Special Operations News – February 5, 2024

B-1B Lancer

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

Photo / Image: A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., descends after conducting air refueling operations with a KC-135R Stratotanker assigned to the Utah Air National Guard’s 151st Air Refueling Wing, Sept. 30, 2019, over central Utah. The Utah Air National Guard’s KC-135R fleet is capable of refueling a variety of fighters, bombers and heavy cargo aircraft in the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps inventory. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Winn)

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U.S. Strikes Back

U.S. Strikes in Iraq and Syria. On Friday, February 2, 2024, the United States conducted numerous airstrikes against targets in the Middle East in response to the deaths of three U.S. soldiers killed in a drone attack (SOF News, 29 Jan 2024) by Iranian-backed militants. According to a Central Command press release the air attacks occurred in Iraq and Syria against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups. Seven facilities, which included 85 targets, were struck by aircraft delivering 125 precision munitions. Two of the aircraft were B1B bombers that flew without stopping from the U.S., conducting a midair refuel while in flight. The facilities struck included command and control operations centers, intelligence centers, rockets, missiles, logistics sites, and more. According to U.S. officials, the timing of the attack had a lot to do with favorable weather. Additional attacks will take place in the future.

Map of Syria and Iraq

The U.S. has assessed that the drone that killed three U.S. soldiers was manufactured by Iran. (Reuters, 1 Feb 2024) Most of the drones used in the Middle East by militants are of Iranian origin. Iran supplies a lot of drones to Russia for use in the Ukraine conflict.

SOF News

Triad Partnership. The Army’s top generals for cyber, space and special operations forces met to discuss the Triad partnership and how they can further develop, operationalize and institutionalize the collaboration. The meeting of the “Triad 3-Star General Officer Steering Committee” took place at the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado, on January 31, 2024. “Top Army’s generals for cyber, space, and special operations convene for Triad partnership”, DVIDS, February 2, 2024.

Vickers at Princeton. Former Green Beret and CIA operative Michael Vickers spoke at the Center for International Security Studies at Princeton University on January 29, 2024. This article presents a detailed background of Vickers and then summarizes Vicker’s presentation at the event. He shared insights on his career as well provided commentary on past and present U.S. foreign policy. “From ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ to Princton Lecture Hall”, by Linda Sipprelle, TAPinto Princton, January 31, 2024.

Rangers and Green Berets. Joshua Skovlund tells us how U.S. Army Special Forces and the 75th Ranger Regiment are different. “What’s the difference between Army Rangers and Green Berets”, Task & Purpose, February 2, 2024.

GB is Congressional Candidate. Colby Jenkins, a former U.S. Army Special Forces colonel and combat veteran is running as a Republican for the U.S. House of Representatives in Utah. Deseret News, February 3, 2024.

NSW Training and Sewage. San Diego congressional members are asking the Navy to shed light on how much training has been cancelled or postponed due to sewage coming from Tijuana. “Is sewage crisis affecting Navy SEALs training in Coronado?”, The San Diego Union-Tribune, February 2, 2024.

Books on SF. Green Berets know a thing or two about what makes a good story. Read “The 5 best books about Special Forces – according to Green Berets”, by Joshua Skovlund, Task & Purpose, February 1, 2024.

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International SOF

Belgian SOF Engineers. Belgium has a SOF engineer unit that comprises specific engineering capabilities within 3 Parachute Battalion (3Para) and 2 Commando Battalion (2Cdo). The unit has divers, boats, a search, clearance, and breaching section, and military sniffer dogs. “Belgian Special Operations Engineer Detachment”, Joint-Forces.com, January 29, 2024.

SOF Units Around the World. Shannon Corbell has presented a list of the 10 most lethal special operations units. Almost all the usual suspects are mentioned, in no particular order. We Are The Mighty, January 31, 2024.

ROK and US SOF Conduct Training. U.S. Navy Naval Special Warfare Command and U.S. Army Special Operations Command personnel partnered with their Republic of Korea counterparts, participating in various special operations forces-unique training events that enhanced both nations’ capacity to respond to a variety of complex situations in January 2024. “ROK-US demonstrate enduring SOF relationship with first combined training of 2024”, DVIDS, January 31, 2024.

