Small Wars Journal

Perception is Reality: SOF in the Gray Zone

Fri, 06/10/2016 - 3:10pm

Some excellent work by Special Forces students at the Naval Postgraduate School.  EXSUM is below.

This paper can be downloaded at this link.  (Unfortunately it is a drop box link as this paper has not been published on line yet so you will have to access it from a non-government computer). The authors have given me permission to forward / post it.

Perception is Reality: SOF in the Gray Zone

Naval Post Graduate School, June 2016

By: MAJ Sean Coffman, MAJ Rob Shumaker, & MAJ Jeff Givens


This thesis examines two case studies of special operations forces (SOF) use in the Gray Zone—in Somalia in 1992–1993 and the Philippines in 2000–2015. Using the bureaucratic politics model as a framework and evaluating players, decision games, and outcomes, the choice to employ SOF is replayed and outcomes are evaluated in an empirical light.


By expanding on the current Gray Zone literature, our research added depth to the ongoing debate of what lies between war and peace and the Gray Zone’s utility.  The Gray Zone is a system of environments between war and peace, relative to the actor (whether state or non-state), in which lethal actions and peaceful exchanges ebb and flow pushing the limits of internationally accepted norms.  As an environmental condition, the Gray Zone is distinguished by four factors which detail its complexity and helps to frame the challenges any form of intervention will face.  These factors are: multiple systems create this environment; actor relativity; the interconnectivity of lethality and diplomacy; and the friction this environment causes on the international system.  Whether or not the Gray Zone term remains in vogue, we must understand the demands placed upon U.S. institutions tasked to accomplish foreign policy in the space between peace and war.

This research suggests that if SOF is given clear and concise policy objectives and the time to assess, plan, and execute a thorough irregular warfare campaign, it is likely to achieve policy objectives in the ambiguous environment between war and peace. If, conversely, SOF receives unclear guidance that must be followed rapidly, using a fraction of its competency, the likelihood of failure is high. The two case reviewed in this thesis illustrate the extremes of SOF application and results. Although every environment is different, the lessons from these cases can be applied to any proposed involvement of SOF in the Gray Zone, given proper logistical support and permission to execute a complete irregular warfare campaign.

This research suggests that in the evolving global threat environment, conventional thinking and outdated bureaucratic structures in which the interests of the organization are paramount and top echelons are isolated from direct communication with the field are unlikely to succeed in the Gray Zone.  The habituated thinking of senior decision makers and the interests of formidable bureaucracies will not accommodate reform quickly or without growing pains—yet cognitive and organizational change must occur.  President Obama’s selection of General Votel to command U.S. Central Command may indicate that change is underway,[1] as, for the first time, a career SOF officer will command a U.S. geographic combatant command.  An unflagging effort to ensure that Gray Zone and irregular warfare concepts are well understood by senior decision makers, together with promotion of the spectrum of SOF capabilities, remains vital, if the United States is to meet foreign-policy goals.

SOF originated with the military’s need to operate effectively in the space between war and peace and differs from traditionally organized forces in that it is not designed around a weapon system or platform, but rather, relies on the operator as key. The individual SOF team member is the weapon—not because of high-tech gadgetry or the latest shooting techniques they employ, but because of their ability to nimbly and rapidly use unorthodox concepts and unconventional approaches to accomplishing missions.  Deployed in small formations near the apex of a conflict, SOF is the most effective means to wage irregular warfare and the optimal choice for directly or indirectly achieving policy objectives where controlling a population by lethal or nonlethal means is the goal. 

Using Allison and Halperin’s bureaucratic-politics model, this research finds that interests, shared images, desired outcomes, and perceptions all influence a decision maker’s choice of action and method by which to act. This thesis focuses on policymaker perceptions of SOF and how they affect SOF utilization. Whether notions of SOF capability are adopted formally or informally, perception plays a powerful role in the decision game, and, as pertains to SOF, may have grave policy implications.

