Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Photo / Image: Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) stand watch in the ship’s Combat Information Center during an operation to defeat a combination of Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, Oct. 19. Carney is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Lau)
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White House Photo Compromise of SOF Operators. The White House has removed a picture (Task & Purpose, Oct 19, 2023) shared on social media that apparently showed President Joe Biden shaking hands with American special operators in Israel during his recent visit to the country. A White House spokesman says the photograph had been posted by accident.
NSW Drug Testing. The Navy’s Special Warfare Command is poised to begin regularly testing all Navy SEALs for performance-enhancing drugs next month, but the effort to root out the potentially dangerous substances could also lead the service into a legal minefield. (Military.com, Oct 20, 2023)
Berets of the Military. At one time there was the Green Beret worn by members of the U.S. Army Special Forces. In time, multiple colors of berets have emerged, and it seems almost everyone is wearing one now. “A guide to every beret worn by American service members”, Task & Purpose, October 19, 2023.
SOCOM Seeking New Urban Warfare Tools. The U.S. Special Operations Command is on the hunt for new non-line-of-sight targeting tools to help commandos fight in cities. The envisioned solution is to create new networks of sensors and supporting technologies that enable “virtual” line-of-sight targeting and allow commandos to remain in unexposed positions. (DefenseScoop, Oct 18, 2023)
U.S. SOCOM and Grenada. In the aftermath of Iran-Grenada, several congressional leaders took the initiative to reorganize the Pentagon’s special operations forces, culminating in the creation of U.S. Special Operations Command in 1987. “How War in Grenada Built U.S. SOCOM”, National Interest, October 20, 2023.
AFSOC’s SWTW. Five years ago, the U.S. Air Force took a significant leap forward in combat preparedness by establishing the Special Warfare Training Wing (SWTW), an evolution that addressed decades of training shortfalls and operational demands. The SWTW marked a paradigm shift, assuming control over an extensive network of squadrons and detachments. Notably, the wing superseded the former Battlefield Airman Training Group, extending its legacy of ground warfare specialization. “Special Warfare Training Wing: Five Years of Advancing Ground Combat Forces Training”, by Jennifer Gangemi, SWTW, October 19, 2023.
SOF and PR Missions. The mission of personnel recovery of missing or isolated personnel has evolved over time. Many special operations units have performed this mission in the last several decades. Learn more in “No Man Left Behind: This Special Forces Mission Is More Important Than All the Others”, National Interest, October 18, 2023.
GSOF Europe. The Global SOF Foundation is holding a symposium in Europe from October 24-26, 2023 in Brno, Czech Republic. https://www.gsofeurope.org/
AFSOC’s T-AOS. The Air Force Special Operations Command is establishing five Theater Air Operations Squadrons. The units will regionally synchronize, integrate, enable, and selectively employ Air Force Special Operations Forces capabilities to increase advantage against national priorities and strategic competitors by providing multi-domain options for the Joint Force. “AFSOC’s Theater Air Operations Squadron”, SOF News, October 19, 2023.
Israel’s Sayeret Matkal. One of the premier special operations units of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has been in existence for decades. It has taken part in several hostage rescue operations since its inception. The Sayeret Matkal specializes in hostage rescue and reconnaissance missions. It is best known for its role in the 1976 Entebbe airport raid in Uganda that saved 102 hostages from Palestinian hijackers. “How Israel’s Sayeret Matkal Are Trained for Gaza Hostage Scenario”, Newsweek, October 16, 2023.
New Israeli SOF Command Center. Mossad and Shin Bet have set up an operations center to track down members of the Gaza-ruling terror group’s Nukbha forces. The center will be tasked with finding and killing members of the Hamas commando unit that led the terror groups raids into southern Israel on October 7, 2023. (The Times of Israel, Oct 22, 2023)
Ukraine’s Commandos. Lightening assaults by Ukrainian special operations forces are part of a larger campaign using drones and missiles to degrade Russian forces and demoralize the public. Some of these SOF raids have been against Russian forces on Crimea using jet skis to travel long miles over the Black Sea. “Inside the Commando Raids Unnerving Russia in Crimea”, The New York Times, October 22, 2023. (subscription) See also “Jet Skis: The Secret Weapon in Ukraine’s Commando War on Crimea”, Popular Mechanics, October 22, 2023.