Tet Offensive and a Vietnamese Ranger Bn. 56 years ago Keith Nightingale was the senior advisor to the 52nd Vietnamese Ranger Battalion during the Tet offensive. “One Team. One Fight”, Small Wars Journal, February 1, 2024.

SOF History Banner

SOF History

193rd SOW. One year ago, on February 2, 2023, the 193rd Special Operations Wing received its first MC-130J Commando II. This signaled the wing’s transition to a new aircraft and a new mission.

Battle of Lang Vei. On the evening of February 6, 1968, a U.S. Special Forces camp in South Vietnam came under attack. The members of the 5th SFG(A) detachment and indigenous Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) forces were overrun. Some of the SF team were able to make their way to the Khe Sanh Combat Base held by the U.S. Marines. Battle of Lang Vei, Wikipedia.

History of the Rangers. There are some in the special operations community that celebrate February 1, 1969, as the birthday of the 75th Rangers. The U.S. Army seems to have chosen a different date. Kenn Miller explains the heritage and confused history of the U.S. Army Rangers. “A Tangled Lineage”, Sentinel.

Backpack Nukes and SF. Read up on the Special Forces mission to insert behind enemy lines with backpack nuclear weapons. “Red Menace, Black Ops, Green Light”, The Highside, February 1, 2024.

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

Russia’s Deep Defense. There were many observers of the Ukraine conflict looking forward to Ukraine’s late fall – winter offensive. The results were disappointing. There were Ukrainian successes on the Black Sea but not so much on land. Limited territory gains by Ukraine were bought at great cost in personnel and material. Throughout the later part of 2023 the Russians had adopted a policy of deep and prepared defenses. Stephen Biddle examines this in detail in “How Russia Stopped Ukraine’s Momentum”, Foreign Affairs, January 29, 2024.

Russia in the Offense. The static nature of the conflict on the ground in eastern Ukraine continues. There are indications that Ukraine is now in a defensive posture in the face of continued Russian offensive attempts. Some observers believe that Russian forces have regained the initiative along most of the front lines with the exception of Kherson Oblast. Russian forces are suffering less from artillery barrages due to an acute shortage of ammunition on the Ukrainian side. “They Come in Waves: Ukraine Goes on Defense Against a Relentless Foe”, The New York Times, February 4, 2024. (subscription)

Maritime Success for Ukraine. The Russian Black Sea fleet continues to suffer losses. This past week the Russian corvette Ivanovets was sent to the bottom of the sea after being attacked by six seaborne surface drones. The small missile carrying warship sank with an estimated 40 Russian sailors.

SOF Medics and Medical Evacuation. The Ukrainian special operations forces that conduct missions deep behind enemy lines do not enjoy medical evacuation by helicopter. Instead, they rely on each other for medical treatment and movement back to a medical facility in friendly held territory. Read how medics of the elite 73rd Naval Centre of Special Operations provide medical assistance in extremely difficult conditions. “I’m a special forces medic – this is how troops fighting Putin stay alive”, Metro, February 3, 2024.

Disinformation Battle. A recent paper outlines the ways that Ukraine combats the disinformation campaigns of Russia. It outlines ten lessons that the West could learn from the unique Ukrainian experience. How Ukraine fights Russian disinformation: Beehive vs mammoth, Hybrid CoE Research Report 11, January 2024, PDF, 48 pages.

Interactive Map. Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine by the Insitute for the Study of War and Critical Threats.
On storymaps.arcgis.com

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Silent Killer of GWOT Vets. Cancer is striking the veterans of the Global War on Terror at rates that recall Agent Orange. “A silent killer is stalking veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan”, Defense One, February 1, 2024.