Lessons from Somalia and the Philippines

The case studies presented in this thesis illuminate two critical elements in the decision game, which is the aspect of the bureaucratic politics model that most affects the outcome of the action channel. 

Establish Long-Term Objectives

Senior players in the decision game must establish clear and concise long-term objectives.  Conflicts within the Gray Zone are complex and often fluid in their connection to global events—but without definitive and realistic goals, players in the action channel cannot move past the operation’s immediate demands. The United States intervention in Somalia demonstrates that lack of clarity concerning long-term goals may have devastating effects on the action channel’s success. The concrete long-term objectives at work in the Philippines allowed an approach that, over time, attacked the problem from multiple angles and ultimately supported a more workable irregular warfare strategy than was pursued in Somalia. 


Know Your Limits

Senior players within the decision game must have a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the chosen methods in the action channel.  In Somalia, a decision was made to use SOF in a very narrow manner to solve a problem that was in reality but a symptom of greater problems. This narrow focus crippled any long-term positive effects of U.S. involvement. The decision to limit SOF activity in Somalia was due partly to an incomplete perception of SOF capabilities by senior and junior players and inadequate input from the action channel before and during the operation.  By contrast, senior players in the Philippines had a good grasp of SOF capabilities through a better-informed perception of capabilities and a functional feedback loop between the decision and action channels.  In themselves, these elements are not enough to ensure successful Gray Zone action; but without them, the application of military force will start at a grave disadvantage in complex situations.


This graphical representation of this research’s output places its findings in the context of the bureaucratic politics model. The action game is expanded to include the methods used to achieve policy objectives commonly identified within the field of international studies. 

In this figure, policy establishes the long-term objectives that help focus the intention of the decision game and direction of the action channel.  The decision game’s output is the method of intervention within the action channel that will accomplish desired objectives. The intervention options available to senior players within the decision game are categorized as diplomatic activity, military operations, and covert action.[2] Each option has a congressionally mandated institution that manages its execution.  The authors submit that military operations within the Gray Zone should favor irregular warfare methods over traditional warfare as regards the action channel.  This does not minimize the utility of traditional warfare; it simply means that irregular warfare must take precedence during campaigns in the Gray Zone.  Irregular warfare allows the multifaceted application of military force that focuses on relevant populations, uses SOF as the primary maneuvering element, and represents these operations as enacted by some entity other than U.S. forces.  Currently, these concepts remain obscure to many senior players in the decision games and a clear narrative is needed to complete their perception.  

Senior players will not be prepared to establish successful policies for military force within the Gray Zone so long as their perceptions of SOF are limited or incomplete.  If irregular warfare is to emerge strongly as a viable method within U.S. policy, a clear and concise narrative of SOF capabilities must be promulgated.  ARSOF 2022 establishes the distinction between special warfare and surgical-strike operations within Army SOF, but fails to lay out for policymakers how actions taken with the range of available options can mutually support each other in irregular warfare campaigns.[3]  To correct policymaker perceptions, the SOF narrative must move beyond counterterrorism to incorporate all aspects of irregular warfare.  The global threat environment suggests that conflicts within the Gray Zone will not subside in the near future. If the United States is to prevail within this environment, decision-maker perceptions of SOF and irregular warfare must be accurate and complete.

[1] Associated Press, “Votel, Choice to Lead CENTCOM, Testifies Before Senate Armed Services Committee,” Tampa Tribune, March 9, 2016,

[2] Mark M. Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy (Washington, DC: Sage Publications, 2014), 181.

[3] U.S. Army Special Operations Command, “ARSOF 2022.” Special Warfare Special Edition, 2013.


Outlaw 09

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 5:23am

The Obama WH with their spin doctor Rhodes and the entire 700 person NSC only pay lip service to these two non linear warfare elements that are being fought today in the "grey zone" and while the WH claims they have undertaken major has all been spin with little actions.

