Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Photo / Image: An East-coast-based U.S. Naval Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) prepares to descend below the surface during dive training with Polish special forces, June 27, 2023. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katie Cox)
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USSOCOM Brief. George Englehart has penned an article that describes the history, purpose, core operations, organization, and mission of the United States Special Operations Command. (Grey Dynamics, Oct 31, 2023).
ARSOF Personnel Cuts Looming. As many as 3,000 positions may be taken out of the force structure for Army special operations forces. Many supporters of the cuts state the strategic competition with China and Russia has replaced the counterterrorism focus of SOF during the 20 years of the Global War on Terror. However, this ignores the fact that the U.S. special operations community has done much more that CT over the past few decades. “Personnel cuts and force redesign ahead for Army special operations”, Army Times, November 1, 2023. Representative Mike Waltz (FL-R), a former Green Beret, has come out strongly against SOF cuts within the Army. “Army Making a Mistake in Cuts to Special Operations Forces”, Op-Ed Mike Waltz, November 3, 2023.
PSYOP Needs Growth not Cuts. Retired Army Col. Robert Curris, a former 4th PSYOP Group commander, argues that psychological operations capabilities need to be protected from cuts proposed by ‘big Army’. He says that a decline in PSYOP capabilities is a strategic error that will have severe implications for U.S. national security. “The Army needs to invest in psychological operations, not cut them”, Military Times, November 1, 2023.
Former Sgt. Maj. of Army and SF Soldier Passes Away. Retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Glen Morrell died on October 26, 2023. He enlisted in the Army in 1953. He served with the 82nd Airborne Division and Special Forces. He served three tours in Vietnam while assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group. “Former SMA Glen Morrell Dies”, Association of the United States Army, November 2, 2023.
Covert SOF Music Concerts. The secret music concerts benefit the children of fallen special operators and CIA members. “Inside the Top-Secret Military Concert Series You’ve Never Heard Of”, Rolling Stone, November 2, 2023.
Air Force Special Reconnaissance. The replacement of AFSOC’s Special Operations Weather Teams (SOWT) is AFSOCs Special Reconnaissance teams. Future missions during conflict might include observing enemy anti-air defenses, gathering intelligence on enemy troop movements, scouting for landing zones, . . and yes, weather reports. “Inside the Air Force’s Newest SOF Career: Special Reconnaissance”, Air and Space Forces Magazine, November 2, 2023.
Electric Bikes of the Recon Marines. Jeff Schogol reports on the use of electric dirt bikes that will allow Recon Marines to cross terrain that is impassable for other military vehicles. One type of electric bike is the Zero MMX. The bikes are quieter and have a smaller heat signature than other vehicles. “Recon Marines will use electric dirt bikes on next deployment”, Task & Purpose, November 1, 2023.
SEAC Retirement. Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramon “CZ” Colon-Lopez is retiring after a 33-year Air Force Career. As a Pararescueman, he was the first special operator chosen to serve as the enlisted advisor to the chairman. “Retiring SEAC Calls on Americans to Support Service Members“, DOD, November 3, 2023.
Acing SEAL Training. All of your burning questions about BUD/S answered. “BUD/S: Everything You Need to Ace Navy SEAL Training”, Task & Purpose, October 31, 2023.
Deep Dives, Coin Checks, and . . . More. George Hand, a retired SF MSG, describes on 130′ dive where more than the usual coin check took place. “Even When Deep Diving, U.S. Special Forces Never Turn Down a Challenge”, National Interest, November 2, 2023.
SOF’s Flux Raider. The 19th Special Forces Group is currently evaluating a specialized grip module for the P320 pistol that was recently adopted as the M17 and M18. A remarkable feature is the removable fire control unit (FCU) that allows the user to switch grip modules, barrel lengths, slides, and calibers quite easily. Pistols are getting so much more complicated – like everything else. “SOCOM’s Potential New Firearm Is a Revolution”, by Travis Pike, SANDBOXX, November 2, 2023.
MIT Students Assist in SOF R&D. SOCOM Ignite connects students with research scientists and special operations forces to address the pressing technology needs of SOF operators. This program, in its fourth year, invites cadets from the military academies and ROTC programs to participate. Learn more in “Military students innovate technology solutions for US Special Operations Command”, MIT News, October 31, 2023.
