During the planning of the D-Day (formally known as Operation Overlord) invasion of mainland Europe, “the Jedburgh concept was born in the minds of political and military leaders at the highest levels…” (Irwin, xviii). The Jedburghs were to be small, three-man teams which were multi-national in composition. American Jedburghs served under the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), British members in the Special Operations Executive (SOE), and French members as a part of Charles De Gaulle’s Free French resistance. These men were not spies, but soldiers. “Espionage agents they were not. They were all military officers and noncommissioned officers…most often in uniform” (Irwin, xviii). The teams would be a mix match of nationalities, a few having all three nations represented within their three-man team.
Their mission was to jump into occupied France, link up with the French resistance, and then bog down Nazi forces with sabotage and harassment campaigns. They would blow rail lines to sever Nazi logistics, ambush enemy columns along roads, and generally start trouble and make life difficult in the Nazi’s rear areas where they would otherwise have felt safe. Trained in America and Britain, the Jeds were heavily influenced by early SOE efforts to set up resistance networks in France called circuits. Is it important to distinguish that, “these were not intelligence gathering networks; rather the business of the circuits would be special operations; particularly sabotage” (Irwin, 34) while the task of intelligence gathering would be left to Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. The Jedburgh’s were a unique special operations capability that bridged the gap between the military and intelligence services, much like the role that ISA would fill nearly forty years later.
As allied forces were hitting the beaches at Normandy, the Jeds were already in France organizing the resistance and conducting spoiler attacks against the Nazis. Military planners feared that if the Nazis were permitted freedom of movement within France, then they would be able to move over 30 divisions of troops into the region in the weeks and months after D-Day, potentially pushing the allies back out into the ocean. The Jeds helped tie up the Nazis with their unconventional warfare campaign, organizing aerial re-supplies from London and Algiers, all the while being hunted down by the Gestapo.
The Jeds were not just commandos, but also skilled organizers and leaders. Within the French resistance, there were deep political divisions, particularly between the communists and essentially everyone else. French Jeds provided a critical liaison to the resistance, but were prone to getting caught up in local politics at times. While working without a home field advantage, Americans did have a leg up when it came to getting the resistance to “agree to put political differences aside and commit to the common task of ridding the area of Germans” (Irwin, 110). The French knew that the Americans did not carry any political baggage, so it was easier for American Jeds to get everyone working together.
Buy it on Amazon!
Today I wanted to turn my readers on to a new e-book released today from my buddy and fellow writer, Dan Tharp. Dan has written at a great history of the Rhodesian Light Infantry, Selous Scouts, and Rhodesian Special Air Service in about 60 pages which will help those interested researchers get up to speed on the Rhodesian approach to Counter-Insurgency. This is a great book and comes at a time as more and more people are getting interested in Rhodesia and some of the success stories they had in battling communist insurgents in the 1970’s. This truly is the lost chapter of Special Operations history.
The Lost Chapter of Special Operations History: Rhodesia.
Some of the most explosive combat in Special Operations history is almost completely unknown to the Western World. Everyone knows about Navy SEALs and Green Berets but nobody knows about the deep recce, sabotage, and direct action missions conducted by the Rhodesian SAS. The Rhodesian Light Infantry was a killing machine, participating in combat jumps every night during the heat of the Bush War. The Selous Scouts were perhaps the most innovative and daring unconventional warfare unit in history which would pair white soldiers with turncoat black “former” terrorists who would then infiltrate enemy camps.
US military veteran and historian Dan Tharp covers each of these three units in depth in Africa Lost.
In a dark corner of American special operations there exists, alongside the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s Osama bin Laden-killing SEAL Team Six, a small unit of Army spies known as the Intelligence Support Activity.
Created more than 30 years ago, the ISA has had its hand in almost every high-profile American special operation around the world in recent history, and countless others, according to published reports and special operations veterans with firsthand knowledge of the group.
And though relatively little is known about the secret unit — the military still refuses to acknowledge its existence — a new, colorful picture of the group has emerged through, of all things, a comic book.
In the panels of the comic “The Activity,” writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Mitch Gerads create a cell-shaded version of the ISA’s world in which the plot is fictional, but much of the rest rings true, even to those few familiar with the comic’s real-life counterpart.
One former member of the special operations community, who requested anonymity to speak about the ISA, told ABC News that while the comic clearly condenses intelligence-gathering timelines and significantly expands the ISA’s duties for the sake of dramatic story telling, he was surprised at its overall accuracy.
