Special operation forces are being ignored in discussions about the Pentagon’s continued retreat from two decades of counterterrorism, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Christopher Maier said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s SO/LIC Symposium on Friday.
The fact that SOF play such a large part in CT often drags because most people only know about the CT mission and the SOF enterprise, according to Maier. Special ops units, however, have much more to offer. For instance, it contributes to the Ukrainian forces that are repelling Russian soldiers, according to retired three-star general Kenneth Tovo, who until 2018 oversaw Army Special Operations Command. “Eight years of partnership and training with the U.S. were founded on eight months of combat success of Ukrainian forces.” Just a few weeks ago at Fort Bragg, Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, the current USASOC commander, made a similar statement. If SOF isn’t viewed as a viable asset in missions other than counterterrorism, opportunities will be lost, according to Maier. According to him, the Pentagon has recognized that counterterrorism is not the future of warfare since the publication of the 2018 National Defense Strategy. Five percent of actions under Special Operations Command in 2018 were devoted to great power competition. That proportion rose to 30% by 2022, and in the fiscal year 2023, “half of our activities will be focused on great power competition,” according to Bauernfeind.