Three The Cipher Brief commentaries on the roles, missions, and state of U.S. SOF capabilities.
SOF’s Evolving Role: Warfare “By, With, and Through” Local Forces by Linda Robinson
One consequence of the heavy reliance on U.S. SOF is high deployment rates with little downtime. The demands in the rest of the world are significant: Special operators are also needed to conduct low-visibility operations in Europe in support of partners there, as a complement to conventional deterrence against Russian aggression. In addition, the parlous situation of Afghanistan may require more SOF, whose training and advice have made that country’s commando forces into very effective fighting units. In a turbulent world, hard decisions will be required about where SOF are most needed, and how other countries’ SOF may be able to help.
Don’t Overcommit U.S. Special Operations Forces by Russell D. Howard
U.S. special operations forces are widely considered to be some of the most highly trained and effective military units in the world and, as a result, they have played a critical role in America’s wars. Nowhere is that truer than in the Middle East and North Africa, where the U.S. military has been in prolonged engagements since 2001. U.S. military commitments in the region have gradually decreased since the George W. Bush Administration but President Barack Obama, and now President Donald Trump, have continued to rely heavily on special operations forces.
Special operations forces offer policymakers flexible, effective, and discreet ways to deal with the region’s complex conflicts, but many worry that overreliance on SOF could undermine readiness. How has the role and tempo of operations for SOF in the Middle East changed and what measures, if any, will President Donald Trump take to relieve some of the stress placed on U.S. special operations forces deployed to the region?