I have and keep repeating here at SWJ over and over...there are two critical cornerstones to a successful Russian non linear war;
1.cyber warfare
2. informational warfare

OR the "weaponization of both these"

As one who has a company dueling daily with the criminal side of Russian cyber warfare and who cannot often tell where the Russian criminal activity ends and the Russian FSB begins it is seriously time for the US to wake up and smell the coffee as there are people far more capable in this realm than many in the US currently believe possible...just because we developed the internet and drive IT development does not mean Americans are the smartest in this business nor that Silicon Valley has all the answers....

We have been long surpassed and need urgently to catch up and we really do need to look at our Federal laws and loosen up and allow some things that are basically illegal by federal law if one hunts down say a major criminal driven DDS/DDoS attacks or uses a "rented botnet to steal money from banks or businesses" or 1-800 darknet help desks used in "ransomware attacks"....or the development and use of darknet bot networks to drive social media trolling in support of information warfare......

When I and my employees cross over to the darknet for a customer....most western ICs and the US are incapable of telling friend from foe and that includes me....and believe me right now the darknet feels and acts like Tombstone AZ in the early silver mining days with all their gunslingers walking the streets...and there is no sheriff for 300,000,000 miles.

Notice the use of the word "grey zone" in the article.....

The West Must Respond to Russia´s Increasing Cyber Aggression

By Jarno Limnéll
June 15, 2016

As Russian hackers take center stage in the pantheon of cyber adversaries, NATO needs to step up.


Who’s the biggest cyber threat? Not long ago, China and its economic espionage were at the center of the Western narrative, but Russia has elbowed its way in.

“The Russian cyber threat is more severe than we had previously assessed,” U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress last year. More recently, Adm. Michael Rogers, who leads the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, said, “Russia has very capable cyber operators who can and do work with speed, precision and stealth.” Today’s headlines include the news that Russian hackers appear to have stolen opposition research on Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

Yet even as the narrative shifts, there are two features of Russia´s cyber activities that remain too poorly known and understood in the West.

First, Russia´s greatest cyber advantage is its wealth of the most important cyber asset: skilled and well-educated people. The government recruits and harnesses individuals with innovation and aplomb — for example, allowing its intelligence services to offer employment to hackers convicted of cyber crimes in lieu of prison. But the more important trend is making common cause with criminal hacker groups: the government allows them safe haven in return for services on demand. In this way, the Russian government has been intentionally blurring the lines between cyber activists, criminals, and state-paid spies and hackers, adding a new layer of obfuscation to the trickly problem of attribution — that is, figuring out just who is behind a given attack. The result is a cadre of well-financed, persistent and technologically advanced “non-state groups” that can carry out various operations — and do so on a scale of a year or longer until they get what they are after. Some of the ones we know about go by the names APT28, the Dukes, Red October, Snake, and Energetic Bear.

Second, Russians acting for the government or with its approval are testing the boundaries of the cyber battlefield. Having already demonstrated its willingness to use such means in various conflicts and gray-zone confrontations, Russia is at the forefront of the global move toward a greater strategic use of cyber capabilities to persuade adversaries to change their behavior. Hackers with connections to the Kremlin have attacked, for example, a French television network, a German steelmaker, the Polish stock market, and the U.S. State Department. These activities are carried out in pursuit of Russia´s strategic objectives.

Even if the attribution to Kremlin has been pretty clearly presented, there has been very limited political response from the West. This is encouraging – from the Russian point of view – because it is a license to act even more aggressively in the cyber domain. The coordinated attack on the Ukrainian electrical grid in December was clearly an attack on critical national infrastructure. Russia showed what it can do, when it wants. This should have awoken the West. But it did not.

It is difficult to say exactly where Russia might rank among the world’s cyber forces; governments like to keep their cyber abilities secret, and such capabilities cannot be calculated in the same way as tanks or fighter planes. Still, it is known that Vladimir Putin has poured resources and manpower into the field, creating a cyber command within the Defense Ministry to conduct cyber and information operations. The Russia military also has a specialized unit for cyber attacks, while the Federal Protective Service (FSO), the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) are believed to have the lead in creating Russia´s offensive cyber capabilities. It is no stretch to assert that Russia is among the world’s top three, and when states´ level of offensive and defense capabilities are combined with their cyber dependence, Russia’s position appears to be the strongest in the world. To the Kremlin, the cyber domain offers an excellent opportunity to increase its power in world politics.

