|I found this article on another board and thought it looked like something that would interest a lot of readers here. I remember reading that Colonel Aaran Bank warned about this when SF was first formed. He was concerned that SF would be used as a commando force when so much more could be accompolished by using them as a force mulitplier.
By Sean D. Naylor
Army Times staff writer
U.S. Special Operations Command must not allow a focus on “direct action” missions to kill or capture enemies to overwhelm its responsibility for the more “indirect” methods associated with unconventional warfare, a panel of experts warned Congress on June 29.
“This struggle is more than the global manhunt, it’s more than the direct action piece, it’s more than combat,” retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing, a former SOCom chief, told the House Armed Services subcommittee on terrorism, unconventional threats and capabilities.
“These are necessary activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they are not enough,” Downing said.
Downing was speaking at a hearing on SOCom’s missions and responsibilities. In their opening statements, Reps. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., the subcommittee chairman, and Marty Meehan, D-Mass., the panel’s ranking Democrat, both raised the issue of whether the command is focused too much on direct action at the expense of unconventional capabilities that could prove more decisive in achieving strategic success in the war on terrorism.
In the U.S. special operations community, direct action has been the preserve of Joint Special Operations Command, a SOCom subordinate element based at Pope Air Force Base, N.C.
JSOC comprises the military’s most secretive “special mission units,” such as the Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron. Other Navy SEAL units also specialize in direct action.
But unconventional warfare, which includes working with foreign guerrilla forces, is often used to describe a wider range of “nonkinetic” missions, such as training foreign militaries, that traditionally have belonged to Special Forces. There have long been rumblings of discontent in the Special Forces community that their skills are not as highly prized within SOCom as those of units specializing in direct action.
“We’ve got to get after developing friends and allies and proxies, because when you fight an insurgency, the best people to do this are the host countries, not American forces,” said Downing, a former Ranger.
Max Boot, a senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was more critical, saying SOCom “falls far short of what we need” by being overly focused on direct action — “rappelling out of helicopters, kicking down doors, and capturing or killing bad guys.”
While such strategy sometimes pays off with the elimination of individual enemy leaders such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, “making real progress, whether in Iraq or other locales, will require accomplishing much more difficult, less glamorous tasks such as establishing security, furthering economic and political development, and spreading the right information to win over the populace,” he said.
Bias toward direct action
Boot quoted two unnamed Special Forces officers — one a colonel, the other a general officer — who wrote him complaining of what they saw as SOCom’s bias toward direct action.
That bias is so heavy, Boot said, that “it is doubtful any amount of outside pressure, even from this committee, will change the dominant mind-set very much, especially when the Office of the Secretary of Defense remains so fixated on such missions.”
As a result, he said, there is “growing interest” in the Special Forces community in possibly creating a Joint Unconventional Warfare Command within SOCom, which would gather Special Forces, civil affairs and psychological operations units in an unconventional warfare equivalent to the existing Joint Special Operations Command.
“This strikes me as a good idea,” Boot said. “But I would also urge the committee to consider going further and removing the unconventional warfare mission from SOCom altogether.”
Former Special Forces officer and CIA operative Michael Vickers, now director of strategic studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think tank, said he thinks an unconventional warfare command within SOCom is a good idea.
However, he warned, this could “tie up scarce [special operations forces] human capital in additional headquarters” and duplicate functions of SOCom’s newly established Center for Special Operations, which has the mission to plan, support and execute special operations.