Read the rest on ABC News!
“Big dumb Ranger stomping through the woods,” a retired Sergeant Major from 5th Special Forces Group said with a smirk to me after an After Action Review in Robin Sage. Robin Sage is the culmination exercise at the end of the Special Forces Qualification Course, basically your final exam prior to donning the Green Beret.
I rolled my eyes at Kevin as I shook my head. I was pissed, but not because Kevin was breaking my balls, rather I was irritated with myself because I knew that he was right. We were instructed to conduct an ambush in the fictional nation of Pineland (actually located in North Carolina) and I was walking point. Getting angry with some of the junior guys on the team because of a land navigation error, I told them to shut up and follow me. I charged off through the woods and made enough noise that the role players guarding the road we were supposed to ambush heard us.
Read the rest on SOFREP!
Two weeks ago the MNLF, one of the Muslim groups, kicked off a major offensive against the Abu Sayaaf group, another Muslim organization/terrorist group in Sulu. It seems that Abu Sayaaf got pushed right to the waterline on the coast and without anywhere else to go they hopped on a boat to the Sabah region of Malaysia. For those who have been keeping score, these groups are completely different than the others I’ve written about previously such as the Ampatuans and BIFF which is Kato‘s Islamic faction that broke away from the MILF…which in turn had broken away from the MNLF. Confused yet?
The new debate about women in combat positions is an argument that few seem to be able to think clearly about. This post will contain some harsh language. Consider it a part of the selection process if you are a woman. If you can’t handle it then you might want to look at another career field because we say a lot worse about each other.
Whenever this topic comes up I hear the same statement from what seems like the vast majority of Americans. It goes something like this, “Hold them to the same standard and if they can hack it then let them do the job.” Intellectually I can look at this subject from an abstract standpoint and agree. Why not let job positions be delegated to soldiers based on their ability to meet the qualifications rather than their gender? This is probably the correct way to think about this subject, have one high standard which all must meet.
However, I did the job and there are some practical issues that we need to overcome. Here is one of the ugly ones: the Army just doesn’t have a lot of integrity when it comes to maintaining standards. They are often lowered for political reasons as commanders are expected to fill quotas or more understandably, units get understrength and need to be plused up on warm bodies. This is the wrong way to go about the problem because letting sub-standard personnel in causes huge problems down the line ranging from degraded operational capabilities to unit morale. Special Operations units are no exception to these internal politics I’m afraid.
But that isn’t fair to female soldiers, right? The problem isn’t women in combat but rather that the institution of the Army needs to get their house in order and stand by their own core values, namely, upholding high standards of combat readiness. I would agree with that argument as well and would be willing to work with anyone, man or woman, on this issue however I can. I feel strongly about this and have written about it previously.
Since 9/11 we have seen a revolution in how the entire US defense structure approaches and deals with the issue of terrorism. While the Clinton administration introduced some legislation that would pave the way for “targeted” killings in instances where there was an Executive Finding, the Clinton administration took a limp-wristed approach to intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism for the bulk for the 1990s, including missed opportunities to kill Al Qaeda head honcho, Osama Bin Laden.
The post-9/11 Bush Administration not only swung US Special Operations forces into action, along with Para-Military and Clandestine Services, but also pushed hard for an expansion of these capabilities. Then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld played a large role in expanding the Special Forces Regiment and personally visited the Delta Force compound on Ft. Bragg to get a better understanding of how counter-terrorist forces operate.
Obama stepped into the White House during a transition period where America was withdrawing from Iraq and attempting to hash out an exit strategy for Afghanistan. While timelines were debated, shifted to the right, and a number of phony withdrawals were staged for the media, the US military did pull out of Iraq and is currently working towards doing the same in Afghanistan. No doubt this action has increased support from both the Pentagon and the American public with the near total lose of credibility of US Counter-Insurgency strategy with the so-called “insider” or “green on blue” attack where our Afghan allies suddenly turn on and kill American soldiers.
In the face of this withdrawal, the War on Terror seems to be decreasing in over all troop deployments while simultaneously expanding in all directions with low-visibility operations in places like Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Mali, and Libya. Meanwhile, other long standing operations have continued in places like Colombia which have been largely ignored by a media, and perhaps a Pentagon, that has a fixation on the Middle East.