Cordesman – an Icon Passes Away. A highly respected commentator of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and Afghanistan died on January 29, 2024. Anthony Cordesman was a former intelligence analyst turned author and commentator. He was not shy in pointing out the many missteps of the U.S. in the GWOT conflicts around the world, especially in Afghanistan. “Anthony Cordesman, security analyst who saw flaws in U.S. policy, dies at 84”, The Washington Post, January 31, 2024. (subscription)

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National Security

Defeating Drones. Quadcopter drones are small, maneuverable, hard to detect, and cheap to buy. They are good for reconnaissance as well as carrying munitions that can target individuals, vehicles, command posts, air defense equipment, and more. Although inexpensive to purchase they are expensive to shoot down. In enough numbers, defending against drones can exhaust your budget. “The challenge of cheap drones: finding an even cheaper way to destroy them”, by Bradley Perrett, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, January 29, 2024. See also an article about how drones have become the weapon of choice for military ‘underdogs’ and terror groups. (Sky News, 3 Feb 2024)

PRIME sUSV. The Department of Defense is envisioning future fleets of low-cost drone boats for the U.S. Navy. The Production-Ready, Inexpensive, Maritime Expeditionary (PRIME) Small Unmanned Surface Vehicle (ssUSV) project is similar to a capability demonstrated by the Houthi militants of Yemen and the Ukrainian military. “Drone Boat Swarm Vision Laid Out by DoD”, The WarZone, February 1, 2024.

Gaza Residents Homeless. More than half of the 2.3 million residents of the Gaza Strip are displaced, and many are gathered together in a small part of southern Gaza in the area of the Egyptian border. They are becoming more at risk due to disease and hunger as well as the combat operations taking place near the refugee centers. Things will get worse once Israel intensifies military operations in the vicinity of Rafah – the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip.

Border Crisis. The Senate is headed for a crucial test vote on new border policies and Ukraine aid. (AP News, 1 Feb 2024) A bipartisan border deal that pairs migration deterrents with Ukraine funding has been negotiated in the Senate. However, the $118 billion package faces opposition from lawmakers on the left and right. The speaker of the house has called it “dead on arrival”. “Senate negotiators release sweeping border and military aid bill”, The Washington Post, February 4, 2024. (subscription) One version is posted here.

Strategic Competition

Map Baltic States

“Plan Red” – Russia’s Invasion of the Baltics. What would Russia’s war on NATO look like? This is how the Kremlin’s generals might do it. “Code Red: How Russia Conquers the Baltics”, by Jan Kallberg, Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), January 30, 2024.

Baltic Defense Line. Three nations bordering on Russia are joining efforts to build a Baltic defense line. The hope is that this defensive effort, along with NATO presence and increasing Baltic preparedness will deter Russia from invading Lithuania, Latvia, or Estonia. Lukas Milevski provides some details. “The Baltic Defense Line”, Foreign Policy Research Initiative, February 2, 2024.

Russia in Africa. The Kremlin is now moving to compete directly with the West in Africa – especially in the Sahel region. “Russia Steps Up the Competition in Africa”, by Raphael Parens, Foreign Policy Research Institute, January 11, 2024. See also “The New Wagner? Africa Corps in Burkina Faso Outlook”, by Joseph Balodis, Grey Dynamics, February 4, 2024.


Drones for India. One of the world’s most deadly remotely piloted vehicles (RPV) will soon be sold to India through the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) route. The country is purchasing 31 of the ‘Sky Guardian’ variant of the MQ-9B. The Sky Guardians will be equipped with AGM-114R Hellfire air-surface missiles that can be used for precision drone strikes. The MQ-9s can also perform ISR and serve as communication nodes and relay centers between sensors and shooters. (The EurAsian Times, 2 Feb 2024)

Myanmar at War. For the last few years, the conflict in Myanmar has intensified. In 2023 there were over 2,000 civilian casualties – including over 700 fatalities. Most of these were caused by the Myanmar government forces. Millions of people have been displaced yet the conflict between the government forces and rebel forces receives very little international attention. “Myanmar: three years of a devastating, under-reported war”, Action on Armed Violence, February 2, 2024. See also “Military Abuses Against Civilians Intensify”, Human Rights Watch, January 30, 2024.


Ambassador to Iraq Nomination. “The woman who failed to rescue U.S. friends from the Taliban is Biden’s nominee for ambassador to Iraq”. According to a recent news article, the person in charge of the SIV Taskforce during the fiasco of late summer 2021 is going to be an ambassador. “Tracy Jacobson Abandoned Our Afghan Allies. Now She’s Getting a Promotion”, The Free Press, January 31, 2024.

