Small Wars Journal

Special Ops to Turn Focus from War on Terror to China, Russia

Special Ops to Turn Focus from War on Terror to China, Russia by Carlo Muñoz - Washington Times

America’s elite special operations forces are getting new marching orders as the Pentagon moves away from its post-9/11 focus on radical terrorist groups and trains its eye on big-power rivals such as China and Russia.


In a major shift of mission, officials at U.S. Special Operations Command are drafting new guidance to reorient its cadre of top-tier military units to fight the expanding armies and navies of what U.S. strategists call “near-peer” powers.


Under the guidance, which is still pending approval by command chief Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, U.S. special operations fighters will be taking a larger role in cyberwarfare, information and “influence” — digital age propaganda — operations, sources say, as well as training allies in the new skills.


“It is fair to say you will see a rebranding of special operations forces,” Andrew Knaggs, deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism, said earlier this month. “Our problems will not be addressed through conventional deterrence alone.”


Since 9/11, U.S. special operations forces have been at the forefront of the U.S.-led global war on terror, from leading the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2001 to taking the fight to the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Syria in 2014. But the new Pentagon National Defense Strategy, fashioned in large part by former Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, is ushering in a shift away from the fight against nonstate radical terrorist groups to traditional big power rivals…

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