SOF News Update 20180914 – Scotty Miller, hands-free comms for CIA and SOF, Russia’s GRU, Russia’s big war game, terrorism update, Syria conflict update, drones and Somalia, UN and humanitarian war, USIP report on extremism, Australian SOTG mission in Iraq, al Qaeda update, how SEALs control fear, SF troops vouch for family of Iraqi interpreter, Sean Naylor on SOF of the future, McRaven resigns, Stan McChystal’s new book, SOF prep school for wannabes, Aussie SASR in Vietnam, SOF’s M-4s Sig Sauer upgrade, and more.
International SOF News
Aussie SOTG Msn in Iraq. Read about the ‘Advise, Assist, and Enable’ mission of the Australian Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) working with the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) in Iraq in 2016-2017 by Matt Stevens. “Advise, Assist, and Enable in Iraq: It’s a Human Thing”, The Cove, September 11, 2018.
Aussie SF Guarding APEC. Australian Special Forces soldiers have deployed to Papua New Guinea to help with security at Port Moresby in preparation for the APEC meeting. (ABC Net, Sep 11, 2018).
Australian SASR in Vietnam. A little history of the Special Air Service Regiment’s time in Vietnam – when they were referred to as the “Ghosts of the Jungle” by the NVA. (We Are the Mighty, Sep 12, 2018).
Afghan SOF Foil TB Attacks. US and Afghan special operations forces conducted a raid (via helicopter) against Taliban fighters. (Khaama Press, Sep 11, 2018)
US SOF News
Gen Miller – RS Cdr. Chuck Williams writes an article about the current commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan and former commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). (Leger-Enquirer, Sep 7, 2018).
Sean Naylor on SOF. A journalist with a career-long interest in SOF provides a thoughtful and informative article about some changes coming to the SOF community – less emphasis on CT and more on future nation-state conflict. Congress and the Pentagon desire more oversight over SOF. “Special operations boom years may be coming to a close”, Yahoo!, September 13, 2018.
New USSOCOM Vice Cdr. Major General James Slife (USAF) has been nominated for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general and assignment as vice commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
Segway Goes Commando. USSOCOM is testing a new ATV that is a bit unusual. The EZ RAIDER is electric-powered with a lot of computer controlled components. The EZ RAIDER is a four-wheeled all-terrain version of the original two-wheel Segway personal transporter. Read more in “Segway Goes Commando”, Strategy Page, September 12, 2018.
SEAL Museum Gets Piece of History. The Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida is receiving a piece of the Berlin Wall for display. (TC Palm, Sep 13, 2018).
USASOC’s Mini-SERE Camp for Kids. Family members of USASOC military personnel ages 13-17 can take part in a new USASOC family program that provides a camping experience living, eating, and sleeping in the woods for one week. The experience should provide the teens for a life changing experience building resilience. Read “Therapy Goes Wild”, DVIDS USASOC, September 11, 2018.
1st SFGA Bn Cdr on 9/11. LTC Josh Thiel spoke with the news media on Tuesday, the 17th anniversary of 9/11. (KIRO 7.com, Sep 11, 2018).
SOF’s M-4s get Sig Sauer Upgrade. The Sig Sauer MCX SURG System will provide a quieter weapon to special operators. (Fox News, Sep 13, 2018).
SF Troops Vouch for Family of Iraqi Interpreter. An interpreter who worked for U.S. forces for five years has been killed. His family, currently living in a refugee camp in Kurdistan, is seeking to come to the U.S. Several SF troops are attempting to help. Read “US Special Forces troops seek visas for family of heroic Iraqi interpreter”, Fox News, September 7, 2018.
Measuring Heat Illness. Candidates in the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program at Fort Benning are helping in research on heat casualties. (Army Times, Sep 11, 2018).
How Navy SEALs Control Fear. So SEALs tend to think differently when placed in high-stress situations – that’s according to Blake Stilwell. Read his article entitled “Navy SEAL brains are trained to alter how they process fear”, We Are The Mighty, September 10, 2018.
SFTA – A Prep School for SOF Wannabes. A retired SF medical Sgt (and also USAF PJ) operates a preparatory school for those wishing to join the military’s special operations forces. Read “Passing the torch: Ex-Commando inspires youth for special operations”, 920th Rescue Wing, September 11, 2018.