SOF Language Training. The GAO released a report about SOF language training (SOF News, 1 Nov 2023) that contained eight recommendations for improving how the languages are managed within SOF. U.S. special operators speak many different languages from all parts of the world; however, it is difficult to sustain those skills. Some former SOF language managers are criticizing the report saying that recommends micro-management of the program at the general officer level, rather than at the unit level (where the needs are known to local unit language program managers). Read more in “Report: Special operations forces need to rethink language training”, Task & Purpose, November 1, 2023.
Afghan Commandos at Risk. Dozens of Afghans who served in special forces units funded and trained by the United Kingdom have been murdered or tortured by the Taliban. The members of CF333 and ATF444 were paid by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office; however, they have been rejected under the UK’s scheme for relocating Afghans who worked with the UK. Read more in “Abandoned Afghan Commandos”, Lighthouse Reports, November 1, 2023.
JCET With Spanish GOA. Green Berets with the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) concluded a nearly two-month joint combined exchange training — known as JCET — with members of the Spanish Army’s Grupo Especial de Operaciones near Alicante. “Green Berets partner with Spanish special operations forces for training”, U.S. Army, October 30, 2023.
Head of Ukraine SOF Dismissed. Viktor Khorenko, the commander of Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces (SSO), has been removed from command. Serhiy Lupanchuk is the new SSO commander. (Kyiv Post, 5 Nov 2023)
Non-State SOF. The Hamas terrorist group’s attacks that took place on October 7th against Israel shocked the world. What Israel seemed to have missed (an intelligence failure) is the growing democratization of technology that is providing new and dangerous capabilities to non-state actors. This new technology is helping non-state actors to develop a special operations capability. “AL-AQSA Storm Heralds the Rise of Non-state Special Operations”, War on the Rocks, November 2, 2023.
November 8 is the annual JFK Wreath Laying Day at Arlington National Cemetery. This event, conducted by Green Berets, has taken place since the burial of John F. Kennedy after his assassination.
On November 13, 2001, Kabul fell to the Northern Alliance. Green Berets would enter the city the next day. The Northern Alliance were also advised and assisted by other SOF elements such as the 49th Public Affairs Detachment (ABN) out of Bragg, Psychological Operations elements, and 1st Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment out of Ft. Drum, NY. The initial operation name was Operation Stronghold Freedom and these U.S. service members made up the Joint Special Operations Task Force-North (JSOTF-N).
Conflict in Israel and Gaza
Conflict Update. Hamas and other Palestinian militant / terrorist groups are continuing their rocket fire on civilians in southern Israel. Some rockets are being fired from the Red Sea area and are being intercepted by the Arrow Aerial Defense System. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are striking hundreds of military targets each day in Gaza. Communication and internet services in Gaza Strip have been intermittent during the entire conflict. There have been cyber-attacks conducted by hacker supporters of both sides of the conflict. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have left Gaza City and the northern portion of Gaza Strip after repeated warnings to evacuate (IDF Twitter, 6 Nov 2023) the area by the IDF. (CRS map evacuation zone) The northern section of Gaza Strip has been cut off from the southern sector; one evacuation route has been left open by the IDF for Palestinians to evacuate to the southern sector. The IDF has encircled Gaza City and have entered some sectors of the city.
Hostages. According to the IDF there are about 238 hostages still being held by the terrorist group Hamas. Some of these hostages believed held may already have been killed by Hamas. Over half of the hostages taken by the Palestinian terrorist organization hold foreign passports. The largest contingent of foreign nationals held are from Thailand. It is believed that there are 12 U.S. hostages held. Senior Pentagon officials say U.S. commandos on the ground are aiding efforts to ‘identify hostages’. Several other nations have also moved ‘special operators’ closer to Israel for contingency operations. Read more in “US special forces said deployed to help Israel track down hostages held in Gaza”, The Times of Israel, November 1, 2023.
Rafah Border Crossing. Severely injured Palestinians and some foreign nationals have been able to pass through the border from Gaza into Egypt. (Reuters, Nov 1, 2023) The border point is tightly controlled by the Egyptians. Hundreds of aid trucks have crossed from Egypt to Gaza – the contents of the trucks usually end up in the control of Hamas. The Independent YouTube channel has posted a live camera feed of the Rafah Crossing. See a recent Congressional Research Service report on evacuating U.S. citizens (PDF, 30 Oct 2023)
SOAA Helps with Evacuations. The Special Operations Association of America is assisting in the evacuation of U.S. citizens from Gaza and Israel. Read about it in “U.S. military veterans are helping Americans get out of Gaza”, The Washington Post, November 2, 2023. More that 300 Americans (some dual passport holders) were able to leave Gaza over the past week.