The more Russia develops its cyber capabilities, the more aggressive and confident it will become. Russia has the ability and will to conduct denial-of-service attacks, develop sophisticated malware, and exploit unknown software vulnerabilities. Unlike China, Russian cyber activities focus primarily on intelligence-gathering and military reconnaissance of critical infrastructure networks. Today’s intelligence operations enable tomorrow’s actions, and Russia is mapping networks to determine the resources necessary for future attacks.

The Russian government has stepped up its state-sponsored cyber attacks because it perceives that there is no significant “price to pay” for such activities. This trend will continue as long as the West doesn´t push back.

A political response is now needed. The West should not tolerate Russian´s behavior in cyberspace. Western nations must develop effective ways to deal with Russia’s cyber operations and have the political courage to act against it. This is one important topic to be discussed in NATO´s upcoming summit in Warsaw. Otherwise, the West will continue to send the wrong message to Kremlin.

BTW...we have seen the Russians start a recruitment campaign for youngsters well versed in social media and computers as early as 12/13 and are sending them to advanced computer camp/schoolss and honing their skillsets on hacking and social media that is just how serious Russia takes this.....and we in the US.....the smart ones drive for Silicon Valley and the "big money".....we somehow have to change the perception of cyber warfare/cyber defense in order to get their attention......

Outlaw 09

Sun, 06/19/2016 - 1:26pm

Wise words from a Syrian SME who should be listened to especially inside the Obama WH.....and especially his so called Deputy National Security Advisor Rhodes who led the Iran Deal spin campaign......

The US has only one good option in Syria’s conflict

Hassan Hassan

June 19, 2016 Updated: June 19, 2016 04:55 PM


Last week, news emerged that 51 officers at the US State Department signed an internal memo urging a more muscular approach in Syria. Without action, the diplomats warned, the regime of Bashar Al Assad will have no reason to abide by the cessation of hostilities or negotiate in good faith. And to stem the appeal of extremists, the US should recognise that Mr Al Assad is responsible for the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of victims in this conflict.

The call comes amid a desperate situation for the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front in Deraa, arguably the only place where the US policy deserves true praise. The one-eyed policy of focusing on extremists and neglecting the regime is quickly eroding what was a successful effort. Whether the rebel coalition will overcome the brewing crisis there will hinge on whether the diplomats’ advice will be heard.

As a viable fighting force consisting of mainly nationalist rebels concentrated in one region, the Southern Front is often cited as the most successful model for the opposition. Unlike in the more-chaotic north, jihadists in the south have been checked by powerful forces capable of combining force and governance – such as the Southern Front.

Recently, the rebel coalition has been facing four-way pressure that could lead to its demise.

The rebels are under pressure from the US-led Military Operations Command (MOC) in Amman to focus on fighting ISIL in Deraa. As The National’s Phil Sands and Suha Maayeh reported last week, the MOC suspended a shipment of arms and payments scheduled for the rebels the previous week. Delivery of arms and money will be contingent on the rebels’ military delivery against ISIL.

The arms-twisting policy comes amid enormous popular pressure and criticism levied against the forces of the Southern Front. Over the weekend, the opposition circulated documents signed by 50 highly influential members of the opposition – including military commanders, activists and religious clerics – which urges the Southern Front to stop sitting idly by while the rest of Syria is being pounded by the regime and its backers.

Such criticism emanates from the perception that the Southern Front is a puppet of foreign countries. The state department’s memo rightly states that Syrians continue to see the Assad regime as their primary enemy, and the only way to rally everyone against this organisation is to put an end to its flagrant abuses.