Molar Mic tested by PJs. In 2016 a private firm met with representatives from In-Q-Tel (a front for the CIA) to develop a ‘hands-free’ communications device emplaced in the mouth. Members of the Air National Guard’s 131st Rescue Squadron tested the device in Afghanistan and in the United States. It seems to be working out as a possibility as the Pentagon has just released a $10 million contract for more of the devices. Read more in “The Military Now Has Tooth Mics for Invisible Hands-Free Radio Calls”, Defense One, September 10, 2018.
NATO, Europe . . . and Russia
Large Russian War Games. Russia is holding large war games – biggest since the Cold War – in eastern Russia. The Vostok exercises will feature 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 vehicles, 1,000 aircraft, and 80 ships. The exercise takes place in eastern Russia, the Sea of Japan, and the Bering Strait. Read “Russia joins forces with China in largest war games since Soviet era”, The Telegraph (UK), September 11, 2018.
Russia’s GRU. The intelligence arm of the Russian armed forces has been involved in a number of exploits outside of Russia’s borders (Crimea, UK, Ukraine, and more). So who are these very busy intelligence operatives? Read “What is the GRU?”, The Economist, September 11, 2018.
Russian ‘Mischief’ and Macedonia. SECDEF Mattis will visit Macedonia soon amid worries about Russian interference with an upcoming referendum to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia. A successful vote could pave the way for Macedonia membership in NATO – something the Russians would not want to see happen. (VOA, Sep 11, 2018).
US Adds Troops to Germany. The 33,000 US troops currently based in Germany will see an additional 1,500 soon. New units will be established in 2020 in Germany (instead of repositioning current U.S.-based units). The new units will be air defense and artillery units. (Defense News, Sep 10, 2018).
Somalia and Drone Strikes. Thus far, according to official news releases, the United States (as of 29 Aug) has carried out more than 20 airstrikes in Somalia in 2018. Some believe that the drone strikes have become one of the most effective tools in the fight against al Shabaab – affecting the groups ability to communicate and move. But critics contend that while ground operations (Somali government troops advised by US SOF) and airstrikes are scoring tactical victories the strategic fight is being lost because of the lack of sustainable governing institutions (this sounds painfully familiar). There is, according to critics, a lack of a political strategy. Read a detailed article on this topic by Christina Goldbaum entitled “The War on Terror Still Grows in Somalia”, The Atlantic, September 11, 2018.
Is the SNFS Ready? Not Quite. The Somali National Security Forces has been receiving training, equipment, and funding from several external sources – but its improvement has been very slow. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is preparing to conduct a phased withdrawal of more than 21,000 troops. But the SNFS is not ready just yet. Read “Are Somali Troops Prepared to Lead the War Against al-Shabab?”, Voice of America, September 10, 2018.
Syria. Some observers have speculated that Assad will authorize his military to use chemical weapons in the offensive against the Syrian rebels last major stronghold. The U.S, France, and U.K. are consulting with each other on how to retaliate if / when this happens. Germany might participate in retaliatory strikes as well. An offensive against Idilib will surely cause a humanitarian disaster – Turkey could see lots of refugees heading its way and has been massing troops along the border. In a different part of the country the Syrian Democratic Front (aided by U.S.) is beginning a final push against the Islamic State. This battle may take a few months. China appears to be finally taking sides in the Syrian conflict – seeing the handwriting on the wall (an Assad victory over the rebels and regime continuity) it is looking to warm up relations with Syria – and therefore Russia and Iran.
Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been accused of violations of human rights with its bombing of civilians in Yemen. The U.S. is supporting the Saudi – UAE coalition with refueling of aircraft, ISR, SOF, and other types of enabling support. This has put the DoD and DoS on the defensive. Below is a statement by SECDEF Mattis published September 12, 2018.
“I endorse and fully support Secretary Pompeo’s certification to the Congress that the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are making every effort to reduce the risk of civilian casualties and collateral damage to civilian infrastructure resulting from their military operations to end the civil war in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition’s commitment is reflected in their support for these UN-led efforts. Alongside the Department of State we are actively engaged with Mr. Martin Griffiths, the UN Special Envoy, to achieve a negotiated end to this fighting.”
Sanctuaries in Pakistan. Most insurgencies that enjoy support and sanctuary in neighboring countries tend to win or drag out a conflict for many years. This is the case for the Taliban as well. Read “The Insurgent Sanctuary in Pakistan”, by Seth Jones, Center for Stratetic & International Studies, September 11, 2018.