ROKs New SOF Helos. Seoul has plans for significant upgrades to its tactical transport capabilities, with plans to buy 18 Special Operations Heavy Helicopters (SOHHs). (Flight Global, Oct 19, 2023)
Beirut Terrorist Attack. 40 years ago today, early on a Sunday morning, October 23, 1983, two terrorist truck bombs struck buildings in Beirut, Lebanon, housing American and French service members of the Multinational Force in Lebanon (MNF). The attack killed 307 people. (Wikipedia)
‘Puff the Magic Dragon’. The Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) has a number of AC-130Js that perform as aerial gunships in support of special operations forces. The beginnings of the gunship can be traced back to the Vietnam War when C-47 cargo planes were converted into AC-47 gunships. Read more in “Flashback: Puff the Magic Dragon: Development of the AC-47 Gunship”, Wright-Patterson AFB, October 20, 2023.
Nick Rowe Capture in Vietnam. On October 29, 1963, Captain James “Nick” Rowe was captured by the Viet Cong. He was a Special Forces officer and one of only 34 American prisoners of war to escape captivity during the Vietnam War. He would later help establish the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program taught to high-risk military personnel.
Urgent Fury. On October 25, 1983, Operation Urgent Fury took place in Grenada.
Hostage Rescued. In October 2020, U.S. special operations forces rescued Philip Walton, a US citizen living in Niger who was kidnapped. He was a Christian missionary who worked in Niger. No military personnel were injured during the operation. Several of the gunmen were killed. The rescue is credited to Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU).
Conflict in Israel and Gaza
War Update. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has conducted limited security operations in the West Bank as well as excursions into the Gaza Strip. The IDF air force is continuing its extensive bombing campaign against Hamas military targets. Various Palestinian militant and terrorist groups continue to launch missiles and rockets into Israel – bringing the total to about 6,900 since October 7th.
Hospital Strike. The Gaza Health Ministry reported that at least 500 people were killed in an explosion at a hospital on October 17. However, the real culprit seems to be an errant Hamas rocket fired from Gaza struck the al-Ahli al-Mamdani Hospital. Expert analysis of imagery and events indicates (Twitter) “with a high degree of confidence that Israel did not strike the hospital.”
Egyptian Border Crossing. At least two aid truck convoys have passed through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt to Gaza. Limited numbers of foreign citizens have passed through the crossing into Egypt from Gaza; however, Egypt has not opened the crossing to Palestinian refugees.
Hostages. Two U.S. citizens held hostage by Hamas were released and are now in Israel. The mother and daughter were taken hostage on the first day of the conflict. Qatar (DoS) and other nations in the region are conducting negotiations for the release of the hostages taken by Hamas.
Caution Notice to U.S. Citizens. The U.S. Department of State has issued a worldwide travel warning and provided information for citizens wishing to evacuate from Israel. “Latest Information for U.S. Citizens”, DoS, October 21, 2023. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/situation-in-israel-2023.html
U.S. Force Posture Increased in Middle East. The Department of Defense is taking additional steps to further strengthen U.S. forces in the region, increase force protection for U.S. forces, and assist in the defense of Israel. Two carrier strike groups will soon be in the Central Command area of responsibility. Anti-aircraft and missile defense systems are flowing into region as well. (DoD, Oct 21, 2023) Rocket attacks against U.S. bases in Iraq have taken place; DoD reports no casualties. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Erbil is now on reduced staffing. The Department of State has ordered the departure of eligible family members and non-emergency U.S. government personnel.
U.S. to Provide Humanitarian Assistance to Palestinians. President Biden announced that the United States is providing $100 million in humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank. This funding will help support over a million displaced and conflict-affected people with clean water, food, hygiene support, medical care, and other essential needs. The United States provides humanitarian assistance through trusted partners including UN agencies and international NGOs. “U.S. Announcement of Humanitarian Assistance to the Palestinian People”, The White House, October 18, 2023.
U.S. Military Assistance. A constant stream of C-17 cargo planes is delivering military aid to Israel; most of the flights arriving from and returning to Ramsten AB, Germany. U.S. warships have intercepted missiles and drones launched from Yemen going towards Israel.
