The Afghanistan Effect

While 10 years of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq have turned US special operations forces into a battle-hardened cadre, there is some concern that some SOF core competencies like languages and regional expertise for other parts of the world have degraded. More than 80 percent of all deployed joint special operations forces are operating in US Central Command’s area of responsibility today, Garry Reid, deputy assistant defense secretary for special operations and combating terrorism, told a Senate oversight panel during a late March hearing. Among them are special operators pulled from SOF groups oriented towards other global regions like South America and US Pacific Command’s AOR, he said. “About two years ago, we tried to reset that as much as possible,” noted Reid. There are now efforts under way to get expertise back in those other areas in between combat deployments to Southwest Asia, he said. The expansion of SOF launched in the mid 2000s is finally paying dividends, noted Reid. This is helping create depth in SOF groups to alleviate deployment strains and also allow for joint training programs to expose special operators to “different skill sets they may not be using in Afghanistan,” he said.