SOF News Update 20180921 – AFSOC and hurricane relief, Syria’s strategic location, Black Hawk Down, Colombia’s CCOES scores, AFSOC and ‘high-end’ conflict, SEAL in the brig, post office renamed for GB, Syria’s strategic location, ME balance of power, COIN and Moro separatism, Gen Barwari, Pak support of Taliban, Nigeria’s insurgent problem, AFRICOM crying wolf, Less GWOT and more CVE, being ready for both small and big wars, the disconnect between the Ivory Tower and the military, robotic fighting machines and ethics, Thai cave rescue, PTS and Vet benefits, Patterns of Global Terrorism, killing the PKSOI, and more.
AFSOC and Hurricane Relief. The Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron has deployed 10 special operators to the areas affected by Hurricane Florence. They are working out of Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (151st Air Refueling Wing, Sep 15, 2018).
Colombian Elite Unit Dispatched HVT. Troops of the Joint Special Operations Command (CCOES) neutralized a high value terrorist in July 2018. (Dialogo, Sep 19, 2018).
Thai Cave Rescue and US SOF. Two special operations airmen recount their participation in the rescue of the boys trapped in an underground cave. (Foreign Policy, Sep 20, 2018).
AFSOC to Focus on ‘High-end Conflict’. The Air Force Special Operations Command will need to continue its counterterrorism focus as well as adapt “. . . its well-established TTPs to support major power warfare.” See “U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces Are Getting Ready for ‘Major Power War'”, The National Interest, September 20, 2018.
Gen Barwari Dies. The head of Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), General Fadhil Barwari, has passed away due to a heart attack. He was one of the original ISOF members – back when it was called the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force (ICTF). Many commanders, officers, and NCOs from the 5th and 10th Groups – as well as from other groups and the US SOF community at large will remember him.
SEAL in the News – In a Bad Way. A SEAL assigned to a West Coast Naval Special Warfare unit is behind bars while an investigation is taking place on allegations that he was involved in the execution of a detainee in Iraq in 2017. “Navy SEAL in brig while agents probe killing in Iraq”, Navy Times, September 19, 2018.
Post Office Named After GB. A Bristol, Rhode Island post office has been renamed in honor of First Sergeant P Andrew McKenna who died on his 6th deployment overseas. He had nearly 18 years of service and served with the 7th Special Forces Group. See “Community comes out as Bristol post office is named for fallen soldier”, 10TurnTo10, September 16, 2018.
Syria – Occupying a Strategic Location. The Russian interest in Syria could be tied to it being a natural corridor for the movement of oil – as well as other factors. Read a post-WWII history of the great powers vying for influence in this Arab nation in “Once Upon a Time, America Needed Syria”, Foreign Policy, September 18, 2018.
ME Balance of Power. Ross Harrison, author and professor at Georgetown University, has written a 16-page report about how the Middle East has transformed over the past several decades. Read “Shifts in the Middle East Balance of Power: An Historical Perspective”, Aljazeera Centre for Studies, September 2, 2018.
COIN and Moro Separatism. B.K. Schaefer, a DoD employee and member of the Army Reserve, writes about the Moro insurgency in the Philippines and the counterinsurgency effort to reduce its activity over the past several decades. His article studies the various counterinsurgency strategies employed by the Philippine government and the assistance provided by the United States (OEF-P) to assist the Philippine special operations forces. Read “More Separatism in the Philippines: The Strategic Failure of a Promising Counterinsurgency”, Small Wars Journal, September 19, 2018.
Pakistan’s Support of the Taliban. Dan Green – author, Naval Reserve officer, and veteran of the Iraq and Afghan conflicts – provides his thoughts on Afghanistan in “U.S. needs to revisit its policies against Taliban in Pakistan”, TC Palm.com, September 19, 2018.
Bodycounts – Not so Much. Resolute Support has been religiously providing the numbers of insurgents killed as part of its messaging. It had echoes of the Vietnam War where the daily body count was revealed during the ‘Five O’Clock Follies’. But now, it seems that is not going to happen.
China’s Belt and Road Strategy. China is flexing its military, diplomatic, and political muscles. Part of the flexing is the “Belt and Road” strategy which aims to establish a Chinese-funded physical and digital infrastructure. A new 44-page report concludes that the Belt and Road initiative will cement China’s status as a global power, strengthens China’s economic power, and poses a risk to democracy and development in some countries. Read “Power Play: Addressing China’s Belt and Road Strategy”, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), September 2018.
Boko Haram Still Around. Despite assertions by Nigeria’s military that the insurgent group has been defeated Boko Haram still is menacing the northeast of the country. Read “Nigeria: the fight against Boko Haram”, France 24, September 14, 2018.
