Special Operations Forces



Sanger, David E., and Eric Schmitt. "New U.S. Effort Steps Up Hunt for bin Laden." New York Times, 29 Feb. 2004. []

According to senior administration and military officials, "President Bush has approved a plan to intensify the effort to capture or kill Osama bin Laden,... The plan will apply both new forces and new tactics to the task.... The group at the center of the effort is Task Force 121, the covert commando team of Special Operations forces and Central Intelligence officers."

Scahill, Jeremy. "Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan." The Nation, 23 Nov. 2009. []

"At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, 'snatch and grabs' of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus."

Schemmer, Benjamin F., and John T. Carney, Jr. [COL/USAF (Ret.)] No Room for Error: The Covert Operations of America's Special Tactics Units from Iran to Afghanistan. New York: Ballantine, 2002. [pb] Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 2003.

According to Gatlin, Proceedings 129.1 (Jan. 2003), the authors trace the development of the Air Force's Special Tactics Unit from its beginning in 1977 to "its integral role in Afghanistan.... The accounts of ... activities in Grenada, Panama, and Somalia often are riveting.... Regrettably,... [t]here is no formal description of how Special Tactics operators do their jobs, how they are selected and trained, or ... why [they] are, or should be, used in some operations while in others Delta Force, Ranger, SEAL, or other special forces operators call in their own air strikes."

Peake, Studies 47.1 (2003), notes that co-author Carney helped create the Air Force's "Special Tactics Units" and was involved in both the Desert One hostage rescue mission and the assault on Grenada. The book provides "an interesting, though subjective, firsthand account of a mode of warfare that has had a crucial impact on military order of battle." For Fontenot, Parameters 34.3, this is "a well-told story focused on colorful and interesting people who do very dangerous and meaningful work." It "is a compelling story that drives home the difficulty of special operations and the special qualities of those who commit themselves to that kind of service."

Schemmer, Benjamin F., and John T. Carney, Jr. [COL/USAF (Ret.)], eds. U.S. Special Operations Forces. Westport, CT: Hugh Lauter Levin, 2003.

Seamon, Proceedings 130.1 (Jan. 2004), comments that this volume looks and feels like a "coffee-table book," but it goes beyond that sterotype. "Its contents ... qualify it as an up-to-date history of ... U.S. servicemen who have fought under a variety of commands since the French and Indian War.... Excellent essays cover just about every phase of U.S. warfare.... Strangely, World War I is all but forgotten and the U.S. Marines are barely mentioned."

Schultz, Fred L. "MarSOC: Just Call Them Marines." U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 132, no. 1 (Jan. 2006): 48-50.

Interview with Brig Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, USMC, commanding general of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MarSOC), newly established as part of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). The unit is being organized with an estimated 2,500 members in a regiment with two special operations battalions. A total of nine special operations companies will be split four on the east coast and five on the west coast.

Shanker, Thom. "Study Is Said to Find Overlap in U.S. Counterterror Effort." New York Times, 18 Mar. 2006. []

A study analyzing the effectiveness of Special Operations forces "found 'a tremendous duplication of effort' in the government and military that overlaps with assignments given the Special Operations Command" (SOCOM). The study was conducted by Gen. Wayne A. Downing Jr., a former SOCOM commander and retired four-star general. SOCOM's "new global role in counterterrorism has rankled some officers at the Pentagon and in regional war-fighting commands who previously took charge of that mission. Some of the command's new efforts, in particular the placement of small teams in American embassies to gather intelligence on terrorists and to prepare for potential missions, has outraged some intelligence officers and career diplomats."

Shanker, Thom. "U.S. Military Unit to Stay in Philippines." New York Times, 21 Aug. 2009. []

According to Pentagon officials, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will keep the "elite 600-troop counterinsurgency operation," known as the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, "deployed in the Philippines despite pressure to reassign its members to fulfill urgent needs elsewhere such as Afghanistan or Iraq.... Senior officials say the American force and partners in the Central Intelligence Agency were instrumental in successes by the Filipino armed forces in killing and capturing leaders of the militant group Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front."

