Small Wars Journal

Military Sees Broader Role for Special Operations Forces, in Peace and War

Wed, 04/03/2013 - 2:05pm

Military Sees Broader Role for Special Operations Forces, in Peace and War by Thom Shanker, New York Times.

Here at the headquarters of the Army Special Operations Command, planning is well under way for a significantly increased presence in Africa, Asia and Latin America for the Special Forces soldiers with the distinctive green berets who were the first American troops into Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Special Operations forces, which include Green Berets, Navy SEAL teams, the Rangers and specialized aviation units, have historically been a small corner of the military and not always embraced by conventional commanders.

But they took on large and central roles for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and their integration with the conventional military transformed the way the Defense Department is thinking about future conflicts...

Read on.


Bill C.

Thu, 04/04/2013 - 10:45pm

Just an aside:

Change 1, dated 18 March 2013, to FM 3-07, Stability Operation, is out.

Of note is the fact that -- along with other changes:

a. Chapter 1, "The Strategic Context," is rescinded.

b. Chapter 2, "Stability in Full Spectrum Operations," is rescinded. And

c. Chapter 4, "Planning for Stability Operations," is rescinded.


Thu, 04/04/2013 - 12:21pm

I can follow the reported logic of a greater role for US SOF, but wonder if this has been fully examined outside SOF.

My first concern is with partnership working. From the reports in the public domain the use of SOF in a training role in Mali appears to have been a failure; which is not the only known failure.

What happens when a political regime changes, where SOF have been present, conducting training and more? Could the potential legacy damage US interests, Iran after the 1979 revolution comes to mind and the allegations of torture etc in Latin America.

Secondly there is a big downside to a greater, possibly secret role. A number of charities, NGOs and other agencies already report having difficulty in working in developing countries, whether post-disaster or not, as they rely on Western expatriate staff - who the local population may come to regard as spies and SOF. See the recent US press report on covert SOF participation in Kashmir after an earthquake.

On a strategic level is there a greater gain for US national interests to have free entry, exit and movement within developing countries of Western expatriate staff?

In many instances I would argue maintaining this access can enable the passage of knowledge to the public - who may influence policy. This has been well illustrated by the appearance of "in country" expertise in Mali via Twitter, including several US citizens who appear to know more than US officials.

Incidentally this problem is not helped by the seemingly lax security regime around US covert action.

The real danger to the USA and the pursuit of its national interests is the potential, some would already argue actual danger that many will only see Americans and the USA as those who are barricaded inside embassies, compounds and maybe in the shadows SOF.

America stands for far more, alas this report indicates there is only one player in international policy - the DoD, of which SOF is one part.


Thu, 04/04/2013 - 3:54am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C,

Hey dude you really need to get another string on that banjo - I mean we all understand your point but you need to turn the page. Get some horns in there and some backing vocals and who knows?

Peace and Groovy,


Bill C.

Thu, 04/04/2013 - 10:57am

In reply to by Bill M.


We constantly discuss things without any context; without addressing how the matter at hand fits into the overall scheme of things.

The context which I provide (to wit: the suggestion that the United States believes that it is made more safe and more secure through the transformation of outlier states and societies along modern western lines and through the incorporation of said states and societies into the global economy) seeming:

a. To address this shortcoming.

b. To be an accurate depiction of things as they are. And

c. To be a reasonable, understandable and consistent goal of American foreign policy.

Thus, when I attempt to discuss a matter before us (such as the proposed broader role for SOF), I try to do this with (1) a view and description of our national goals as I see them and (2) a view and description of how the matter we are discussing seems to fit -- or not fit -- therein.

I hope that others will do this also.

Likewise, should someone disagree with my point of view, then I would hope that they would take the time to (a) offer a different and possibly more accurate description of our national goals and objectives and (b) a different and potentially more accurate view of how the matter at hand fits -- or does not fit -- into this picture.

Bill M.

Thu, 04/04/2013 - 3:36am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.,

I have repeatedly responded to your persistent conspiracy theory, but you have finally broke me and I'm going to disclose some deep secrets on SWJ leaks. SOF is actually composed of Aliens who are working for the President (also an Alien who wasn't born in Hawaii). Our mission is deploy globally and transform those who don't embrace U.S. values, because capitalists are easier for us to deal with to facilitate our exploitation of planet earth. We conduct raids and kill those that resist, and quietly leave pods in place before we depart that replicate and replace the people left behind when they sleep. Our fathers attempted this strategy over 50 years ago, which another savvy conspiracy theorist exposed and then made a movie about our devious plot called "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Unfortunately they failed due to excessive resistance as noted below.

"ends with the extraterrestrials leaving earth after they find many humans offering too much resistance, despite having almost no reasonable chance against the invaders. Also, the "pod people" have a life span of no more than 5 years. As a result, 5 years after taking over the last human being, the invaders would have to look for a new planet with new life forms as hosts – leaving behind a depopulated earth"

This time we'll be successful, we have much better technology.

Bill C.

Wed, 04/03/2013 - 8:36pm

In reply to by Bill C.


(Herein, the United States believing that, by far, the best way to "enhance global security," help "stabilize nations at risk" and "prevent crisis or war" is to transform and incorporate outlier states and societies, as noted at my "a" and "b" above.)

Could it be this simple:

Recently the United States has -- with its military in the lead and via more direct means -- attempted to:

a. Transform outlier states and societies along modern western lines and

b. Incorporate these outlier states and societies into the global economy.

Now the United States will attempt to achieve these objectives using indirect means (by, with and through allies and partners) and with its military playing more of a supporting role.

Big Military being thought to be the proper tool for use with the direct approach to achieving these objectives.

Special operations forces being thought to be the proper tool to use in the indirect approach.

Martin Doyle

Wed, 04/03/2013 - 2:54pm

Recognition of the contribution of JOC is past due. Proactive thinking such as laid out in this article will no doubt reduce overall costs of war and garner a new level of respect for U.S. objectives!