Reforming the Nigerian Army. The northeast region of Nigeria has been subjected to continuous strife from Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA). The security situation is steadily deteriorating. The Nigerian security forces have been ineffective in containing the insurgent group. Read “Nigerian Army in need of reform as ISIS gains strength in West Africa”, The Christian Science Monitor, September 19, 2018.
Twitter Chat on Nigeria. On Friday, September 21, 2018 from 9:30 – 11:00 (EDT) there will be a ‘Twitter Chat’ hosted by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). @SOFNewsUpdate will be there! Read “Achieving Peace in Nigeria”, USIP, September 20, 2018.
AFRICOM ‘Crying Wolf’? Nick Turse, the man who has never liked a SOF mission he read about, writes about AFRICOM’s outlook in Africa. He describes AFRICOM’s assessment of troubled spots where ISIS, al Qaeda, and Boko Haram could expand as far-fetched. Read his article in the online journal that successfully blends fact with fiction – The Intercept, September 12, 2018.
National Security News
Conversion of Army Bdes. The Army is converting a Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) to an Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) and an Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) to a SBCT. Why it just doesn’t convert the IBCT to a ABCT is . . . well, never mind. I guess going ‘heavy’ is okay now that we don’t have to fight any more ‘small wars’ like Afghanistan or Iraq. I mean . . . because we have almost won there, right? Read more in “Army announces conversion of two brigade combat teams”, Army.mil, September 20, 2018. And for those who like videos – the Army has you covered.
Commentary and Analysis
Less GWOT More CVE. Abigail Gage, a Major in the Maryland Army National Guard, says we need to change the narrative in the fight against terrorism. Read “Stop Fighting a War Against a Tactic”, Small Wars Journal, September 19, 2018.
Small Wars or Big Wars? Gary Anderson, a retired Marine Corps Colonel who has been a civilian advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan, says we need to be ready for the near-peer conflict while maintaining the ability to fight the small wars. Read “The Challenge of Fighting Small Wars While Trying to Adequately Prepare for Big Ones”, Small Wars Journal, September 20, 2018.
Disconnect – The Ivory Tower and the Military. Adrian Lewis, a professor of history and retired Army Ranger, voices his concern about the lack of awareness of military affairs on the part of his fellow academics. Read “The Ivory Tower and Academic Ignorance of What the Armed Forces Actually Do”, Task & Purpose, September 20, 2018.
Robotic Fighting Machines. It is inevitable that there will be robot warriors on the battlefield of the future. It is also very likely that policy makers and weapons developers will experience tension between the effectiveness of a robot and the ethics of using a ‘thinking robot of destruction’. Doug Livermore, a Special Forces officer, provides his thoughts on this topic in “Balancing Effectiveness and Ethics in Future Autonomous Weapons”, Small Wars Journal, September 20, 2018.
PTS and Vet Benefits. An 11-page report by Tanisha Fazal, a former Adjunct Scholar at the Modern War Institute, provides a “. . . brief overview of the history of how the US military and veterans benefits programs have approached war-induced psychological trauma. . .” Read PTSD and Veterans Benefits in the United States: A Historical Backgrounder, Modern War Institute at West Point, August 23, 2018.
National Cyber Strategy, The White House, September 2018. The NCS has now been released – read the 40 page document posted on the White House website.
Patterns of Global Terrorism, U.S. Department of State, September 2018. The country reports on terrorism in 2017 has been published online. The gist: attacks are down, Iran is the leading state sponsor of Terrorism (has been since Obama admin), and it is a more complex environment.
Videos and Podcasts
Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story. In October 2018 a new movie will be released about the battle of Mogadishu, Somalia where 18 US soldiers lost their lives. Watch the trailer.
Killing the PKSOI. The Army is debating whether to kill off the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute a part of the Army War College. Army Secretary Mark Esper wants it gone but many believe it should stay. A former PKSOI employee – Tammy Schultz, professor of strategic studies at the Marine Corps War College – says it needs to stay. A fight between the “Fulda Gappers” and the “Coindinistas”. Listen to “Army debating future of War College’s peacekeeping and stability institute”, Federal News Radio, September 18, 2018.
Lethality Task Force. CSM Jason Wilson of the Close Combat Lethality Task Force provides a briefing on improvements to make the Army’s infantry more lethal. (DoD, Sep 19, 30 mins).
Photo: Egyptian paratroopers coordinate CAS w/ Egyptian F-16s during Bright Star 2018 in Egypt. The exercise is a result of the long-standing relationship between the U.S. military and the Egyptian armed forces. Photo by SrA Amanda Standord, USAF, Sep 13, 2018.