Gaza Aid Stolen by Hamas. On Monday, October 30, 2023, the U.S. Department of State accused the Hamas terrorist organization of stealing food and fuel meant for civilians in the Gaza Strip and diverting the aid to Hamas terrorist fighters. The aid is coming in on trucks through the Raffa Crossing along the Egypt Gaza border. (Twitter, Oct 30, 2023) On average, about 20 aid trucks a day are entering Gaza. The Jordanian Air Force has air dropped aid (Axios, 6 Nov 2023) to a Jordanian field hospital in Gaza in coordination with the Israeli military, bypassing the Raffa Crossing.
The Tunnels of Gaza. The Palestinians use an extensive tunnel system from which to conduct both offensive and defensive operations. Bombing the tunnels is one way of rendering the tunnels useless. But there is a better way. Jeff Goodson, a retired Foreign Service Officer, worked in the Gaza Strip doing development work and knows the lay of the land. He presents his ideas here in “Flood the Gaza Tunnels”, Real Clear Defense, November 1, 2023.
Social Media and Satellites. Getting comprehensive reports about the situation on the battlefield of a conflict or war is usually difficult. However, technology has now progressed that social media and commercial satellite images can provide the battlefield updates. “Satellites and social media offer hints about Israel’s ground war strategy in Gaza”, by Geoff Brumfiel and Daniel Wood, National Public Radio, November 3, 2023.
Report on Israel Hamas Conflict. The Congressional Research Service has published Israel and Hamas 2023 Conflict in Brief: Overview, U.S. Policy, and Options for Congress, CRS RA47828, November 1, 2023, PDF, 16 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R47828
Examining the Ukraine Conflict. Victor Andrusiv, a member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, writes on the prospects of the defeat of the Russian army in Ukraine and the implications for the international scene. “A Vision of Russian Defeat”, Wilson Center, October 31, 2023.
More U.S. Security Assistance. On November 3, 2023, the Department of Defense announced that it is sending another $125 million in assistance to Ukraine. This includes munitions for NASAMS, HIMARS, artillery, TOWs, Javelins, and other types of weapons. “Biden Administration Announces New Security Assistance for Ukraine”, DOD, November 3, 2023.
Interactive Map. Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine by the Insitute for the Study of War and Critical Threats.
National Security and Commentary
IW and DOD. At the NDAI SO/LIC Symposium held last week Chris Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, said that U.S. SOCOM isn’t necessarily the lead for irregular warfare. He believes that the DOD has a lot more work to do when it comes to addressing irregular warfare and asymmetric issues like the gray zone. “Senior Pentagon official calls on DOD component to more fully embrace irregular, asymmetric warfare”, by Mark Pomerleau, Defensescoop, November 1, 2023.
SOCCENT FWD Yemen (SFY) – a Tripwire? Ken Klippenstein argues that special operations troops currently stationed in Yemen could possibly create geopolitical complications. He says this in light of recent drone and missile attacks by the Houthis against Israel. “Secret U.S. Military Presence in Yemen Adds a Twist to Houthi Attack on Israel”, The Intercept, November 2, 2023.
WH Fact Sheet on AI. The White House has issued an Executive Order that ensures that America can manage the risks of artificial intelligence. The EO establishes new standards for AI safety and security, protects privacy, and promotes innovation and competition. (White House Fact Sheet, Oct 30, 2023)
“Secure the Border Act”. On May 11, 2023, the House passed the Secure the Border Act of 2023 (H.R. 2). The bill would, among other things, make significant changes to federal immigration laws with respect to border security, asylum, and detention. On September 14, 2023, a companion bill was introduced in the Senate (S. 2824). This In Focus examines H.R. 2, focusing specifically on provisions governing asylum, applicants for admission, and parole. The Secure the Border Act (H.R. 2): Asylum-Related Reforms, Congressional Research Service, CRS IF12522, October 30, 2023, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12522
Language and IW. A recent article explores one example of how language is weaponized to attain strategic and geopolitical goals. Learn how Russia uses ‘de-Romanization tactics’ to influence the course of events in eastern Europe. “The Weaponization of Language in Irregular Warfare: Moldova, a Case Study”, by Olga Raluca Chiriac and Dan Dungaciu, Irregular Warfare Initiative, November 2, 2023.
