the Decker still has a job with the Department of State; especially in dealing with Afghanistan. “‘They Deserve Some Peace’: U.S. Envoy Rejects Support for Anti-Taliban Factions in Afghanistan”, Radio Free Europe, September 15, 2023.

Review of August 2021 Airport Attack in Afghanistan. The U.S. military has ordered new interviews on the deadly 2021 terrorist attack at Abbey Gate of the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) during the Kabul non-combatant evacuation operation. Critics continue to say the deadly assault could have been stopped. The interviews are meant to see if service members who were not included in the original investigation, have new or different information. (AP News, Sep 15, 2023).


Security Sector Governance. Weak security sector oversight institutions inhibit security sector professionalism in Africa. Stronger internal and external oversight is an essential element of enhancing security sector effectiveness. Security organs should construct institutional frameworks that nurture professionalism and a consistent apolitical posture. When security actors allow themselves to become politicized, they erode the credibility of security institutions among the population and can themselves become a security threat to citizens. “Oversight and Accountability to Improve Security Sector Governance in Africa”, by Dan Kuwali, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, September 11, 2023.

Niger Update. The U.S. military has resumed ISR flight operations in Niger. The flying of drones and other aircraft out of air bases in the country has resumed after a temporary halt at the time of the military coup. Most of the U.S. military located near the capital at Niamey have been moved to an airbase near Agadez, Niger. “US Military resumes counterterrorism missions out of Niger bases”, Air Force Times, September 13, 2023. See also “U.S. Resumes ISR Flight Operations in Niger”, DoD News, September 14, 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

October 21, 2023
OSS Award Dinner
OSS Society

December 8, 2023
Winter Cruise
Combat Diver Association

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Books, Reports, and Pubs

Books about Resistance. Sandor Fabian, a former Hungarian Special Forces officer, presents six books that would help unconventional warriors understand the concept of resistance. “War Books: Resistance”, Modern War Institute at West Point, September 15, 2023.

IWC Newsletter. The September 2023 issue of the Irregular Warfare Center’s newsletter is now posted online. (PDF, 2 pages) https://irregularwarfarecenter.org/news/newsletter/september-2023-iwc-newsletter/

Book Review – The Centurions. One of the novels that most heavily influenced the US military’s approach to its post-9/11 wars did not focus on the Middle East. It did not feature American service members. And it was published four decades before the terrorist attacks that precipitated America’s long involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Jean Larteguy’s The Centurions is a tale of captive French paratroopers in Indochina who later to go on to ascend to the zenith of their profession in Algeria during the 1950s. “The Complicated Legacy of Jean Larteguy’s “The Centurions” and America’s Post-9/11 Wars”, by Benjamin Van Horrick, Modern War Institute at West Point, August 30, 2023.

Pub – NATO Wargaming Handbook. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has published a ” . . . simple, easy-to-use reference for conducting wargames. The handbook serves as a starting point for standardizing the vocabulary and processes used to deliver professional wargames.” (PDF, 64 pages) https://paxsims.files.wordpress.com/2023/09/nato-wargaming-handbook-202309.pdf

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Videos and Podcasts

Podcast – A Twenty-Year Retrospective on Irregular Warfare and Counterinsurgency, Modern War Institute at West Point, August 11, 2023. This episode features David Kilcullen and John Nagl. They delve into issues of defining the overlapping terms “irregular warfare” and “counterinsurgency,” and continue by discussing some of the struggles encountered in seeking to measuring success and failure over the past twenty years. They then discuss how challenges in understanding the human domain affected the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They wrap up the episode with their thoughts and suggestions for irregular warfare practitioners and thinkers who may not have significant direct experience in the wars of the last twenty years. Listen to Podcast here.

Podcast – Transformation Ain’t Easy. The United States Army Special Warfare Center and School Command Team sits down with the Pineland Underground Podcast to discuss their vision for Army Special Operations training and education geared towards the future. The highlight the current state of the schoolhouse and the pathway forward to achieve the ARSOF of 2030. Pineland Underground Podcast, SWCS, September 12, 2023, one hour.

Video – The War at Home. Three episodes feature retired Green Beret Matt Docchio. He talks about deployments in Afghanistan, the brutal truths of war, the loss of innocence, the personal struggles once home, and his path to resilience. Team Trek Podcast, YouTube, July 2023. https://www.youtube.com/@TeamTrekPodcast

Video – Army OSINT: Defining a New Course. The Army is defining Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) as a foundational intelligence discipline that will play an increasingly central role in supporting operations. Watch this video to find out how they are defining OSINT and creating a rigorous approach to open source. Features OSINT Defense Intelligence Senior Leader, Shawn Nilius, Director, Army OSINT Office, and Emily Harding, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the International Security Program at CSIS. Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), September 12, 2023, one hour.

Video – Youngest 9/11 Ground Zero volunteer turned Green Beret Commander shares experience, CBS8, September 11, 2023, 2 minutes. John Paluska’s new path led him to earn his Green Beret with military deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations across the globe. View video here.

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