Monday, September 19, 2016

Special Forces as Military Observers in Modern Combat

Posted by  on Sep 18, 2016 | 0 comments
An Army Special Forces Officer, having been embedded with a Ukrainian infantry company only days earlier, arrives at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, to give a presentation to a conventional Army brigade preparing for a rotation to Europe. He lectures on the latest anti-tank tactics and counter-drone techniques being used against Russian proxy forces.  Across the country, an experienced special operations Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) briefs members of the airborne community at Fort Bragg on the what he observed alongside French paratroopers in Mali, following up on the secure teleconferences that occurred previously while he was still in Africa.  These scenarios are hypothetical, but plausible.  The situations described are examples of “what could be,” if Special Operations Forces (SOF) were used as military observers in modern combat.
Once a widely practiced tradition, professional soldiers are no longer commonly embedded as official military observers during war. This discontinuation can be attributed to reasons ranging from risk aversion, to feasibility, to military culture.  An overview of the insights (and the overlooked, potential indicators) from military observers during the last two centuries indicates that modern militaries may be denying themselves an opportunity for critical insight.  By embedding officially sanctioned and uniformed observers with belligerents, countries have the opportunity to be at the cutting edge of conflict without being actively engaged in combat.  The networked nature of modern militaries means that reports, pictures and videos can be beamed across the planet in near-real time.  Special Operations Forces (SOF) are the best candidates to fulfill this overlooked, but not obsolete, practice.
Before expanding on why SOF can best fulfill this role, a better explanation of how military observers can contribute to increased effectiveness and preparation for future conflict must be offered.  A military observer is different from an attaché, or a journalist, or a spy.  A military observer is a professional military representative present at the conflict wearing the uniform of his own nation (which is not one of the belligerents).  While an attaché could feasibly observe fighting, especially if they take the John J. Pershing approach to serving as an attaché, their primary role is to serve as a liaison with their host nation.  The importance of having a dedicated observer in a conflict is their focus on the actual combat- issues ranging from technology, to the use of terrain, to tactics and strategy.  An official military observer is typically an experienced soldier himself, and as such understands the trials of combat and the military culture overall.
In predicting future conflict, many strategists and leaders look to military histories, and for good reason.  However, even the most ardent student of history would admit that the lessons of battles past cannot be taken as templates and placed on modern conflict with the expectation of identical results.  Not only do conditions and technologies change, but even when military observers are employed, lessons are not always learned.  To explore how some lessons are overlooked, and mitigate that possibility, it is useful to study military observers during their heyday in the 19thcentury and early 20th century, specifically Europeans in the American Civil War, and American observers in the Crimea and later during the Russo-Japanese War.
European Observers: Technical Focuses and Cultural Biases
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Monday, September 12, 2016

U.S. Special Operations Forces at 9-11, Today, and for the Future

U.S. Special Operations Forces at 9-11, Today, and for the Future · September 11, 2016
September 11, 2016 | LTG Charles Cleveland and COL David Maxwell

