Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Photo / Image: Marine Raiders rehearse advanced military free fall jumps at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 1, 2021. Military free fall sustainment training is necessary for a Marine special operations team to stay proficient and ready at all times for future operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ethan Green)
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Five KIA in MH-60 Crash. Five crew members of an Army special operations helicopter died in a crash in the eastern Mediterranean Sea during an air refueling event on Friday night. The mishap took place off the coast of southeast Cyprus. “5 U.S. Special Operations Forces Killed in Helicopter Crash in Mediterranean”, The New York Times, November 12, 2023. (subscription may be required) See also “US Military Plane Crashes in Mediterranean Training ‘Mishap'”, Voice of America, November 11, 2023. “DOD Identifies Army Soldiers Killed in Helicopter Crash”, U.S. Department of Defense, November 13, 2023.
Pulling TACPs from Army Bases. Bad Idea? An Air Force plan to relocate squadrons of elite close-air support airmen on Army bases, consolidating from eight locations down to just two, is likely to harm military readiness. (Military.com, Nov 7, 2023)
AC-130J’s Big Gun Going Away? The future of the AC-130J’s big gun is once again uncertain as interest in giving the Ghostrider more stand-off strike capabilities grow. “AC-130J Ghostriders Could Lose Their Big 105mm Guns”, The WarZone, November 7, 2023.
Lasers for the AC-130? The future of a laser-armed AC-130J is increasingly uncertain and a broader review of the Ghostrider’s armament package is in progress. “AC-130 Laser Weapon Test Slip Raises Questions About Its Future”, Thew Warzone, November 10, 2023.
Navy’s Leap Frogs. The Leap Frogs, a U.S. Navy Parachute Team, showcase their precision, teamwork, and commitment to excellence in each jump, and are a vital tool in Navy recruiting by landing and immediately interacting with the crowd to offer their unique perspective on Naval Special Warfare. “A Leap of Faith and Excellence: Skydiving with the U.S. Navy’s Leap Frogs”, Men’s Journal, November 9, 2023.
History of the Green Berets. Christopher Klein provides a historical timeline of U.S. Army Special Forces – from their founding in 1952 to the end of the GWOT era. “How Green Berets Became the US Army’s Elite Special Forces”, History.com, November 7, 2023.
Matt Parrish and TFDSOF. A former Green Beret, Matt Parrish, has been appointed as the new Executive Director of the Task Force Dagger Special Operations Foundation. Matt served much of his career with the 7th Special Forces Group. He recently retired, his last assignment with U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida. https://www.taskforcedagger.org/our-team/
British SRR. Guy McCardle provides some insight into the British Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR). Established in 2005, the unit provided an evolution of the UK’s special forces capabilities. “SOF Spotlight: British Special Reconnaissance Regiment”, SOFREP, November 2023. (subscription)
Fires Center Named After Ranger. After four years of planning, collaboration, design, and renovation, the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment cut the ribbon on the Domeij Fires Center on Nov. 2, 2023, marking its grand opening. “The Crucible of Fires: State of the Art Fires Center Named After Legendary Ranger”, U.S. Army, November 9, 2023.
Romania SOF Orders Polaris DAGOR. Romania is ordering more than 50 DAGOR ultralight tactical vehicles. These vehicles will enhance the tactical mobility of Romanian SOF. (Joint-Forces.com, Nov 13, 2023).
GBs Visit JFK’s Gravesite. A wreath-laying ceremony was held at the grave of President John F. Kennedy on November 8, 2023, at Arlington National Ceremony. “Green Berets bring annual tribute to JFK’s Arlington Gravesite”, Stars and Stripes, November 10, 2023.
Myths about SEALs. One result of that increased public notoriety, which has reflected both positively and negatively on the SEALs, has been the growth of certain misconceptions held by the wider public about the Navy SEAL Teams. “Think You Know the Navy SEALs? Here’s 3 Things You Have Wrong”, National Interest, November 9, 2023.
