Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Photo / Image: An Army paratrooper descends from the sky during an airborne operation over Frida drop zone in Pordenone, Italy on August 31, 2023. Army Sgt. Mariah Y. Gonzalez;
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Two ARSOF Soldiers Arrested. A member of the 3rd Special Forces Group and a member of the 4th Psychological Operations Group have been arrested on drug charges. “Fort Liberty special operations soldiers arrested for drug possession”, Task & Purpose, October 25, 2023.
Passing of Otto Liller. A former commander of Special Operations Command Korea (SOCKOR) passed away at age 51. Read his biography here. He served as the SOCKOR commander from June 2019 to June 2021 at which time he was relieved by Maj. Gen. Martin.
SOCEUR Works with Spanish SOF. Green Berets with the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) concluded a nearly two-month joint combined exchange training (JCET) with members of the Spanish Army’s Grupo Especial de Operaciones (GOE) near Alicante, Spain, July 24, 2023. “U.S. Special Operations Command Europe Partners with Spanish SOF for JCET”, DVIDS, October 25, 2023.
Event – Panel Discussion on IW and Special Warfare. Ezra Cohen, Col. (Ret.) Mark Mitchell, and Chris Miller (former acting SecDef) are the panelists who will discuss civil-military relations within the special operations community, the transition from counterterrorism to irregular warfare, and how to optimize intelligence forces and SOF for the next generation of challenges. Preparing the Department of Defense for Irregular and Special Warfare, Hudson Institute, Tuesday, 10:00 am – 11: am.
“Site 512”. The Pentagon is maintaining a base deep in Israel’s Negev desert. Learn more in “U.S. Quietly Expands Secret Military Base in Israel”, The Intercept, October 27, 2023.
Book Review – With My Shield: An Army Ranger in Somalia. James Lechner has provided his first-person account of the Battle of Mogadishu, Somalia. Lechner was one of the Rangers on the ground when the mission shifted from a raid to capture Somali insurgents to the rescue of a downed helicopter’s crew. Read a review of his book by Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland in “Warrior Pays Heavy Price in Mogadishu”, AUSA, October 27, 2023.
T-AOS. On October 19, 2023, SOF News republished a DVIDS article about the new AFSOC organization called Theater Air Operations Squadron (T-AOS). A comprehensive article about the T-AOS has been published by N.K. Cobb, an academic chair at Joint Special Operations University, entitled “T-AOS: A New Model for Competition”, AEther, Air University, October 24, 2023.
Foreign Visitors Tour AFSOC. Air Force Special Operations Command welcomed Air Attachés from 12 various allied and partner nations to Hurlburt Field, FL, October 23, 2023. “Foreign Air Attaches visit AFSOC”, DVIDS, October 24, 2023.
Video – Royal Marines New Rifle. The British are outfitting one of their elite military units with the KS-1 assault rifle. Watch a 7-minut long video about the new rifle. Forces News, YouTube, October 27, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ee8LvSwDSEY
CANSOF in Israel? Some news reports say that Canadian special forces are now in Israel. It is reported that the members of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) are assisting the Canadian embassy in Israel with contingency planning. (CBC Lite, October 29, 2023) See also an article in Global News (Oct 29, 2023) that has identified Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) has one unit that has personnel in Israel. JTF2 is Canada’s designated hostage rescue unit. Two Canadians are presumed missing and could be hostages at this time.
UK SF on Standby. British Special Forces troops are currently in Cyprus on standby for developments in Gaza and the wider region, according to media reports in the United Kingdom. There are about 200 British nationals currently stranded in Gaza. They are also likely to take part in actions to provide safety to nationals in other parts of the Middle East. (Cyprus Mail, Oct 30, 2023)
Israeli Elite Units. Nathan Rennolds describes the elite special forces units Israel could send into Gaza to clear Hamas’ labyrinth of tunnels and rescue hostages. (Business Insider, Oct 29, 2023).
Nick Rowe. 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. In 1989, Rowe was killed by a unit of the New People’s Army in the Philippines while serving in the U.S. Embassy in Manila. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_N._Rowe
Humbert Versace. On October 29, 1963, Captain Humbert R. Versace was captured by the Viet Cong. He was held as a prisoner of war until September 26, 1965, in the Republic of Vietnam – the day of his death while in captivity – executed by the Viet Cong. He was serving as an Intelligence Advisor while assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group. In 2002 he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush for his actions during captivity. https://www.thenmusa.org/biographies/humbert-r-versace/
U.S. Hostage Rescued. On October 31, 2020, U.S. Navy SEALs (DEVGRU) parachuted from 352nd SOW aircraft into Northern Nigeria to rescue an American held hostage by armed gunmen. Philip Walton, age 27, was a Christian missionary who worked in Niger. No military personnel were injured during the operation. Several of the hostage takers were killed.