Following the tragic attack on 9-11, U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) and the CIA, supported by airpower, conducted a punitive expedition that resulted in the Taliban and al Qaeda being routed from Afghanistan. In 2003, working with the Kurds, U.S. SOF conducted operations in northern Iraq, accomplishing the mission intended for a U.S. infantry division that was not allowed to deploy through Turkey. U.S. SOF were already advising and assisting Colombian military and police operations as part of Plan Colombia that contributed to the peace agreement in 2016. And in Asia, U.S. SOF supported the Philippine security forces in degrading and destroying terrorist organizations linked to al Qaeda while supporting peace negotiations with Moro insurgent groups.
U.S. SOF were well positioned and ready in 2001 to execute their fundamental doctrinal missions for which they were organized, trained, equipped, educated, and optimized: unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense or Special Warfare. However, counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations soon came to dominate the U.S. military campaigns for both special operations and regular forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and later in Yemen and throughout Africa.
What emerged after 9-11 was a special operations Surgical Strike capability that combined exquisite intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities with precision strikes from unmanned aerial systems and the unparalleled special operations ground and maritime capability to capture or kill high value targets at the time and place of our choosing, including killing Osama bin Laden in 2011. The development of such concepts as F3EAD – find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze, and disseminate – allowed the U.S. national mission force, often supported by regular forces, to take down enemy networks by operating at a tempo that paralyzed terrorist organizations. Counterterrorism direct action operations were raised to a high art form.
The 2006 QDR (Quadrennial Defense Review) called for a massive growth in SOF to nearly 70,000 personnel in the United States Special Operations Command. While the Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs), Ranger Regiment, Special Operations Aviation (Air Force and Army), the National Mission Force, SOF headquarters, and enabling forces (intelligence, communications, and logistics) expanded, the planned growth objectives for Army Special Forces and Navy SEALs were unable to be achieved. This proved two of the five SOF truths: competent SOF cannot be produced after emergencies occur, and SOF cannot be mass produced. One of the important developments post-9-11 was the establishment of SOF operational HQ in theaters as either Special Operations Command Forward (SOC-FWD) or Joint Special Operations Task Forces (JSOTF) to provide command and control of the tactical forces executing the full range of special operations missions for the Theater Commander.
While terrorism has been at the forefront of our security strategy the past 15 years, we are coming to realize that the threats we face now and in the future are larger than terrorism alone. Russia’s new generation warfare or non-linear warfare employing active measures and reflexive control; China’s Three Warfare’s: media warfare, lawfare, and psychological warfare; the Iran Action Network , and non-state actors such as ISIS and AQ are exploiting the conditions of political instability and ungoverned spaces and creating new security problems that cannot be addressed through counterterrorism operations as the single focus main effort.
The conditions can be described as revolution, resistance, insurgency, and civil war, and countries and non-state actors are exploiting them to achieve their geostrategic objectives. They are practicing a modern form of what George Kennan described in 1948 as Political Warfare. This is the norm in the Gray Zonespace between peace and war.
(Continued at the link below)

Interrogation, Intelligence Gathering, and Public Policy

This dialogue between Dr. Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault and Former Deputy Director of the CIA, John McLaughlin, is well worth watching for anyone interested in post 9-11 interrogation and intelligence operations.  Both of their views will make you think regardless of which side of the issue you come down on.

Interrogation, Intelligence Gathering, and Public Policy
Georgetown University Center for Security Studies
The Center for Security Studies Lunch Series: "Interrogation, Intelligence Gathering, and Public Policy" - A Conversation with John McLaughlin and Dr. Elizabeth Arsenault

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the intelligence community faced significant pressure to capture, detain, and interrogate suspected terrorists. However, the question remained: once they were found, how should the US handle captured fighters in U.S. custody? What measures were legal, moral, and effective to acquire actionable intelligence in the war on terror?

John McLaughlin, who served as the CIA's deputy director from 2000 to 2004, and Elizabeth Grimm Arsenault, who teaches in the Security Studies Program, examined these questions as well as the implications of these decisions.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

North Korea and Military Proliferation to Iran: An International Security Dilemma by Dr. Bruce E. Bechtol Jr.

This is arguably the most authoritative open source analysis of north Korean proliferation activities with Iran.  It is extremely well sourced analysis.  Unfortunately it is not online so you have to download the PDF from my dropbox at the link below.  It is well worth the read for anyone interested in north Korea's proliferation.

Summary:  This article looks at North Korea’s military proliferation to Iran – all of it.  For those who have questions about North Korea’s long history of proliferation (which is ongoing) to Iran, or perhaps even question that there is a robust proliferation relationship this article will help answer them.

Bruce E. Bechtol Jr. “North Korea and Military Proliferation to Iran: An International
Security Dilemma,” ChiMoKoJa – Histories of China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan, Vol. 2, (2016), 71-95.

 ChiMoKoJa – Histories of China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan

Denied from the Start: Human Rights at the Local Level in North Korea by Robert Collins

The 130 page report can be downloaded here: uploads/pdfs/Collins_Denied_ FINALFINALFINAL_WEB.pdf Let me say ...