Small Wars Journal

Using Special Forces Against Terrorism, Trump Seeks to Avoid Big Ground Wars

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 4:12am

Using Special Forces Against Terrorism, Trump Seeks to Avoid Big Ground Wars by Eric Schmitt, New York Times

From Yemen to Syria to here in Central Africa, the Trump administration is relying on Special Operations forces to intensify its promised fight against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups as senior officials embrace an Obama-era strategy to minimize the American military’s footprint overseas.

In Africa, President Trump is expected to soon approve a Pentagon proposal to remove constraints on Special Operations airstrikes and raids in parts of Somalia to target suspected militants with the Shabab, an extremist group linked to Al Qaeda. Critics say that the change — in one of the few rejections of President Barack Obama’s guidelines for the elite forces — would bypass rules that seek to prevent civilian deaths from drone attacks and commando operations.

But in their two months in office, Trump officials have shown few other signs that they want to back away from Mr. Obama’s strategy to train, equip and otherwise support indigenous armies and security forces to fight their own wars instead of having to deploy large American forces to far-flung hot spots.

“Africans are at war; we’re not,” said Col. Kelly Smith, 47, a Green Beret commander who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and was a director of a counterterrorism exercise in Chad this month involving about 2,000 African and Western troops and trainers. “But we have a strategic interest in the success of partners.”

Mr. Trump came to office without a clearly articulated philosophy for using the military to fight terrorist groups. He had promised to be more aggressive in taking on the Islamic State — even suggesting during the presidential campaign that he had a secret plan — but had also signaled a desire to rein in the notion of the United States as the world’s peacekeeper and claimed at various points to have opposed the ground invasion of Iraq…

Read on.



"There were some pretty pointed questions about what winning looks like, and how are you going to get there," General Thomas told a Special Operations conference outside Washington after the presidential visit.


This is key. Regardless of what Small Wars Journal topic we are talking about/reviewing -- in the past, in the present and/or in the future.

Lack of modern western political, economic, social and value norms and institutions was considered the "cause" of all ills (rampant terrorism, genocide, civil war, disease, crime, etc., etc., etc.) in pre-Trump administrations.

Thus, in pre-Trump administrations, the provision of modern western political, economic, social and value norms and institutions was considered the proper "cure" for all these such ills -- and others -- during those times.

Thus, "what winning looked like" -- during past presidential administrations -- was states, societies and civilizations transformed more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines.

Question: Given President Trump's (a) desire for "stability" but his (b) rejection of "nation-building" (more along modern western lines?) as the means/method for getting there, what alternative political, economic, social and/or value arrangements -- for the "vulnerable"/"challenged" states, societies and/or civilizations of the world -- might he (President Trump) use to define what "winning will look like" during his (President Trump's) time in office?

(Note: If President Trump longs for pre-Arab Spring days -- to wit: a time when (a) Hosni Mubarak, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, the Taliban, etc., were in office and (b) "stability" -- under their rule -- reigned throughout the Greater Middle East -- then how do we convince him that (a) this time has passed and that (b) it cannot be replicated/reconstituted/reclaimed by the U.S./the West today?

Thus, to ask, in this exact "realist"/"realistic" light:

a. Use of Special Forces Against Terrorism?

b. As part of what -- Trumpian -- grand strategic goal and related plan?

(Such things as the "whack-a-mole" approach, alone, obviously not meeting this criteria.)

Bottom Line Questions:

How does President Trump expect to restore "stability" throughout the world?

This, in the face of movements/revolutions -- for and against "westernization" --and for and against a myriad of other causes -- occurring throughout the world today?