Combat Diver Competition. In September, two-man teams from across the U.S. special operations community competed in a number of MAROPS events held for three-days at Naval Air Station Key West. “US Commandos showed off their little-known underwater skills in Army Special Operations Command’s best combat diver competition”, Business Insider, November 11, 2023.
Operation Eagle Claw. On November 4, 1979, nearly 3,000 fundamentalist Iranian students stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran and took 63 American personnel hostage. The storming of the Embassy came after the fall of Iran’s U.S.-backed government and the rise of an Islamic republic. The United States feared for the safety of all the hostages and as a result, on April 16, 1980, after months of being held, U.S. President Jimmy Carter approved a military rescue operation to free the hostages and end the crisis, codenamed Eagle Claw. Read more in “Operation Eagle Claw”, Grey Dynamics, November 8, 2023.
Afghanistan 2001. On November 13, 2001, Taliban-held 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).
Book – Lincoln’s Special Forces. During the Civil War a shadow conflict took place between special irregular units of both sides. A new book entitled The Unvanquished covers the history of the Jessie Scouts, a unit that hunted Mosby’s Confederate Rangers from 1963 to the war’s end.
Conflict in Israel and Gaza
Evac of U.S. Citizens from ME? There are about 600,000 Americans (many dual citizens) that are living in Israel and Lebanon that may need to be evacuated. The U.S. government is getting ready to act if the war between the Palestinians militants of Gaza and Israel continues to escalate. “U.S. readies plans for mass evacuations if Gaza war escalates”, The Washington Post, October 23, 2023. (subscription)
Hostages. There are still 9 Americans missing and presumed to be hostages taken by Hamas and now held in captivity in Gaza Strip. U.S. SOF units are positioned in the area to respond to the situation and to offer Israel advice on hostage recovery.
Map. Check out a regularly updated visual tracker of northern border attacks by Hezbollah, the IDF, and Palestinian groups during the 2023 Hamas-Israel War. “Mapping Clashes Along the Israel-Lebanon Border”, Washington Institute, November 1, 2023.
Creating an Army in the US Fashion. The United States is repeating mistakes made in Iraq and Afghanistan – attempting to create a Ukrainian military with US doctrine and strategy. Some believe we are going about it all wrong. “It’s Time to Ukrainify US Military Assistance”, Modern War Institute at West Point, November 10, 2023.
Beating Up on Russia’s Navy. The Ukrainians have broken the Russian naval blockade of Odesa. Although Ukraine doesn’t have a navy it has mastered the use of unmanned maritime drones, long-range anti-ship missiles, and special operations forces to diminish the effectiveness of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. “How Ukraine, With No Warships, Is Thwarting Russia’s Navy”, by Marc Santora, The New York Times, November 12, 2023. (subscription) See also “Russia’s Black Sea Fleet Loses One of Its ‘Most Advanced Ships’ – Ukraine”, Newsweek, November 5, 2023.
Video – Training for the Return of Trench Warfare. The Ukraine conflict has evolved into a long-term battle where success is measured in small territorial gains along a wide front. With the war in Ukraine proving trench-to-trench battles are not a relic, NATO troops prepare for the grueling form of war. Military Times, November 6, 2023, YouTube, 2 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ns0FeJG0kVU
Interactive Map. Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine by the Insitute for the Study of War and Critical Threats.
Help Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel with spine injuries receive the healthcare options, education, and care they need.
IW Research Center. David Maxwell provides his perspective on the merits of establishing an academic setting for the research of irregular warfare. “Ensuring the Success of America’s First University-based Irregular Warfare Research Center”, Small Wars Journal, November 8, 2023.
Stay Behind Forces. Brian Petit, a retired Special Forces colonel, provides his perspective on the use of stay behind forces in the context of four different occupation environments. “Should I Stay or Should I Go? Stay-behind Force Decision-Making”, War on the Rocks, November 8, 2023.