Evacuating U.S. Citizens from Israel / Gaza. The Congressional Research Service has published “Assisting and Evacuating U.S. Citizens Abroad During the Israel-Hamas Conflict and Other International Crisis”, CRS IF12515, October 20, 2023, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12515
No End in Sight. The Ukraine-Russia conflict is dragging on. In the past several months neither side has made significant progress in the offensive campaigns. The slow, grinding Ukrainian counteroffensive has taken limited ground. At stake is the support of the Europeans and the United States as ‘war fatigue’ sets in. U.S. support for Ukraine is threatened by the actions of Republicans in the House of Representatives. Read more in “IntelBrief: No End in Sight, Hard Questions Ahead for Ukraine and Allies”, The Soufan Center, October 17, 2023.
ATACMs. Apparently, another long-range strike capability is now in the hands of the Ukrainian military. A limited number of U.S. Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMs) have been sent by the United States to Ukraine and have already been employed. With a range of 190 miles the missiles can attack Russian strategic targets like supply depots, airfields, and command posts. “Why Sending Ukraine ATACMs Will Help It Win in the Long Term”, by Jonathan Harman, Real Clear Defense, October 20, 2023.
Report – War Crimes in Ukraine. The Congressional Research Service has published a document that addresses war crimes and other international crimes in Ukraine, the U.S. and international responses to those crimes, and other associated issues and options for Congress. PDF, October 16, 2023, 38 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R47762
National Security and Commentary
Former SF General on Hostages. Brigadier General (Ret.) Russ Howard explains the problem set of hostages and Iran in the context of the Israel – Gaza Strip conflict. He explains the difficulty in rescuing hostages and in navigating what is to be done with Iran . . . if that country is complicit in the terrorist attack on Israel. “IF”, Small Wars Journal, October 16, 2023.
UW, SF, and IW. Sal Artiaga reflects upon the evolving tapestry of global conflict and how unconventional warfare is deeply entrenched within the Department of Defense’s broader irregular warfare (IW) framework. “Unconventional Warfare: The Strategic Ingenuity of Special Forces in Shaping DoD’s Irregular Warfare Strategies”, LinkedIn, October 21, 2023.
Fact Sheet – 2023 China Military Power Report. This two-page report provides a brief synopsis of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to include capabilities, coercion, strategy, and more. DoD, October 19, 2023.
Report – Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2023. This annual report to Congress on China by the U.S. Department of Defense covers a number of topics to include PRC strategy, PLA forces, power projection, activities on China’s periphery, global presence, force modernization, and more. The section on China’s SOF can be found on pages 82-87. U.S. Department of Defense, October 19, 2023, PDF, 212 pages.
Finland – Applying Lessons to the Pacific. Euan Graham, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, recently attended a security conference in Helsinki. He believes that Indo-Pacific countries, including Australia and New Zealand, can learn a lot from the broad security focus of Finland. “Lessons from Finland for the Indo-Pacific”, The Strategist, October 23, 2023.
Help Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel with spine injuries receive the healthcare options, education, and care they need.
Karabakh Armenians – A Displaced Population. Since December 2022 the 120,000 Armenians residing in Nagorno-Karabakh have endured an economic blockade imposed by the Azerbaijan government. In late September 2023 Azerbaijan military forces took control of the Armenian-populated region resulting in a cease-fire that included the disarmament of the Nagorno-Karabakh’s self-defense forces and the region’s reintegration with Azerbaijan. More than 100,000 people have fled the region and have arrived in Armenia. Read more in Azerbaijan’s Retaking of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Displacement of Karabakh Armenians, Congressional Research Service, CRS IN12265, October 18, 2023, PDF, 4 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IN/IN12265
Border Crisis. In an era of unprecedent migrant movement across the southern border and a severe housing shortage across the nation, the U.S. Department of State has established a mechanism to establish a ‘safe way’ across the border for migrants and refugees. “Announcement of Safe Mobility Office in Ecuador”, Department of State, October 19, 2023.
