“We will likely remain engaged against violent extremist networks for the foreseeable future,” Admiral William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) told a Senate committee hearing earlier this year.
But that engagement won't be limited to night raids, hostage rescues and covert insertions into hostile territory. Special operators will be partnering with the State Department and other federal agencies, as well as friendly foreign militaries, on non-kinetic programs to prevent extremists from capitalizing on political discontent, ethnic rivalries and economic frustration to fuel their strategy of terror and violence in places like Yemen, the Horn of Africa and countries bordering the Sahara Desert, according to McRaven and other U.S. officials.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton put it this way in a May 23 speech to SOF and defense industry leaders: “We need Special Operations Forces who are as comfortable drinking tea with tribal leaders as raiding a terrorist compound. We also need diplomats and development experts who understand modern warfare and are up to the job of being your partners.”
She also told the gathering in Tampa, Fla. – home to McRaven's USSOCOM headquarters – that “technology and globalization have made our countries and our communities interdependent and interconnected. And today's threats have become so complex, fast-moving and cross-cutting that no one nation could ever hope to solve them all.”