There is almost a consensus inside Syria that rebels in the Southern Coalition are prohibited by its backers from advancing into sensitive regime bases near the capital. The rebel coalition’s credibility is already in question throughout Syria, and increased pressure on the rebels to focus even more on ISIL will undoubtedly weaken it. The MOC’s threat to withdraw support if the rebels do not advance against ISIL adds insult to injury.

By pressuring the rebel coalition in the south to shift attention to ISIL, the US is concurrently weakening the coalition and strengthening ISIL.

In the memo, the diplomats said that failure to stem Damascus’s abuses will bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as ISIL. This fact should be recognised especially as the Southern Front is now facing a more organised ISIL force in Deraa after three local forces merged under a coalition loyal to ISIL last month.

Besides the MOC, opposition activists and ISIL, local families are also asking armed groups to sign truces with the Russians. Such demands might not be critical for now, but it adds to the pressure and shows that the relevance of the Southern Front is increasingly questioned by both hawkish opposition and ordinary people.

The precarious situation of the Southern Front is real. If it opts to please its foreign backers by focusing on ISIL and neglecting the call by influential civil, military and religious activists, its position will be weakened in the eyes of ordinary people.

This will also strengthen ISIL, which, as I said in these pages last week, is seeking to expand in southern Syria by relying on loyalists from the area, many of whom come from prominent local tribes.

The anti-ISIL policy in Deraa is clearly misguided. It is consistent with the broader policy to stem ISIL, often by relying on forces perceived suspiciously by locals.

In the south, there are no such forces on which the US-led coalition can rely to fight ISIL, unless it wants to work with Mr Al Assad.

That leaves the US with one good option – to listen to the sage advice of the 51 diplomats.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 06/18/2016 - 3:08pm

The "grey zone" debate is formally dead until a new President comes in and determines there is such an animal called "grey zone warfare"...especially after yesterday..........

Can anyone at SWJ or the DoD fully explain exactly what went on in Syria and why the Obama WH has no ROEs for this.....???

BTW...British SF were also inside this base....

Russian SU-34s circled back around to bomb medics treating wounded of 1st strike... after F18s left to refuel.
Typical Russian double tap practice often used against the Syrian Civil Defense......

Russian jets strike American-backed forces in Syria, ignoring U.S. warnings

By W.J. Hennigan

June 17, 2016, 2:59 PM |Reporting from Washington


Russian warplanes hit Pentagon-backed Syrian fighters with a barrage of airstrikes earlier this week, disregarding several warnings from U.S. commanders in what American military officials called the most provocative act since Moscow’s air campaign in Syria began last year.

The strikes hit a base near the Jordanian border, far from areas where the Russians were previously active, and targeted U.S.-backed forces battling the Islamic State militants.

No U.S. forces were present in the area, but the U.S. military scrambled fighter jets and used an emergency communications channel set up to avoid air accidents to tell Russian officers to end the strikes, according to the officials, who spoke Friday about the incident after requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The Russian Su-34 fighter-bombers left the area at first, but came back for a second strike after the U.S. F/A-18 fighters went to refuel. The second attack killed several Syrian rebels attempting to provide medical support to the survivors of the initial one, officials said.

“It’s an egregious act that must be explained,” a U.S. official said. “The Russian government either doesn’t have control of its own forces or it was a deliberate provocative act. Either way, we’re looking for answers.”

The incident came amid calls within the U.S. government for a tougher approach to the Syrian conflict.

On Thursday, an internal State Department memo became public in which 51 diplomats, using the State Department’s long-standing dissent process, criticized President Obama’s policy and called for U.S. military strikes against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Russia’s ally.

State Department spokesman John Kirby on Friday conceded that such a large number of signatures on a dissent memo was "unusual."

"No one's content with the status quo,” he said. “Too many people are dying.”

Assad’s army continues to bomb civilian neighborhoods as the bloody civil war plods toward its fifth year. Russian bombing and intervention by Iranian-backed forces have helped give Assad's embattled government an advantage over rebel groups in recent months.