Backlog in Immigration Courts. More than 2 million cases are pending in U.S. immigration courts. This backlog has more than tripled since the start of fiscal year 2017. The effects of the backlog are significant and widespread. In particular, the backlog causes delays and poses challenges for noncitizens whose cases are being heard in immigration courts, as well as attorneys and immigration judges and court staff. Some noncitizens—including children and families—wait years to have their cases heard. The delays postpone decisions for vulnerable populations who may be eligible for protections, such as asylum. They also prolong the removal from the U.S. of those who do not have valid claims to remain. “U.S. Immigration Courts See a Significant and Growing Backlog”, U.S. Government Accountability Office, October 19, 2023.
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Facebook and Surviving. One Afghan journalist has coped with the economic downturn and no job with selling traditional Afghan clothing online. Afghanistan Analysts Network, October 16, 2023.
Another Natural Disaster. A third earthquake, measuring 6.3 magnitude, struck an area close to Herat on Sunday, October 14, 2023. Over 100 have been injured with some deaths reported as well. The last two earthquakes flattened thousands of homes, killed over 3,000 people, injured more than 7,000, and displaced thousands. The United States is providing over $12 million in aid for Afghan earthquake relief. The Hindu Kush Mountain range lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
Diversity Visa. Although a long short, some Afghans may be able to apply for a U.S. Diversity Visa and if lucky, find their way to the United States. Read more here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/diversity-visa-program-entry/diversity-visa-instructions.html
Letter to Pakistan. #AfghanEvac organized an open letter to Pakistani leaders in October 2023. More than 150 Americans across the diplomatic, national security, and humanitarian sectors from the leadership level all the way down to volunteers signed on to send a clear message. The intent is to ask Pakistani leaders to not deport Afghans who have a pending or approved pathway to legal U.S. immigration. Open Letter to Pakistani Leaders, #AfghanEvac, October 17, 2023.
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Books, Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Podcast – More Reality Than Fiction. The Global SOF Foundation presents an interview with Jeffrey Fischer, a successful author of thrillers and an experienced journalist in international security with a 30-year military career. SOFspot, October 2023, 35 minutes. https://gsof.org/sofspot/
Podcast – The Battle of Hostomel. John Spencer from the Urban Warfare Project joins Paul in the G-Base to discuss a 21st century version of the Battle of Thermopylae; how 200 Ukrainian Guardsmen, defending the Hostomel Airfield, saved Kiev from falling into the hands of elite Russian paratroopers on the morning of 24 February 2022. Time and again, history informs us how a few determined warriors are able to overcome insurmountable odds and defeat an overwhelming adversary. The Pinelander Podcast, October 20, 2023. https://pinelander.podbean.com/e/episode-84-the-battle-of-hostomel-october-20-2023/
Video – SOF – Space – Cyber Triad. The AUSA 2023 Warriors Corner presented a panel discussion / presentation on “The Special Operations Forces (SOF) Space Cyber Triad – Enhancing Large Scale Combat Operations Now and in the Future”. DVIDS, October 11, 2023, 30 minutes. https://www.dvidshub.net/video/900044/ausa-2023-warriors-corner-special-operations-forces-sof-space-cyber-triad-enhancing-large-scale-combat-operations-now-and
Video – Soldier in Europe. This video shows the lives of soldiers and how they stayed alert and ready during peacetime in a time of Cold War. A historical “The Big Picture” black and white film. DVIDS, October 16, 2023, 30 minutes. https://www.dvidshub.net/video/900535/big-picture-soldier-europe
Video – Rotary Wing Parachute Jump. Members of Group Sustainment Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group conducted an airborne sustainment operation. Watch video here. DVIDS, October 14, 2023, 2 minutes.
Publication – Spotlight. The Irregular Warfare Center’s October 2023 monthly newsletter is now posted online. https://irregularwarfarecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2023-10-IWC-Spotlight.pdf
October 24-26, 2023
GSOF Symposium Europe
Global SOF Foundation
October 30-31, 2023
34th Annual NDIA SO/LIC Symposium
National Defense Industrial Association
November 29-30, 2023
SOF & Irregular Warfare Symposium
Defense Strategies Institute
December 8, 2023
Combat Diver Association
December 8-10, 2023
2023 Civil Affairs Conference
Civil Affairs Association
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