US special operations forces are engaged in “more than 100 countries worldwide,” commander says

by Stephen Aftergood

(Washington, DC, March 7, 2012) US special operations forces are engaged in “more than 100 countries worldwide,” said Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 6sterday.

“In significant ways, our forces are creating visible and dramatic effects of the greatest magnitude across the globe,” Adm. McRaven said.

“The decade of war after 9/11 has proffered many lessons; among them, specific to SOF, is the complementary nature of our direct and indirect approaches and how these SOF approaches are aligned to this changing strategic environment,” Adm. McRaven said.

“The direct approach is characterized by technologically-enabled small-unit precision lethality, focused intelligence, and interagency cooperation integrated on a digitally-networked battlefield…. Extreme in risk, precise in execution and able to deliver a high payoff, the impacts of the direct approach are immediate, visible to the public and have had tremendous effects on our enemies’ networks throughout the decade.”

“However, the direct approach alone is not the solution to the challenges our Nation faces today as it ultimately only buys time and space for the indirect approach and broader governmental elements to take effect. Less well known but decisive in importance, the indirect approach is the complementary element that can counter the systemic components of the threat.”

“The indirect approach includes empowering host nation forces, providing appropriate assistance to humanitarian agencies, and engaging key populations. These long-term efforts increase partner capabilities to generate sufficient security and rule of law, address local needs, and advance ideas that discredit and defeat the appeal of violent extremism.”

“As Al Qaeda and other extremist organizations attempt to franchise their ideology and violence globally, we will likely remain engaged against violent extremist networks for the foreseeable future,” he said.

In a rare unclassified “notification of special forces operation,” President Obama formally advised Congress last January of the rescue of an American in Somalia. “At my direction, on January 24, 2012, U.S. Special Operations Forces conducted an operation in Somalia to rescue Ms. Jessica Buchanan, a U.S. citizen. The operation was successfully completed,” President Obama wrote. The report was transmitted “as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed.”

This article was first published in Secrecy News. All Rights Reserved

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