August 22, 2010: U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) recently created a new Special Forces battalion (300 troops) for the 10th Special Forces Group. This is part of an expansion of Special Forces that began two years ago. Each of the five Special Forces Groups will receive a fourth battalion. Two other groups have already begun organizing their new battalion. The 3rd and 5th Groups have been doing most of the work in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they are getting fourth battalions first. The other Groups have also sent many of their A Teams to Iraq and Afghanistan, but the 5th Group is the one that was trained for that region, and has the lead responsibility.
All this is part of a SOCOM expansion that is adding several thousand more military and civilian personnel. This includes the additional U.S. Army Special Forces battalions, and 400 more troops for the U.S. Marine Corps special operations forces. Another battalion is being added to the army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Although SOCOM has been trying to expand since September 11, 2001, it has been very difficult getting the high quality recruits needed for the elite units (Special Forces, Rangers, Seals, commandos in general). Existing operators in these units were very opposed to lowering standards, so some innovative screening methods and recruiting methods had to be developed to get the qualified people needed.
By 2013, the Special Forces will have 300 ODAs (Operational Detachment A, or ¬ďA Teams), compared to the 180 they had on September 11, 2001. The army would like to add a battalion to the two reserve Special Forces Groups (the 19th and 20th), which would increase the number of A Teams to 420, but money has not been yet provided for that.
In the past two years, SOCOM has been shifting forces from Iraq (where it had 5,500 personnel two years ago) to Afghanistan (where it had 3,000 troops two years ago). The ratio is being reversed. Most American allies have moved all their commando forces from Iraq to Afghanistan, where they not only do what they were trained for, but also train Afghans for special operations tasks. This has already been done in Iraq, where it worked quite well. The SOCOM troops in Iraq and Afghanistan account for about 80 percent of American special operations forces overseas. The rest are in places like Colombia, the Philippines and Djibouti (adjacent to Somalia).