Special operations (S.O.) are military, law enforcement or intelligence operations that are "special" or unconventional and carried out by dedicated special forces and other special operations forces units using unconventional methods and resources. Special operations may be performed independently, or in conjunction with conventional military operations. The primary goal is to achieve a political or military objective where a conventional force requirement does not exist or might adversely affect the overall strategic outcome. Special operations are usually conducted in a low-profile manner that aims to achieve the advantages of speed, surprise, and violence of action against an unsuspecting target. Special ops are typically carried out with limited numbers of highly trained personnel that are adaptable, self-reliant and able to operate in all environments, and able to use unconventional combat skills and equipment. Special operations are usually implemented through specific, tailored intelligence.
Special forces and special operations forces (SOF) are military units trained to conduct special operations. NATO has defined special operations as "military activities conducted by specially designated, organized, trained, and equipped forces, manned with selected personnel, using unconventional tactics, techniques, and modes of employment".
The decade 2003–2012 saw U.S. national security strategy rely on special operations to an unprecedented degree. Identifying, hunting, and killing terrorists became a central task in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). Linda Robinson, Adjunct Senior Fellow for U.S. National Security and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, argued that the organizational structure became flatter and cooperation with the intelligence community was stronger, allowing special operations to move at the "speed of war".Special Operations appropriations are costly: Its budget went from $2.3 billion in 2001 to $10.5 billion in 2012. Some experts argued the investment was worthwhile, pointing to the raid in May 2011 that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Others claimed that the emphasis on Special Operations precipitated a misconception that it was a substitute for prolonged conflict. "Raids and drone strikes are tactics that are rarely decisive and often incur significant political and diplomatic costs for the United States. Although raids and drone strikes are necessary to disrupt dire and imminent threats…special operations leaders readily admit that they should not be the central pillar of U.S. military strategy." Instead, Special Operations commanders stated that grand strategy should include their "indirect approach", which meant working with non-U.S. partners to accomplish security objectives. "Special Operations forces forge relationships that can last for decades with a diverse collection of groups: training, advising, and operation alongside other countries' militaries, police forces, tribes, militias or other information groups."
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), founded in 1921, is a United States nonprofit think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs. It is headquartered in New York City, with an additional office in Washington, D.C. Its membership, which numbers 4,900, has included senior politicians, more than a dozen secretaries of state, CIA directors, bankers, lawyers, professors and senior media figures. It is known for its neoconservative and neoliberal leanings.
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, also rendered Usama bin Ladin, was a founder of the pan-Islamic militant organization al-Qaeda. He was a Saudi Arabian citizen until 1994, a member of the wealthy bin Laden family, and an ethnic Yemeni Kindite.
Abbottabad is the capital city of Abbottabad District in the Hazara region of eastern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. It is about 120 kilometres (75 mi) north of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, and 150 kilometres (93 mi) east of Peshawar, at an altitude of 1,260 metres (4,134 ft). Kashmir lies to the east.
A covert operation is a military operation intended to conceal the identity of the sponsor and intended to create a political effect which can have implications in the military, intelligence or law enforcement arenas—affecting either the internal population of a country or individuals outside it.
Foreign internal defense (FID) is a term by the militaries of some countries, including the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, to describe an integrated and synchronized, multi-disciplinary approach to combating actual or threatened insurgency in a foreign state. This foreign state is known as the Host Nation (HN) under US doctrine. The term counter-insurgency is more commonly used worldwide than FID. FID involves military deployment of counter-insurgency specialists. According to the US doctrinal manual, Joint Publication 3-22: Foreign Internal Defense (FID), those specialists preferably do not themselves fight the insurgents. Doctrine calls for a close working relationship between the HN government and security forces with outside diplomatic, information, intelligence, military, economic, and other specialists. The most successful FID actions suppress actual violence; when combat operations are needed, HN security forces take the lead, with appropriate external support, the external support preferably being in a noncombat support and training role only.
Military doctrine is the expression of how military forces contribute to campaigns, major operations, battles, and engagements.
A low-intensity conflict (LIC) is a military conflict, usually localised, between two or more state or non-state groups which is below the intensity of conventional war. It involves the state's use of military forces applied selectively and with restraint to enforce compliance with its policies or objectives.
Unconventional warfare (UW) is the support of a foreign insurgency or resistance movement against its government or an occupying power. Whereas conventional warfare is used to reduce the opponent's military capability directly through attacks and maneuvers, unconventional warfare is an attempt to achieve victory indirectly through a proxy force. UW contrasts with conventional warfare in that forces are often covert or not well-defined and it relies heavily on subversion and guerrilla warfare.
The United States Army Special Operations Command (Airborne) (USASOC) is the command charged with overseeing the various special operations forces of the United States Army. Headquartered at Fort Bragg, NC, it is the largest component of the United States Special Operations Command. Its mission is to organize, train, educate, man, equip, fund, administer, mobilize, deploy and sustain Army special operations forces to successfully conduct worldwide special operations.
The Special Activities Center (SAC) is a division of the United States Central Intelligence Agency responsible for covert operations. The unit was named Special Activities Division prior to 2016. Within SAC there are two separate groups: SAC/SOG for tactical paramilitary operations and SAC/PAG for covert political action.
In the military of the United States, strikes and raids are a group of military operations that, alongside quite a number of others, come under the formal umbrella of military operations other than war (MOOTW). Ex-military authors Bonn and Baker describe them as "nothing more than the conduct of conventional combat missions on an individual or small-scale basis", and what they mean, specifically, depends on which particular branch of the military is using them. However, they do have formal, general, definitions in the United States Department of Defense's Joint Publication 1-02:
Jungle warfare is a term used to cover the special techniques needed for military units to survive and fight in jungle terrain.
Operation Peninsula Strike was a series of raids conducted by American troops from 9 to 13 June 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It took place on a peninsula alongside the Tigris River near Balad, Iraq. Conducted by members of Task Force Ironhorse, US forces sought to eliminate Ba'ath Party members, paramilitary, and other subversive units. Specifically, US Forces were to hit five objectives simultaneously, detain the targets and screen them for intelligence.
The Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) serves as the single functional command to centrally manage current and future readiness, resources, manning, training and equipping of the United States Navy's 21,000 expeditionary forces who are currently serving in every theater of operation. The NECC was established in January 2006. NECC is a subordinate command of the Navy's Fleet Forces Command.
Direct action (DA) is a term used in the context of military special operations for small-scale raids, ambushes, sabotage or similar actions.
National governments deal in both intelligence and military special operations functions that either should be completely secret, or simply cannot be linked to the sponsor. It is a continuing and unsolved question for governments whether clandestine intelligence collection and covert action should be under the same agency. The arguments for doing so include having centralized functions for monitoring covert action and clandestine HUMINT and making sure they do not conflict, as well as avoiding duplication in common services such as cover identity support, counterespionage, and secret communications. The arguments against doing so suggest that the management of the two activities takes a quite different mindset and skills, in part because clandestine collection almost always is on a slower timeline than covert action.
Irregular warfare is defined in United States joint doctrine as "a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant populations." Concepts associated with irregular warfare are older than the term itself.
In United States military doctrine, unconventional warfare is one of the core activities of irregular warfare. Unconventional warfare is essentially support provided by the military to a foreign insurgency or resistance. The legal definition of UW is:
Unconventional Warfare consists of activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow an occupying power or government by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary or guerrilla force in a denied area.
The main strategy and tactics of guerrilla warfare tend to involve the use of a small attacking, mobile force against a large, unwieldy force. The guerrilla force is largely or entirely organized in small units that are dependent on the support of the local population. Tactically, the guerrilla army makes the repetitive attacks far from the opponent's center of gravity with a view to keeping its own casualties to a minimum and imposing a constant debilitating strain on the enemy. This may provoke the enemy into a brutal, excessively destructive response which will both anger their own supporters and increase support for the guerrillas, ultimately compelling the enemy to withdraw.
Hybrid warfare is a military strategy which employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy, lawfare and foreign electoral intervention. By combining kinetic operations with subversive efforts, the aggressor intends to avoid attribution or retribution. Hybrid warfare can be used to describe the flexible and complex dynamics of the battlespace requiring a highly adaptable and resilient response. There are a variety of terms used to refer to the hybrid war concept: hybrid war, hybrid threats, hybrid influencing or hybrid adversary. US military bodies tend to speak in terms of a hybrid threat, while academic literature speaks of a hybrid warfare. For the purposes of this article, these terms will be used interchangeably.
The Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order is a secret U.S. Defense Department Directive, signed Sept. 30, 2009 by General David Petraeus, which authorized the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. The seven-page directive did not appear to authorize offensive strikes in any specific countries. Its goals were to “prepare the environment” for future attacks by American or local military forces, as well as to build networks that could “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” Al Qaeda and other militant groups.
Joint unconventional warfare is the inter-agency, or international implementation of an unconventional warfare strategy, comprising elements of asymmetric warfare, irregular warfare, urban warfare and various forms of psychological operations deployed by non-traditional means.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to war:
The United States Special Operations Command is the Unified Combatant Command charged with overseeing the various Special Operations Component Commands of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force of the United States Armed Forces. The command is part of the Department of Defense and is the only Unified Combatant Command legislated into being by the U.S. Congress. USSOCOM is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.