Legal Standing of Taliban Regime. An Afghan legal scholar argues that the Taliban cannot be formally recognized as Afghanistan’s government under international law in light of its abysmal rights record. “The Taliban’s Approach to International Law Could Determine the Legal Status of Their Regime”, by Haroun Rahimi, Jurist.org, February 2, 2024.

AAA in the Border Security Bill. The national security supplemental proposed by Senate leadership includes provisions of the Afghan Adjustment Act, a bipartisan effort years in the making that would create a pathway to residency for Afghans who worked alongside U.S. soldiers in America’s longest war. https://www.sinema.senate.gov/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/The-Border-Act-2024-Section-by-Section-1.pdf

Afghan Passports. Leaving Afghanistan is difficult. Some Afghans have managed to be relocated to Europe, the United States, and elsewhere by other countries due to their work relationship over the past twenty years with foreign militaries or government agencies. But one stumbling block is getting an Afghan passport. “The Daily Hustle: Mission impossible – the quest for passports and visas in Afghanistan”, Afghanistan Analyst Network, February 4, 2024.

Video – HFAC Roundtable on Taliban Reprisals. The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a conference on current events in Afghanistan and the plight of Afghans who worked for the U.S. during the 20-year involvement of the U.S. in the Afghan conflict. Among those giving testimony is former Green Beret Justin Sapp. HFAC, YouTube, January 31, 2024, 2 hours. (video starts at the 19 min mark) https://www.youtube.com/live/lznK1DhShqg?si=my72EYruOilarWW2&t=1140

Compressed Adventures

Take the edge off of winter. Head south for some warm water adventure.

Middle East

More U.S. Attacks on Yemen. A new wave of airstrikes against 36 Houthi targets across 13 locations in Yemen (map NSI) took place on Saturday, February 3, 2024. The United Kingdom participated in the attacks against the Houthis. Targets included weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defense systems, and radars. The Iranian-backed Houthi militants have launched more than 30 attacks on commercial shipping vessels and U.S. warships since mid-November 2023. (DoD, 3 Feb 2024) According to CENTCOM, additional strikes took place on Sunday, February 4, 2024, in morning (Sanaa time).

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Upcoming Events

February 8, 2024
Global SOF Imperatives Forum
Washington, DC

February 27-29, 2024
Special Air Warfare Symposium – Global SOF
Fort Walton Beach, FL

April 12-14, 2024
Best Ranger Competition

April 24-25, 2024
12th Border Security & Intelligence Summit
Defense Strategies

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Podcasts, Journals, and Videos

Ranger Reading List. The Three Rangers Foundation has posted a listing and biography of authors who are Rangers. https://www.threerangersfoundation.org/ranger-reading-list

Podcast – Armed Politics. General Sir Nick Carter and Dr. Joe Felter (retired SF colonel) are the guests on this podcast that focuses on a theory of armed politics. According to Carter, those engaged in war today need to deeply understand every level of politics – as neglecting this understanding can have catastrophic effects. Irregular Warfare Initiative, January 26, 2024, 52 minutes. https://irregularwarfare.org/podcasts/armed-politics/

Sentinel. The Journal of the Quiet Professionals has posted its February 2024 monthly issue online. Some interest articles about U.S. Army Rangers, leadership, the holocaust, and more. PDF, 20 pages.

Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs, Vol. 7, No. 1, January-February 2024, PDF, 131 pages. This issue’s focus is on Thailand.

Movie Trailer – The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. During World War II Winston Churchill took a strong interest in the use of espionage and commandos that operate behind enemy lines. YouTube, 2 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvwDen1Wrx8

Video – I Barely Survived the Navy SEAL Obstacle Course. Austen Alexander tries out the BUD/S obstacle course at the Naval Special Warfare training center in Coronado, California. Austen Alexander, YouTube, May 19, 2023, 18 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVwtsNOtqjA

Video – The Korean War: The First Year, Army University Press, YouTube, January 22, 2024, 25mins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oTKKzrkkxQ

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