Intel Ops and IW. Sal Artiaga traces the history of intelligence operations over the course of recent warfare – from Vietnam to Ukraine. Over time, the nature of intelligence has shifted – from human-centric insights to technology-driven reconnaissance. The role of intelligence in irregular warfare is continuing to change, however, the importance of understanding human terrain will never go away. “The Evolution of Intelligence Operations in Support of Irregular Warfare”, Irregular Warfare Center, November 1, 2023.
PTSD and Psychedelics. Clinical trials have shown that, under the right conditions, psychedelics can have a positive effect on mental health conditions like PTSD or depression for some people. Veterans have responded by calling for greater access to psychedelic-assisted therapy for some patients. “Therapeutic Use of Psychedelics in Treating PTSD and Depression Among Veterans”, RAND Corporation, November 8, 2023.
CT and Armed Drones. The United States has significantly increased its use of armed drones to attack global counterterrorism targets since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11) continuing to
today to support U.S. and partnering country counterterrorism missions. Read more in Armed Drones: Evolution as a Counterterrorism Tool, Congressional Research Service, CRS IF12342, updated November 7, 2023, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12342
U.S.-ROK Alliance. To more effectively advance three strategic priorities of the United States and Republic of Korea relationship, Secretary Austin (SecDef) and Minister Shin (ROK) are looking to restructure existing bilateral Alliance dialogue mechanisms to ensure that the Alliance is well-postured for the future. “Defense Vision of the U.S.-ROK Alliance”, U.S. Department of Defense, November 13, 2023.
Report on Nigeria. The Congressional Research Service has published an update to Nigeria: Overview and U.S. Policy, CRS R47052, updated November 9, 2023, PDF, 28 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R47052
Great Power Competition
Preparing for War with China. Jennifer Hlad writes on how the U.S. Army is conducting exercises in the Indo-Pacific region to prepare for future conflicts. “How US Army Pacific is preparing for war with China”, Defense One, November 9, 2023.
IW in the Indo-Pacific. Dr. Lumpy Lumbaca details why a comprehensive Irregular Warfare (IW) campaign strategy is needed by the United States Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM). He outlines the strategic focus areas that the IW campaign should be built upon and then describes the specific lines of effort that may be used as building blocks toward strategic success. “Irregular Warfare: Undermining the CCP’s Dangerous and Illegal Activities in the Indo-Pacific”, Small Wars Journal, November 12, 2023.
Afghanistan – China Wins? Almost two-and-a-half years after the U.S-backed Afghan government crumbled and the Taliban regime resumed power in Afghanistan, Chinese investors are maneuvering into the country – most notably to reap the benefits of Afghanistan’s abundant and in-demand national resources. Has China emerged as the ultimate winner of the long and devastating war? “Is China the Real Winner in Afghanistan?”, by Hollie McKay, The CIPHER Brief, November 13, 2023. (subscription)
Philippines Confronts China. For years China has slowly extended its maritime reach. It is now increasing tensions with the Philippines – a situation that may draw the United States into a maritime confrontation. “Let’s Call China’s Actions in the South China Sea What They Really Are”, by Charmaine Misalucha-Willougby, United States Institute of Peace, November 1, 2023.
China’s PLA. Payton Rawson describes “How China commands its ‘people’s army'”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, November 13, 2023.
Arrow Security & Training, LLC is a corporate sponsor of SOF News. AST offers a wide range of training and instruction courses and programs to include language and cultural services, training, role playing, and software and simulation. https://arrowsecuritytraining.com/
Former CIA and SF Vets Helping Afghans. Members of “Team Alpha” – Special Forces and CIA paramilitary personnel who link up with the Northern Alliance in 2001 – are now assisting Afghans of the Northern Alliance who fought with them in the initial days of the invasion of Afghanistan by the United States. Their private organization, Badger Six, is working to bring these Afghan allies to the United States. “These US veterans aren’t giving up on Afghan fighters who save their lives”, New York Post, November 8, 2023.