Nearly all the Russian airstrikes over the past nine months have hit northern Syria, in the region around Aleppo, the country’s second-largest city. The Free Syrian Army, a loose grouping that has received aid from Washington and its allies in the Persian Gulf and Turkey, has battled government forces for control of the city.

The U.S. has carried out its own air campaign against Islamic State positions in eastern Syria.

These latest strikes occurred on the other side of the country from the usual Russian operations, around Tanf, a town near where the borders of Jordan, Iraq, and Syria meet.

​​​​​U.S. officials believe the strikes were launched to pressure the U.S. into working with Russia. Moscow has long wanted the U.S. to combine its air campaign in Syria with Moscow’s so they can share intelligence and targeting information.

The Obama administration has rejected that idea because it would put U.S. forces on the same side as Assad. The administration says Assad must leave power, although officials have said he could remain for a period of "managed transition."

The Russian strike hit a small rebel base for staging forces and equipment in a desolate, unpopulated area near the border. About 180 rebels were there as part of the Pentagon's program to train and equip fighters against Islamic State.

When the first strikes hit, the rebels called a U.S. command center in Qatar, where the Pentagon orchestrates the daily air war against Islamic State.

U.S. military commanders called their Russian counterparts on a special hotline set up to ensure the two countries' pilots will not mistakenly run into – or fire upon – one another as they conduct daily bombing runs in the skies above Syria.

Two Navy fighter jets were scrambled from one of two U.S. aircraft carriers stationed in the Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. pilots visually identified the pair of Russian jets,which briefly left the area but returned once the American planes went for additional fuel.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter briefly addressed the incident with reporters at the Pentagon, saying the U.S. military was attempting to “clarify the facts” on why the communications channel wasn't “professionally” utilized.

Pentagon officials have said in the past that the U.S. military would defend forces it trained if they were threatened inside Syria by Assad’s government.

“This was an attack on forces, first of all, that were fighting ISIL,” Carter said, using an acronym for Islamic State. “Obviously that's the first thing that's problematic about this Russian conduct."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov appeared to confirm the attack Friday, telling reporters it was difficult to distinguish different rebel groups from the air.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said Moscow’s air campaign is aimed at Islamic State. But the strikes, instead, have focused on moderate opposition forces and to some extent on the Nusra Front, a group aligned with Al Qaeda, according to analyses by U.S. intelligence officials. The Russian military has launched a relatively small number of airstrikes against Islamic State, mostly for propaganda purposes, U.S. officials say.

Putin has called for a broad international coalition to fight Islamic State, including the United States and other Western countries already waging airstrikes on the militants. He has insisted, however, that Assad be involved in the campaign and that any foreign interventions be subject to the approval of the Syrian leader, whom he has described as a bulwark against terrorism.

“It's about ensuring Assad's hold on power and weakening his enemies,” said Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist on Russia at CNA, a think tank based in Arlington, Va. The Russians feel that “having accomplished a great deal in the north, there's no reason not to do something similar in the south,” he said.
RuAF used cluster munitions against US-backed New #Syria|n Army near al-Tanef border crossing via Ali Rahabi

Did Shoigu inspect the Su-34 that bombed #US-backed rebels shortly ago, virtually under the eyes of a US F-18?! ...

So US air force jets over al-Tanf all had to refuel at the same time an Russian jets attacked again?! ...
Rather watching Russia bomb, hu?!

"We tried but failed to give cover" seems to me the Obama admin's way to say: "Of course, we couldn't stop them from bombing. Want WW3?!"

Outlaw 09

Sat, 06/18/2016 - 8:48am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Originally Posted by OUTLAW 09 View Post

MORE proof that the Obama WH and especially their Deputy National Security Advisor Rhodes of the Iran Deal spin fame does not fully understand "wars in the grey zone".........

Will be interesting to see the Obama WH response...will they follow the much "hated FP establishment playbook" or relent and do nothing setting the stage for the next President to reestablish US FP towards Russia......

Obama WH and Kerry are in fact being fully combat tested by Russia interesting to see if they even recognize the challenge ........

