WASHINGTON: When Linda Robinson speaks, special operators listen.
The “silent professionals” are — for good reason — traditionally tight-lipped. The chief of Special Operations Command, Adm. William McRaven, proved that again today during a panel at the Wilson Center, giving eloquent non-answers to questions about what might transpire in Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. But McRaven made it clear that if you want to know what he’s really thinking about the future of SOCOM, you’d better pay attention to the panelist who sat two chairs down: former Central Command advisor and bestselling David Petraeus biographer Linda Robinson. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: America’s commandos have been darlings of the Congress, Pentagon, and the media since 9/11. Now, as Special Operations Forces reorient from Iraq and Afghanistan to lower-profile missions worldwide in places like Mali, they will need new sources of funding and new legal authorities — changes that may rub both Congress and the four armed services the wrong way.
That’s the conclusion of a recent report by Wilson Center scholar and sometime US Central Command advisor Linda Robinson, who interviewed more that 60 senior officers and civilian officials, released last week by the Council on Foreign Relations. Keep reading →
CAPITOL HILL: Sequestration, Continuing Resolution, and snow be damned; the House Armed Services Committee met this morning to wrestle with long-term strategy. In a hearing not only overshadowed but outright interrupted by the House’s desperate effort to band-aid the budget crisis, top HASC leaders from both parties argued for expanding the military’s authorities to work with foreign forces — including those accused of violating human rights.
[Click here for more House and Senate testimony on Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and sequestration] Keep reading →
[updated Tuesday, March 6 with Gen. Mattis's remarks to the House Armed Services Committee] CAPITOL HILL: The US should keep 13,600 troops in Afghanistan to advise and assist the Afghan forces after American combat brigades withdraw in 2014, about a quarter of the current troop level, said Central Command chief Gen. James Mattis, giving his personal recommendation — not the Administration’s final decision — after prodding from the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday. Rumored figures have been significantly lower. “We have to send a message of commitment,” declared Mattis, who will soon retire. But with the Navy halving its aircraft carrier presence in the Gulf and all the services cutting corners in expectation of a continued budget crunch, it’s getting harder to project resolve.
“A perceived lack of an enduring US commitment” is the biggest danger to American interests in the Central Command region, which sprawls from Egypt to Pakistan, Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. While the drawdown in Afghanistan unnerves some allies, he said, “our budget ambiguity right now is probably the single greatest factor. I’m asked about it everywhere I go in the region.”
“Already, sequestration is having an operational impact in the CENTCOM area” with the indefinite postponement of the aircraft carrier USS Truman’s deployment to keep an eye on Iran, lamented SASC’s chairman, Carl Levin. Facing a funding shortfall from both the automatic cuts known as sequestration and the Continuing Resolution now funding the federal government I the absence of proper 2013 appropriations, Navy will keep Truman stateside, albeit ready for rapid deployment in a crisis. Keep Reading →
WASHINGTON: Tomorrow morning, overshadowed by sequestration, the House Armed Services Committee will hold a rare full-committee hearing on a topic that would normally be high-profile, even explosive: whether to give the Defense Department, and especially its elite special operators, broader legal authority to work with foreign forces worldwide, from Colombia to Mali to the Philippines.
To implement the administration’s January 2012 strategy, with its emphasis on supporting foreign partners rather than committing large numbers of US troops, “we need to overhaul our authorities to provide assistance to other security forces,” HASC vice-chairman Mac Thornberry told Breaking Defense. And despite the bitter partisan divisions on most other issues, he said, “there is interest — equal interest — on both sides to examine existing authorities and see how they can be improved.” Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: After a decade of war in which they played a key role and were rewarded with a doubling of their forces and budget, Special Operations leaders want still more — more people, more money and more authority to decide where their troops go and what they do.
Those goals are likely to clash with the conventional military’s traditional lines of authority and the certainty that their force structure and funding will drop as Washington struggles with a soaring national debt. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: Hey, you want Special Forces? The Army’s got your back. Want air defense Missile defense? Communications? Intelligence? Logistical support? Joint Task Force headquarters? Go Army!
Just — just please, don’t cut our budget any more, okay? Keep reading →
CAPITOL HILL: Reporters and congressional staff members share a number of traits and interests; one of the most binding is their love for reports by the Defense Department. The staff like reports because the Pentagon has to provide detailed answers and recommendations. That lets them go to their boss and say, “See. DoD admits what we thought all along” or similar. And they can use reports to shape and justify legislation.
Reporters, of course, love reports because they are official reports that, if we’re lucky, address tough issues and provide facts, figures and policy analysis that we can write wise and trenchant stories about. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: Over the next few years, Special Operations forces will gradually revert to the role that has been their bread and butter for much of their existence: training and assisting local forces around the globe to strengthen partners militaries.
The global Special Operations presence will be large, some 12,000 troops around the world, according to Michael Sheehan, assistant secretary of defense for special operation/low intensity conflict (ASD SOLIC). There are roughly 4,500 Special Operation troops already in Afghanistan. Keep reading →