Shanker, Thom, and Eric Schmitt. "Pentagon Says a Covert Force Hunts Hussein." New York Times, 7 Nov. 2003. []

According to Pentagon and military officials, Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commender for the Middle East, "has created a covert commando force to hunt Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and key terrorists throughout the region.... Military officers say that focusing the intelligence, and the Special Operations firepower, within one organization, called Task Force 121 [and commanded by an Air Force brigadier general], streamlines the effort to use information on these targets and mount an attack."

Shanker, Thom, and Scott Shane. "Elite Troops Get Expanded Role on Intelligence." New York Times, 8 Mar. 2006. []

"The military is placing small teams of Special Operations troops in a growing number of American embassies to gather intelligence on terrorists in unstable parts of the world and to prepare for potential missions to disrupt, capture or kill them." The Military Liaison Element (MLE) effort "has drawn opposition from traditional intelligence agencies like the C.I.A., where some officials have viewed it as a provocative expansion into what has been their turf." The Special Operations Command (SOCOM) reports to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and "falls outside the orbit controlled by [DNI] John D. Negroponte."

Smith, Michael. Killer Elite. The Inside Story of America’s Most Secret Special Operations Team. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2008. [pb]

According to Denécé, JIH 6.1 (Summer 2006), this work "is the first full account of the 25 years history of the top-secret US Army special operations unit known as 'The Activity' within the US Special Forces community." It was first created in 1981 as the Intelligence Support Activity (ISA), to give the Pentagon its "own secret surveillance unit." The unit has cycled through numerous other cover designations, having "been publicly 'disbanded' many times but secretly resurrected immediately after." The author "writes well, unexaggeratedly and sheds some new light on this secret unit." Although the book is "painstakingly researched, there's nothing really new in it for specialists."

Skelly, IJI&C 21.2 (Summer 2008), says that Smith's book "provides a compelling look into the history and achievements of 'the Activity.'" However, the unit's "exact role in the War on Islamic Terror is presented in a manner that more often speculates than documents." For Finlan, I&NS 23.3 (Jun. 2008), the author "has managed to produce an excellent unofficial history of the ISA," especially given the shortage of sources on special operations activities. The book's breadth "is very impressive and sheds a great deal of light on aspects of recent SOF history that remain tightly guarded, but inevitably required some form of intelligence support."

Southworth, Samuel A.

1. U.S. Special Warfare: Elite Combat Skills of America's Modern Armed Forces. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2004.

From advertisement: This book is "[a] handy, everyman's guide to the unique and specialized combat skills that characterize today's U.S. armed forces."

2. and Stephen Tanner. U.S. Special Forces: A Guide to America's Special Operations Units --The World's Most Elite Fighting Force. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2002.

From advertisement: This book "provides a handy and comprehensive compendium of America's SOFs. [It] includes descriptions of the units and their operational specialties, their training, and their organization, as well as the equipment and technological gadgetry, weapons, armor, planes, helicopters, and support vehicles of each unit."

Spearin, Christopher. "Special Operations Forces a Strategic Resource: Public and Private Divides." Parameters 36, no. 4 (Winter 2006-07): 58-70. []

Despite the logic in assigning USSOCOM primary responsibility for prosecuting the war on terrorism, "such an approach threatens to exacerbate divides, real and perceived, between the conventional and unconventional military communities.... [A]s SOF in the United States and elsewhere strain to meet the expanding operational tempo and as the PSC [private security company] presence increases internationally, the 'fortunes' of both state militaries and PSCs are linked to what is becoming a zero-sum game for SOF’s expertise."

Stone, Kathryn [COL/USA]. "All Necessary Means" -- Employing CIA Operatives in a Warfighting Role Alongside Special Operations Forces. USAWC Strategic Research Project. Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, 2003. []

From Abstract: "CIA paramilitary operatives have been performing a warfighting role alongside Special Operations Force (SOF) in the war against terrorism.... The paper concludes that integrated combat operations between the CIA and SOF are an appropriate template for warfare in certain situations, provided we develop and adhere to clear, well-stated criteria to manage this CIA-SOF warfighting relationship."

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