Will Trump Break the Special Forces?

Will Trump Break the Special Forces? By Sean D. Naylor, The Atlantic

On December 6, Donald Trump delivered perhaps his most-detailed post-election comments on national security. Speaking at a stop on his victory tour in Fayetteville, North Carolina, he reiterated his commitment to expanding the fight against the Islamic State and, more broadly, against “radical Islamic terrorism.” Rather than toppling “foreign regimes that we know nothing about … our focus must be on defeating terrorism and destroying ISIS,” he said. He then predicted a seemingly busy future for the Green Berets, the largest component of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). “The motto of our Army Special Forces is ‘To free the oppressed,’ and that is exactly what they have been doing and will continue to do,” Trump said.

Fulfilling such pledges without breaking the special operations forces (SOF) likely to bear the brunt of the battle will pose a clear challenge to Trump’s national security team. After 15 years of waging secret wars that began in Afghanistan and spread to Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, while covering down on other responsibilities around the globe, SOF are already stretched thin and on the brink of burn out. Special operators and members of Congress alike are saying something’s got to give.

The irony is that SOF are victims of their own successes in the post-9/11 era. A fringe element in the U.S. military at the time of the September 11 attacks, the aftermath saw them immediately thrust into the limelight, when Green Berets, partnered with the CIA and Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, brought down the Taliban regime. But it was the fight against the insurgency following the 2003 Iraq invasion that cemented the rise to preeminence within the entire U.S. military of SOCOM’s most valued organization: Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC, or “jay-sock”), the secret outfit that runs “direct action” missions such as raids and hostage rescues involving SEAL Team 6, Delta Force, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and other highly specialized units…

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