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article imageOp-Ed: U.S. special forces have expanded numbers and operations

By Ken Hanly     Oct 26, 2015 in World
Washington - The US special forces are some of the best trained, best equipped soldiers in the world. Many are experts in weapons, intelligence gathering and even medicine on the battlefield.
Although critics point out that some special forces operations have failed, a statement on the US Army Special Forces Command boasts: “In the last decade, Green Berets have deployed into 135 of the 195 recognized countries in the world. Successes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Trans-Sahel Africa, the Philippines, the Andean Ridge, the Caribbean, and Central America have resulted in an increasing demand for [Special Forces] around the globe.”
The Army’s Special Forces or Green Berets are among the best known of America’s elite forces,. However there are many other groups including the Navy Seals and Marine Corps Raiders as well as hordes of logisticians, analysts, and planners. The growth in US Special Operations Command(SOCOM) has been phenomenal: In 2015, according to Special Operations Command spokesman Ken McGraw, U.S. Special Operations forces deployed to a record-shattering 147 countries – 75% of the nations on the planet, which represents a jump of 145% since the waning days of the Bush administration. On any day of the year, in fact, America’s most elite troops can be found in 70 to 90 nations.
Linda Robinson, a policy analyst at the Rand Corporation, thinks that it may be a mistake to have so many deployments of special forces. She suggests there should be a more thoughtful and focused approach and cited long term missions in the Philippines and Colombia as more successful special ops. Given what happened in the Philippines this January to a group of commandos trained by the U.S., the Philippine operation may have its critics as well. An elite U.S.-trained force attacked an encampment of Muslim rebels in the middle of the night hoping to capture or kill a high value target. They did not tell local authorities or the regular forces about the attack. They ended up attacking at the wrong place but roused a large group of rebels who ambushed the forces, killing 43 and causing a huge scandal since there was a ceasefire with the group attacked. No regular or local forces were able to rescue the hapless elite unit for some time since they knew nothing about the attack.
A recent failure of Special Forces training programs was the $500 million program run by the Green Berets to train a New Syrian Force of 15,000 moderate rebels over several years. This force would exclusively fight the Islamic State in Syria. Only two small groups ever made it into Syria before the program was ditched in favour of supporting and training rebels fighting the Islamic State already inside Syria. The first group was quickly over-run by the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra front and their equipment captured. The second group simply gave up its arms to the same group in return for safe passage.
Some operations go so badly, they damage an already tarnished image of the U.S. abroad. A recent example is the bombing of a hospital in Kunduz — Doctors Without Borders has called a "war crime." While it has been characterized as a mistake it seems the attack was deliberate as a high value Pakistani intelligence operative was thought to be in the hospital: American special operations analysts were gathering intelligence on an Afghan hospital days before it was destroyed by a U.S. military attack because they believed it was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity, The Associated Press has learned. It had been under surveillance for some time. The use of Special Forces enables the U.S. to project its military might and influence globally at a relatively low cost and with very little publicity or public criticism. Special Forces likely represent a growth area for the military even if overall military spending is cut or grows only slowly.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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