Today, Special Operations forces are engaged in some level of partnering in more than 70 countries, with an increasing focus on joint operations — or even raids conducted mainly by partners with a supporting U.S. role — to capture or kill terrorists. The bulk of America’s 33,000 uniformed Special Operations forces, including the most elite units, will be engaged in partnering, but need time to develop their partners’ combat skills and intelligence capacity.
Most significant, after years of focusing on unilateral drone strikes and raids, U.S. Special Operations forces have regained a critical skill set of working with local populations, as they did in Vietnam, where they raised thousands of civil defenders in the central highlands. This is a highly transferable tool; many troubled countries have vast rural areas where terrorists find ready sanctuary, and lending a helping hand to those who find the courage to fend off attackers is one of the most productive uses of our Special Operations forces. It relieves the United States of the burden of doing so or intervening abruptly in a crisis.