The Taliban and Good Governance. One of the factors fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan (and in many other areas of the world) is the absence of good governance and providing of governmental services at the local community level. However one non-governmental agency is stepping in to fill the void – often co-opting many government services and personnel. That would be the Taliban. At the local community and sometimes district level (using a ‘shadow government’) the Taliban are implementing a governance structure that includes “. . . the management of schools, clinics, courts, tax collection, and more.” Read more in an article by Ashley Jackson, a research associate at the Overseas Development Institute entitled “The Taliban’s Fight for Hearts and Minds”, Foreign Policy, September 12, 2018.
Al Qaeda Has Expanded. Thomas Joscelyn, the Senior Editor for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ (FDD) Long War Journal informs us on the current status of al Qaeda. It hasn’t gone away. Read “Al Qaeda is very much alive, and widely misunderstood”, LWJ, September 11, 2018.
Terrorism – Fading Headlines. A number of factors have caused the topic of terrorism to fade away in the media headlines and newsfeeds. The expanding aggression of Russia, Arab spring, growth of China’s influence, Trump’s antics, al Qaeda’s more quiet role, emergence of ISIS, and other attention-grabbing headlines have taken the place of what was once the leading headliner in the last decade. Read “17 Years After 9/11: On the Declining Visibility of Terrorism and Counterterrorism”, by Robert Chesney, Lawfare, September 11, 2018.
The Python Problem. Three members of the U.S. Naval War College with a defense / CT / IW background provide commentary on the state of the war on terrorism. “The Python Problem: Reflections on the War on Terror, 17 Years Later”, War on the Rocks, September 11, 2018.
Report on Extremism. The Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States was set up by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) by the direction of Congress. The task force has issued an interim report entitled Beyond the Homeland: Protecting America from Extremism in Fragile States, September 11, 2018.
President’s Daily Briefing. Every morning the U.S. leader gets a briefing on current events – called the ‘daily intelligence briefing‘. Learn a little about the purpose and history of the briefs. (NPR, Sep 11, 2018).
GB’s Book about War and Recovery. Greg Stube was badly wounded when deployed with his SF team in Afghanistan. He had a long road to recovery which he details in his book – Conquer Anything – A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team. Read more about Greg Stube in “Gun Talk Saves a Hero’s Life”, American Rifleman, September 11, 2018.
Leaders: Myth and Reality. It appears that Gen (Ret) Stan McChrystal has a new book out. Judging from his past writing it is likely to be very good. Stan and his coauthors examine leadership through the lens of 13 men and women who have led in different times and circumstances – to include Robert E. Lee, Albert Einstein, Margaret Thatcher, Martin Luther King, and others. (McChrystal Group, Sep 2018).
The UN and Humanitarian War? Nathan Trimble, a U.S. Army Intelligence officer, examines the slide of the United Nations from ‘humanitarian intervention’ to ‘humanitarian war’. He cites the UN’s intervention in Somalia (1992), Kosovo (1999), and Libya (2011) as examples of the United Nations over-militarized international efforts to provide ‘humanitarian security’. While its efforts could be judged a success in Kosovo and possibly Libya there is the possibility that the UN can overreach by reacting to another crisis in the same manner with negative results. Read “Humanitarian War is an Oxymoron, So Why do We Keep Doing It?”, Modern War Institute, September 11, 2018.
Stalingrad: The Commissar’s House, Army University Press (DVIDS), September 12, 2018. With the roll out of an updated FM 3-0, the Army is looking to spread the word about large scale operations in urban environments. Watch a 3 min long video about the WW II battle for Stalingrad.
SOF and Exercise Bright Star. Egyptian, U.S., Jordanian, and British special operations forces are training together in Egypt in September 2018. Watch Multinational Special Operations Forces train in Egypt, The U.S. Army (YouTube), September 13, 2018, 40 secs.
AFSOC. “What defines AFSOC is not technology or platforms. Rather, we are defined by our people”. A short promotional video by Air Force Special Operations Command, Sep 2018.
Russian Women Paratroopers. A short video depicting female paratroopers in training.
Photo: Small Boat Team 22 performs a simulated hot extraction utilizing Special Operations Craft Riverine (SOC-R). The SOC-R is specifically designed for clandestine insertion and extraction of U.S. Navy SEALs and other special operations forces in river and near-shore environments. The special warfare combatant-craft crewmen operate in day and night in extreme weather and sea states in support of SOF. Photo by Angela Fry, NSCITTS, Sep 7, 2018.