Ancient SF of Egypt. The military of Ancient Egypt was quite different from how modern militaries function today. The armies of Bronze Age Egypt largely consisted of poorly armed peasants and commoners who had little in the way of training or combat experience. However, there were some elite units of the Pharoh’s army. “The Elite Special Forces of Ancient Egypt”, World Atlas.
Conflict in Israel and Gaza
War Update. The Israeli military is continuing to expand its ground operations in Gaza. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is hitting command positions with armor, artillery, and airstrikes. It is attempting to interdict the many elaborate tunnels used by Palestinian militants. (The Hill, Oct 30, 2023). Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups are still firing rockets into Israel. Fatalities on both sides are now approaching 10,000.
Hostage Update. Currently there are about 230 hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Negotiations are being conducted in various forums for the release of the hostages. As many as four hostages have been released thus far. Some hostages have been tortured and killed while in Hamas captivity. There are about ten U.S. hostages in Gaza. Thailand is the foreign nation with the most hostages held by Hamas – estimated at 54.
U.S. Evacuation. The last planned U.S. chartered flight (DoS) out of Ben Gurion International Airport will take place on Tuesday, October 31. Some Americans have been successful in crossing the border into Jordan. It is estimated that 33 Americans (some are dual citizens) have died in the conflict.
Why Did Hamas Attack Israel? Rodney Synder and Moshe Nelson explain why Hamas launched its deadliest terrorist attack ever on Israel. There is a lot of speculation of the true purpose of the attacks. The authors of this article point to Iran’s hope to derail any peace negotiations with Israel with regional Arab nations and to overturn the status quo of the Palestinian – Israeli conflict. “Why Did Hamas Conduct a Terrorist Attack on Israel and Why Now?”, The Cipher Brief, October 24, 2023.
Former MARSOC Cdr in Israel. Lt. Gen. James Glynn, a former commander of Marine Forces Special Operations Command spent several days in Israel offering advice to the Israeli military. He has since returned to the United States.
Battle for Avdiyivka. The eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiyivka (Google Maps) continues to see heavy fighting. Kyiv forces have repelled multiple Russian attacks over the past several weeks. The Russians have experienced heavy equipment and personnel losses in these attacks. “Russia and Ukraine intensify fight over Avdiivka, another ruined city”, The Washington Post, October 28, 2023. (subscription)
Interactive Map. Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine by the Insitute for the Study of War and Critical Threats.
Commentary and National Security
US Army COIN Doctrine. This article argues that the innovation of the US Army’s counterinsurgency doctrine between 2000 and 2008 was enabled by three factors. The first factor was that the relevant actors needed to have a common understanding of the need for change. Second, a consensus had to be achieved on which organizational actions should be undertaken. Last, external pressure was necessary to overcome the US Army’s inflexibility. “What helped change the US Army counterinsurgency doctrine?”, by Christopher Good, Wavel Room, October 27, 2023.
World Wide Alert for U.S. Citizens. The Department of State has issued an alert for Americans. “Due to increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.” “Latest Information for U.S. Citizens”, DoS, October 29, 2023.
Border Crisis. Testimony before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Natural Resources United House of Representatives. Entitled “Security Our Border, Saving Our National Parks”, October 18, 2023, YouTube, 2 hours. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1xkxU5eIe8&t=3s See also “IntelBrief: The Security Implications of Historic Levels of Migration at the U.S. Southwest Border”, The Soufan Center, October 27, 2023.
Report – Citizenship and Immigration Statuses of the U.S. Foreign-Born Population, Congressional Research Service, CRS IF11806, updated October 6, 2023, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF11806
Great Power Competition
Books on Russian IO. Information warfare has a unique place in Russian strategic culture. Five books provide the details. “War Books: Russia’s Information Warfare”, by T.S. Allen, Modern War Institute at West Point, October 27, 2023.
SOF and Strategic Competition. Richard Angle, Leo Blanken, and Philip Swintek collaborate on an essay about how the United States ARSOF community should transition to the new era. “Where do US Army special operations fit in a world of strategic competition?”, Atlantic Council, October 13, 2023.
Sale of US Subs to Australia – Poses a Problem. The U.S. nuclear attack submarine inventory will experience a nearly decade-long dip due to the AUKUS partnership, according to a new Congressional Budget Office analysis (CBO, PDF, 45 pgs) of U.S. naval shipbuilding. “AUKUS Sub Sale Will Cause 10-year Dip in U.S. Attack Boat Inventory, Says CBO”, USNI News, October 26, 2023.
SOF News welcomes the submission of articles for publication. If it is related to special operations, current conflicts, national security, or defense then we are interested.