Afghan Economy. Kate Clark provides an overview of the Afghan economy. It is a bleak look that contradicts the rosy proclamations of the Taliban regime. “Survival and Stagnation: The State of the Afghan Economy”, Afghanistan Analysts Network, November 7, 2023.
Deportation of Afghans from Pakistan. In October, Pakistan announced that undocumented migrants would be expelled from Pakistan. About 1.6 million Afghans currently live in Pakistan; some 600,000 fled there after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. Beginning on November 1st, Pakistan began rounding up Afghans and sending them back to Afghanistan. Read more in “Pakistan opens 3 new border crossings to deport Afghans in ongoing crackdown on migrants”, by Abdul Sattar, The San Diego Union-Tribune, November 13, 2023.
Afghanistan’s Earthquakes. Herat province has suffered a series of deadly earthquakes over the past few months. This article looks at the damage and the science behind the earthquakes, the disaster response efforts, and what remains to be done to help Afghans affected by the quakes to rebuild their lives. “Nature’s Fury: The Herat earthquakes of 2023”, Afghanistan Analysts Network, November 10, 2023.
Podcast – Shawn VanDiver with #AfghanEvac. Shawn VanDiver, is president and founder of the #AfghanEvac coalition, which unites volunteers and professionals from government, national security, and public policy backgrounds in a search to fulfill the promises the U.S. made to its allies left behind in Afghanistan. Shawn talked about the important wins that the coalition has been able to achieve through their efforts, as well as some of the difficulties they have faced over the past two years. The Afghanistan Project Podcast, November 13, 2023, YouTube, one hour. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePjYq2x5E90
U.S. Military Strikes in Syria. U.S. military forces conducted precision strikes today on facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to continued attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria. The strikes were conducted against a training facility and a safe house near the cities of Abu Kamal and Mayadin, respectively. See “U.S. airstrikes kill Iranian proxies in Syria, officials say”, The Washington Post, November 12, 2023. (subscription)
Houthi Rebels Shoot Down U.S. Reaper. A US drone was shot down by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on November 8, 2023. The MQ-9 was shot down in Yemeni airspace. “U.S. officials have confirmed an MQ-9 has been shot down off the coast of Yemen”, The Aviationist, November 8, 2023.
Qatar. The Congressional Research Service has updated its report entitled Qatar: Issues for the 118th Congress, CRS R47467, updated November 3, 2023, PDF, 27 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R47467
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Books, Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Video – Rescuing Americans Where Others Won’t. Brian Stern of Project Dynamo is interviewed by Matt Parrish on the Prep for Impact show. Stern’s organization has been assisting in the evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Sudan, and now Israel and Gaza. The podcast is backed by the Green Beret Foundation. November 6, 2023, YouTube, 57 mins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUwmnpguD80
Video – Scott Mann and SF Around the World. A retired Green Beret talks about the role of U.S. Special Forces around the globe. Fox News, November 11, 2023, 5 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ySJHjv5Tjg
Video – The Legacy of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan. The 75th Ranger Regiment, YouTube, November 11, 2023, 8 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYrJZDzXytI
Video – Training ARVN | Foreign Internal Defense (FID). “Training ARVN” examines US Foreign Internal Defense (FID) doctrine through the early years of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. ARVN came to look like a mirror image of the US Army of the 1960s. Under American advisement, South Vietnam developed its abilities in its war against North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front. Yet ARVN’s deficiencies contributed to the United States’ decision to introduce American combat forces in 1965. Army University Press, YouTube, November 2, 2023, 29 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAOUnPOUzoQ&t=2s
Video – Beyond the Battlefield: Inside the US Special Forces. History, YouTube, November 12, 2023, 8 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Q2pvUg95co
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