Eric Olson former chief of the U.S. Special Operations Forces worries that the highly trained forces may be overused or misused. The forces have been used successfully in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as killing Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
Olson made the comments at a Security Conference in Aspen Colorado. Olson said:"It's a real danger.. They come to be thought of as a utility infielder, sometimes a utility infielder with guns, and they may be asked to solve problems that are not necessarily special operations problems." The forces often operate in secret and in small groups that are much less visible than regular forces.
Although Olson praises the forces President Karzai has often complained that night raids by the forces targeting militants in Afghanistan often end up killing innocent people as well. However Obama and others regard Special Forces operations as being quite successful.
As an example of misuse of the forces Olson mentions their use to provide security for some individuals at overseas sites. As demand for their services has increased Olson suggests that this has created stress in some units.
Some members of Congress are urging the Obama administration to take more action in Syria to help the opposition. However Michael Sheehan who is assistant secretary of defense for special operations told CNN that he was not focused on any use of Special Operations Forces in Syria right now. However, some operations are no doubt kept secret because of the political fallout of revealing them. There may be U.S. Special Forces in Syria already. Special Forces from the UK and Qatar are apparently already there according to the video attached.
Another area of concern is northern Mali where al Qaeda linked militants have taken control. Sheehan claims that there are no U.S. Special Operations Forces in Mali Several other reports conflict with Sheehan's claim. A recent article gives a detailed report of an accident involving Special Forces personnel in the capital Bamako. The U.S. trained the Mali armed forces and in particular Captain Sanogo who led the recent successful coup against the democratically elected president.
The present head of Special Operations Forces Admiral William McRaven said that Special Forces are operating in 79 different countries. The Special Operations Command consists of 66,000 people. However, only ten to twelve thousand are deployed at any given time. Most are in Afghanistan but there are 3,000 others spread throughout the world.
The size of units can range from just a few people to hundreds. The troops typically help the host country in security operations. No doubt this forges close relationships between the military and security forces in many countries and the U.S. military.
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