WHO Humanitarian Report. The World Health Organization has posted its September 2023 “Emergency Situation Report” for Afghanistan online. (WHO, October 30, 2023, PDF, 7 pages).
Canada Helps Afghans Relocate. Canada is on the brink of fulfilling its commitment to accept 40,000 Afghans before the end of this year. The pledge, made by Ottawa in August 2021 when the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, was driven by concerns for the safety of Afghans who had collaborated with Canadian programs and the former Afghan government. “Canada Admits Nearly 40,000 Afghans, Willing to Take More”, Voice of America, October 25, 2023.
United Kingdom Helps Afghans Relocate from Pakistan. The UK government is to charter flights to relocate Afghan refugees living in Pakistan who have been promised UK visas, starting on Thursday. Thousands of people who worked with or for the UK government in Afghanistan and fled the Taliban are in Pakistan, waiting for relocation to the United Kingdom. “UK to charter flights for Afghan refugees stuck in Pakistan”, BBC News, October 26, 2023.
Report – Moving the Money. Read up on how the Iranian’s have access to money around the world and how they use it to support terrorism. Clayton Thomas, a Specialist in Middle Eastern affairs, testifies before the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressional Research Service, TE10088, PDF, 10 pages, October 26, 2023. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/TE/TE10088
U.S. Troops Under Attack in ME. At least 19 U.S. troops have traumatic brain injury from rocket and drone attacks by Iranian-backed militants. One contractor was killed. The attacks are taking place in Syria and Iraq. U.S. forces have been conducting airstrikes in Syria in retaliation.
“Shiite Crescent”. Iran has surrogate forces spread across the Middle East. A “Shiite Crescent” stretches from Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and back down to the Gaza Strip. “The Proxy Forces Iran Has Assembled Across the Middle East”, by Neil MacFarquhar, The New York Times, October 27, 2023. (subscription)
Troubles in Niger. Islamist militants in Niger have significantly stepped up their attacks in the months since generals here ousted the elected president, jettisoning the counterterrorism support of French forces and throwing into doubt cooperation with the American military. “Extremist attacks escalate in Niger after coup topples American ally”, by Rachel Chason, The Washington Post, October 30, 2023. (subscription)
Exercise Flintlock 2024. U.S. Special Operations Command Africa participated in a multinational field training exercise from September 24-30, 2023, in Texel, Netherlands. In preparation for the upcoming Exercise Flintlock 2024, U.S., Netherlands, and Belgian forces assembled to conduct preventative medical training. (DVIDS, Oct 30, 2023)
SOF News Book Shop
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Books, Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Book – Dead Hand. James Stejskal is the author of the new novel Dead Hand. It is the latest in his Snake Easter chronicles. Old hands from the Cold War return to duty to oppose a Russian leader’s designs on the Baltic States. Stejskal, a former Green Beret, is the author of Special Forces Berlin and a former member of Det A, so he knows a little about the Cold War. Read an interview by Deborah Kalb of James about his new book (October 27, 2023).
Publication – UK MoD’s PR Manual. The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence has published Future Joint Personnel Recovery, Joint Concept Note 3/21, July 2021. PDF, 46 pages. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1087534/20210701-JCN_3_21_Future_JPR_final_web.pdf
Podcast – Creative Problem Solving in a Special Forces Environment. Col. (Ret.) Mark Mitchell is interviewed by the West Point Center for Oral History. Mitchell discusses his formative years and time in ROTC at Marquette, his experiences as a junior officer in the 24th Infantry Division while deployed to Iraq, and his time in 5th Special Forces Group, focusing on his deployments to Afghanistan. He explains what it means to him to be a Green Beret and the priority he places on “family.” Finally, he discusses the trends he has seen in counterterrorism operations over his time in the Army. October 26, 2023, 54 minutes. https://www.westpointcoh.org/interviews/creative-problem-solving-in-a-special-forces-environment
Video – MACV SOG Veteran John Good – Talks About Time on Recon Teams. Vietnam war MACV SOG vet John Good talks about him being drafted, NVA soldiers, wire taps, snakes, and a near miss with an ARC LIGHT B-52 bombing run. He served on RT ARIZONA and RT TEXAS. MACV SOG – Interviews with Warriors, October 29, 2023, YouTube, one hour. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUpk_ERoueM
Movie Review – Freelance. John Cena plays a former Special Forces operative who now takes on freelance security jobs overseas. (watch the trailer) Dan Kois reviews the movie in “Finally, a Movie About the Glamorous Exciting Life of a Freelancer”, Slate.com, October 27, 2023. (Editors note: I did a lot of ‘bodyguard’ work both domestically and overseas. I wouldn’t use the words ‘glamorous’ to describe it; although there was a certain degree of ‘excitement’ that punctuated long periods of boredom.)
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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