With SEAL Team Six eliminating Osama Bin Laden during Obama’s watch, the Special Operations community has received unprecedented popularity in the public arena. Reportedly, the Obama Administration has delegated responsibility for counter-terrorist operations to JSOC and his National Security Council, leaving them more or less to their own devices.
A while back I wrote about a joint operation I did with a LRS unit in Iraq in 2009 but for the life of me I could not recall the specific unit designation. Thankfully, I had a member of that patrol reach out to me recently to help jog my memory and provide some details. The unit was 1st DET, B Trp, 38th CAV (LRS) (ABN) out of Ft. Hood, Texas which has since been reflagged as C Co (LRS) (ABN) 2-38 CAV but is still active as the III Corps LRS Company.
We did five days out in the desert doing an area recon. The dynamics of the desert to the south west of Mosul were somewhat interesting. Known locally as the Jeezera, meaning island in Arabic, this area was home to some very remote villages that served as waystations for smugglers and terrorists flowing across the border from Syria. More than one foreign fighter had been intercepted by Special Operations teams in this region as they made their way to Mosul. Village leaders are called Muqtar and are about as two faced as they come. When you meet with them they will tell you that there is no Sunni or Shia in their village and that they don’t support terrorism. It was pretty clear to us that they were mistaking their mouth for a bull’s asshole.
With the 9/11 attacks being the story of the last decade, the raid that resulted in the killing of Osama Bin Laden may be the big story of this decade. Before SEAL Team Six inserted via classified stealth helicopters and killed HVT #1, the White House, the Pentagon, and the CIA had an agreed upon narrative that would be sold to the public. This narrative would presumably help everyone take the most amount of credit possible, but would also do the responsible thing in maintaining operational security. This means that the military would be able to protect Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, while the CIA would protect sources and methods.
Then one of the stealth helicopters, probably a highly modified MH-60 Blackhawk, crash landed inside the compound. With the agreed upon cover story thrown into disarray, the White House panicked. This was the big story that would keep the President in office for another four years and if the Public Relations spin made them look bad it could be curtains for the administration. The White House then began to leak sensitive information. Perhaps the culmination of these leaks was a pitifully bad article about the OBL raid in The New Yorker magazine, describing a childish facsimile of an actual military operation.
The conflict in the Middle East is winding down, US forces are withdrawing, and wars are being handed over to various proxy forces to fight in the context of the so-called Arab Spring from Egypt, to Libya, to Syria. Once Syria falls, more than likely after the US Presidential elections are complete, the Arab Spring with US covert assistance will almost certainly shift its focus to the gem of Eurasia, Iran. But that is another story.
Meanwhile, the policy makers and official white papers are talking about a strategic pivot, a realignment of US forces to confront a real or perceived growing of Chinese spheres of influence in the Pacific Rim. This has already begun in earnest with China feuding with the Philippines and several South East Asian nations regarding territory disputes, mostly related to islands in the South China Sea. Another realignment of US military and intelligence assets is to the Southern Cone, Central and South America.
The third realignment is to turn the surveillance and intelligence gathering techniques and tactics developed for the War on Terror inward for domestic use, mostly under the banner of cyber-security. The defense establishment will not simply let contracts expire and shrink their margins, rather they will seek out new venues to apply the same methods of operation.
The second realignment involves various Unmanned Aerial Vehicles being reoriented into the Southern Hemisphere, but there are also a number of rumors that just don’t want to die. Has the Asymmetrical Warfare Group been south of the border to study cartel tactics, techniques, and procedures? Are Spanish-speaking SEAL Team Six operators working with FES, Mexico’s Maritime Commando equivalent? Many attribute the Mexican Marines, and other military forces recent successes in capturing high value targets to close cooperation and assistance from American military and intelligence sources, much of which was hashed out as a part of the Mérida Initiative.
All of this happens in the background of the so-called Fast and Furious scandal in which the ATF first ordered American gun shop owners to sell guns to straw buyers, and then intentionally allowed them to be smuggled across the border into the hands of cartel sicarios, or assassins. The excuse given by ATF and the Justice Department was that the weapons were allowed to “walk” across the border so that law enforcement officials could track them to the recipients and use the information to make arrests. This excuse is just that, a pathetic cover story for what actually happened. Why was no effort made to Tag, Track, and Locate the smuggled weapons?
Read the rest at SOFREP!