With an increasingly reduced role in the fight against terrorism, Special Operations Troops are in transition, returning to a traditional support role in a larger effort to deter countries with navies and air forces and d other capacities more comparable to those of the United States.
Army Special Operations Forces in particular have a role to play in the fight against Russia, says funded Army Special Operations Command The Rand Corp. report published monday, but they will need more concrete guidelines to be useful in the future.
“Although the US strategic directions proclaim that the United States has entered a new era of competition between the great powers, the concepts for succeeding in this competition remain underdeveloped,” according to the report.
So what can army special operations bring to combat? Returning to its roots, especially for Special Forces, Army Special Ops can work with allies to enhance their capabilities against enemies like Russia, while giving the United States situational awareness on the ground.
“Under conditions of more intensified competition, when the risk of armed conflict is high, ARSOF can help defend itself against indirect forces used by American adversaries,” according to the report. “ARSOF can also be used to disrupt adversary operations in denied environments or to impose costs on adversaries, although the more aggressive uses of ARSOF – unconventional warfare to overthrow opposing governments – have traditionally been high risk activities with relatively low success rates. “
To be successful, the authors wrote, military SOFs need a few things:
- Army doctrine, especially multi-domain operations, must include specific guidance for SOFs.
- The Special Operations Command and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations / Low Intensity Conflict should conduct regular reviews of the activities of Army SOFs to ensure that they are in line with the shift in focus towards “strategic competition”.
- SOFs should only engage directly with Russia, through information or unconventional warfare, in rare circumstances.
- Special operations troops should be integrated with allies as part of a “long-term politico-military strategy,” as their progress tends to be incremental and measured by the success of these partner nations in their own strategies.
“There may well be specific contexts in which UWs and aggressive uses of [operations in the information environment] are appropriate tools for the United States to force Russia to cease certain activities or to disrupt and degrade its ability to continue them, ”the report revealed. “But the potential benefits of such instruments must be carefully weighed against the costs, risks and likelihood of success.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at the Military Times. It covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other matters affecting the military. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT