Wednesday, May 15, 2013

McRaven: SOF Must Return to Its Roots

The roots are Special Warfare, Psychological Warfare, Unconventional Warfare and Foreign Internal Defense, just in case anyone needs to be reminded.  And people should not overlook the fact that while everyone has been focused on Iraq and Afghanistan for the past decade there are a lot of practitioners in Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations/MISO who have been executing the missions from our roots in such places as Colombia and throughout Latin America, in the Trans-Shahel and Horn and on the African continent as well as in the Philippines and throughout Southeast Asia.  There are a lot of people in the force who have not let these skills atrophy.

I actually wrote my first masters thesis about this in 1994:  "Special Forces Missions: A Return to the Roots For a Vision of the Future" in which I argued the historic mission of Unconventional Warfare was timeless for Special Forces and will be as relevant in the post-Cold War World as it was previous to and during that period.

McRaven: SOF Must Return to Its Roots
May 15, 2013 by Kris Osborn

TAMPA -- The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan forced the Pentagon to depend so much on special operations units to fill countless nights hunting terrorists and insurgents in direct-action missions that U.S. Special Operations Command leaders worry special operators’ non-kinetic skills have atrophied.
Adm. William McRaven, SOCOM commander, said Tuesday the special operations community is immersed in a transitional “pivot” from a decade focused largely on ground-combat counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism to a larger focus on building global partner capacity.

McRaven spoke to an audience of special operators and defense industry executives at the 2013 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) here. The Navy SEAL told the crowd that he expected the number of kinetic missions to drop and an increase in demand for special operators to train foreign forces -- the mission for which Special Forces was created.

“We will always have the world’s best direct-action force,” he said. “We will increasingly be building host nation capability networked with everyone else in the SOCOM community.”

Special operators depended on these skills at the outset of the war in Afghanistan in 2001 when units entered the country and trained Afghan units fighting the Taliban. However, as the focus shifted to Iraq and the growth of insurgent forces, search and seizure missions dominated the focus of U.S. Special Operations Command.

Traditional special operations missions such as nation building and foreign forces training were often handed off to conventional forces in the counter-insurgency battles the U.S. faced in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With U.S. combat forces scheduled to leave Afghanistan next year, McRaven understands that his forces must return to their roots and pursue missions in Africa and the Pacific where foreign force training is needed to prevent terrorist organizations from gaining a foothold.

Special operations forces remain spread across the globe. A relatively slower operations tempo in Afghanistan has allowed the special operations community to consider its future missions.

McRaven signed a white paper with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos as a part of the Strategic Landpower Task Force. In it, the leaders of the U.S. ground forces explained the importance of the “human domain” and the ability of special operations and ground forces to shape it.

This human domain is shaped by the “physical, cultural and social environments” that exist within a conflict. In the Task Force’s first policy offering released May 13, McRaven, Odierno and Amos said it will determine future wars.
(Continued at the link below)

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