SF presence may grow in combat areas


Verified Military
Dec 17, 2007
Interesting artricle from Army times about SF Groups possible realignment and more "expeditionary" nature.
Also says that troop drowdown in Iraq may mean for a while more or at least same number of SOF in country:

"The two Special Forces groups focused on Iraq deploy for seven-month rotations. In a Feb. 13 interview, Army Special Operations Command chief Lt. Gen. Robert Wagner said that he anticipated that 5th and 10th Groups would continue to be focused on Iraq for “a fairly long duration.” Asked to be more specific, Wagner demurred, other than to say, “I would imagine that my successor will do it throughout the full length of his command tour, and probably into the next one, as well.”

He said one reason was the need to be able to share the burden of leading CJSOTF-AP between two Special Forces group headquarters. “It’s kind of hard to break that down and take one of those groups away and let somebody else do it,” he said. “So you could say, ‘Okay, 5th Group is the permanent headquarters.’ To me, that would be very hard to sustain” because of the operating tempo it would impose on the headquarters personnel.

“We would prefer to have units be fully ready when they go there, being able to operate at a high level of tempo and mental awareness, and then replace them with somebody else who is equally sharp,” Wagner said. “So I think we can maintain a high edge by the way we rotate the force.”

However, he said, while there were advantages to having two SF group headquarters focused on Iraq, “maybe over time the numbers of battalions that need to be there could be reduced somewhat, or the number of [Operational Detachments-Alpha, or Special Forces A-teams] that are required.”

Realignment of forces

Each of the five active-duty Special Forces groups is focused on a particular region of the world, meaning that the SF soldiers are schooled in that region’s languages and culture.

Because both Afghanistan and Iraq fall in 5th Group’s area, it means that the other three groups operating in those countries (10th Group in Iraq, 3rd and 7th Groups in Afghanistan) are currently heavily deployed outside their regions of particular expertise (Latin America for 7th Group, West Africa for 3rd Group, Europe for 10th Group).

Wagner said that when the Special Forces groups are able to reduce their commitment to Iraq and Afghanistan, they will be able to return to regional engagement, which he described as a “core competency” of Special Forces.

However, according to Sepp, some of those SF troops might find that their battalion’s specified area of expertise has changed.

“There are five Special Forces groups … but there are seven regions of the world to cover,” Sepp told the symposium. “Each of these regions is different, so in preparing for the future we have to consider a realignment … After the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are quelled, we anticipate shifting SOF from North Africa and the Middle East to Southeast Asia and the East Asian littoral.”

The shift would be “institutionalized, with language and regional orientation,” Sepp said. There would continue to be a demand for Special Forces in Latin America and Africa, he acknowledged, but suggested the number of SF units committed to those areas might fall.

We have to ask questions of those groups, like, could 7th Special Forces Group cover Latin America … with just two battalions?” he said, noting that Special Forces is in the early stages of an expansion that will give each group a fourth battalion.

Asked why, even if violence subsided in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Defense Department would look to shift special operations away from the Central Command area, which includes Iran, Syria and the massive oil reserves under the sands of Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Sepp said that while the department recognized there would be a continuing need for SOF in the Middle East, “it’s over-weighted right now, because of the requirements of the wars.”

Pushing forces forward

In his speech, Sepp also indicated that there has been a rethinking of SOCOM’s plans to bring most of its units that are permanently stationed abroad back to the U.S. and organize its units into expeditionary task forces that deployed forward on a rotational basis. That plan was outlined in SOCOM’s 2006 Capstone Concept for Special Operations, which was developed during the tenure of the previous SOCOM commander, Army Gen. Bryan Brown.

“Re-posturing the preponderance of SOF to the United States will enhance oversight, planning, prioritization and, most importantly, synchronization, of the employment of Joint SOF assets for the [Global War on Terrorism],” the Capstone document states. “By consolidating most Joint SOF in [the continental United States], Commander, USSOCOM can more effectively and efficiently fulfill his role as both synchronizer and manager of Joint SOF.”

But Sepp struck a different tone in his speech, indicating that in Vickers’ office there is now a desire to keep some SOF forces stationed forward.

“There is some use for rotational forces … there needs to be a balance in that regard,” he said. “But with some assurance I can say now that what’s not going to happen is special operations forces are not going to be consolidated inside the United States to be farmed out based on requests for forces from the geographic combatant commanders. The developing policy is to push these forces out.”

In the interview, Sepp stressed that these were still “policy proposals” that had not yet been fully staffed, and he cautioned not to read too much into them.

“Obviously this doesn’t mean that all five Special Forces groups are now going to be deployed overseas,” he said. “There’s going to be a balance between these forward forces and rotational forces, there’ll just be a slight adjustment to forward forces.”