Russell Howard: In the initial stages of Iraq and Afghanistan, special operations forces, particularly Special Forces with air support and the help of the CIA, were the folks that took down the Taliban and al Qaeda. The missions then morphed into direct action, and you could almost say that for the next eight years the emphasis was on direct action missions, even for traditional special forces.
For at least eight or nine years, roughly 80 percent of special operations forces were deployed in either Iraq or Afghanistan, which greatly diminished their effectiveness in other areas of the world. There are five regionally focused special forces groups. The 5th Special Forces Group had responsibility over the Middle East so they were quickly overcommitted. The 3rd Group then realigned from Africa and went almost exclusively to Afghanistan and Pakistan.