Podcast – Subversion: The Strategic Weaponization of Narratives. Listen to two academics on how states weaponize strategic narratives to control the information space and achieve their interests. Irregular Warfare Initiative, October 20, 2023, one hour. https://irregularwarfare.org/podcasts/subversion-the-strategic-weaponization-of-narratives/
Social Media – Fact and Fiction. During international crises, it is common for social media to be flooded with images, videos, and bold claims. It can become overwhelming for a public seeking the facts. “Separating Fact from Fiction on Social Media in Times of Conflict”, Bellingcat, October 26, 2023.
Great Power Competition
A Worldly Irregular War. Two members of the RAND Corporation, Alexander Noyes and Daniel Egel, argue that the United States is currently in an irregular war with its strategic competitors. Russia and China have historically relied on proxy forces, but now seem more willing to deploy their own forces to undermine U.S. allies and partners. The United States, according to Noyes and Egel, are not currently ready for this irregular fight. “Winning the Irregular War”, Newsweek, November 2, 2023.
Memes vs. Missiles. An article by Steve Ferenzi and others argue that a new approach is needed for North Korea – one that prioritizes the information instrument of power that will set conditions for eventual regime transition. “Memes vs. Missiles? Cognitive Access Denial and the North Korea Problem”, Irregular Warfare Center, October 31, 2023.
CRS Report – FY2024 NDAA: U.S. Military Posture in the Indo-Pacific. According to the 2022 National Security Strategy the Indo-Pacific is the most significant region of the world and People’s Republic of China presents the most comprehensive and serious challenge to U.S. national security. Congressional Research Service, CRS IN12273, October 20, 2023, PDF, 5 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IN/IN12273
Russian Ties with Libya Increasing. Russia is moving to expand its military presence in eastern Libya – a plan that could lead to a naval base. “Putin’s move to secure Libya bases is new regional worry for U.S.”, The Japan Times, November 6, 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.
Sandhurst in the Sand. One of the legacies of the British involvement in Afghanistan was supposed to be a training complex to educate the future officers of the Afghan National Army. The site was located near Kabul and was referred to as Sandhurst in the Sand. Read more in an article posted by Forces.net on November 1, 2023.
DoS and Others – Joint Statement. Special Representatives and Envoys for Afghanistan from Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States met in Rome on 18 October 2023. They decided to continue their regular consultations at senior officials’ level as a means of developing consistent joint policies on Afghanistan and promoting coherent approaches of the group to the outstanding challenges of present-day Afghanistan. Read more in “Joint Statement on Afghanistan”, Department of State, October 31, 2023.
SIVs – Slow Process. An April analysis by the Association of Wartime Allies estimated that at the current pace, it will take 31 years to relocate and resettle all 175,000 Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants from Afghanistan. SIGAR, October 2023 report, page 30.
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Books, Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Sentinel. The November 2023 issue of the Sentinel is now online. Published by Chapter 78 of the Special Forces Association, this magazine contains articles of interest to the special operations community. This month’s issue contains an excerpt of the book Jon Robert Cavaiani: A Wolf Remembered. Jon was a Special Forces NCO who won the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War. Other articles are on topics such as the Son Tay Raid, honoring members of MACV-SOG, rescuing a downed pilot at Khe Sanh, and more. https://www.specialforces78.com/chapter-78-newsletter-for-november-2023/
IWI Monthly Newsletter. The October 2023 issue of the Irregular Warfare Initiative newsletter is available for viewing.
Podcast – Gen (R) Scott Miller. The former command of JSOC and the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan talks about attending West Point, Task Force Ranger, Afghanistan, and life after retirement. West Point Association of Graduates, October 25, 2023, 40 minutes. https://www.westpointaog.org/news/podcast-leaders-never-arrive-with-gen-r-scott-miller-83/
Video – Jump – Be All You Can Be. The Army has come out with another recruiting video. This one features airborne troops conducting a parachute jump from a Chinook. GoArmy, YouTube, November 5, 2023, 30 seconds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m25KI4RAm4c
Video – How Russia is Restructuring Wagner Group’s Africa Operations. Russia is putting in a new power structure to take over the Wagner Group’s sprawling operations in Africa. Wall Street Journal, November 2, 2023, 6 minutes. (possible paywall)
Video – MACV SOG Extraction Techniques – The McGuire Rig. Watch a vintage detailed account about USAF 20th Special Operations Squadron pilots flying their Hueys to extract special operations teams from the jungles of Vietnam. MACV SOG, YouTube, November 2023, 6 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jM9MCH7Aeoc
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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