U.S. Special Operations Forces at 9-11, Today, and for the Futurethecipherbrief.com · September 11, 2016
September 11, 2016 | LTG Charles Cleveland and COL David Maxwell
LTG Charles Cleveland
Senior Fellow, Madison Policy Forum
Senior Fellow, Madison Policy Forum
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)