CrowBat response......

Indeed, it would have been interesting to see,

- what would USN F/A-18-pilots have done if they were in their position (over the NSyA) when the Russians came in,

- would have called Russians to ask for these intentions, but

- Russians would (as usually) ignore their calls and continue bombing the NSyA...?

What are the ROEs for such cases?

After all, the NSyA is paid for by US-taxpayers to fight the Daesh, and is therefore de-facto a 'US military asset there' (and then one holding more of Syrian territory than all of the JAN and AAS combined).
CrowBat is offline

Outlaw 09

Sat, 06/18/2016 - 5:36am

MORE proof that the Obama WH and especially their Deputy National Security Advisor Rhodes of the Iran Deal spin fame does not fully understand "wars in the grey zone".........

Will be interesting to see the Obama WH response...will they follow the much "hated FP establishment playbook" or relent and do nothing setting the stage for the next President to reestablish US FP towards Russia......

Obama WH and Kerry are in fact being fully combat tested by Russia interesting to see if they even recognize the challenge ........

Russian attack on New Syrian Army - US's best trained anti-Isil rebel force - even more provocative than we knew:

Russia conducted two sets of strikes against New Syrian Army, US pilot calls on open comms channel went unanswered

Michael Horowitz
Very significant, #Russia is testing the US ability to support its allies in #Syria

What good does this article do when the NCA itself does not recognize the seriousness of the "coming grey zone conflicts".....that will define the entire 21st century.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 1:59pm

This is the perfect example of why good articles like this which need to be built on the back of NCA developed national level strategic strategies....are bound to fail especially when one has a NCA that never developed any strategies for anything....

Russia/#Assad regime strikes on US-backed anti-#ISIS force are confirmed.
Destruction is total.

@BosnjoBoy (4) I recieved 30 photos. Everything is destroyed, 1 Humvee vehicle, 10 vehicles, all buildings damaged at least.

@BosnjoBoy seems Russia and also Turkey want delay defeating so-called IS/daesh. Different reasons behind.

BUT WAIT............
Pentagon says US is concerned that Russian aircraft conducted a series of airstrikes yesterday near al-Tanf against US-backed Syrian forces

And here's the state of US posture vis-a-vis Russia:
We're "concerned" that #Moscow struck our anti-#ISIS assets.

Deafening. If I'm a Syrian rebel why would I trust the US?

Now a second RuAF air strike after the US begged the russian the first time to stop the bombing.....

Wow...this is what the US Obama FP gets the US when Kerry begs the Russians to please do not bomb our embarrassing is this????

Russia failed to heed U.S. call to stop targeting Syrian rebels: U.S.


Russia launched a second air strike on U.S.-backed Syrian fighters battling Islamic State, even after the U.S. military used emergency channels to ask Moscow to stop following a first strike, a U.S. official told Reuters on Friday.

The official, who spoke to on condition of anonymity, said a small number of Syrian fighters were killed in Thursday's air strikes in southern Syria.

U.S. officials have criticized the strike near al-Tanf, saying it raised concerns about Russian intentions in Syria and promising to bring up the matter with Russia. No Russia or Syrian ground forces were in the area at the time.

Asked about the incident, the Kremlin said on Friday it was hard to distinguish between moderate and Islamist extremist rebels on the ground when it came to targeting air strikes in Syria because they were frequently fighting close to one another.

The incident underscored tensions with Russia and came as a leaked, internal State Department memo illustrated frustration within the U.S. government about America's handling of the war in Syria.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 8:09am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

HERE comes the Russian MoD response from several minutes ago......

Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

3 mins ·


Russian Defence Ministry comments on information published in two American newspapers at once – the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal – concerning an alleged signing of a letter of internal use, which contains a call for bombing government troops in Syria, by half a hundred officials of the State Department of the USA.

"If there is just a little true in those publications and such important questions are solved in the US State Department by voting of the “working community” that cannot fail to raise anxiety of any reasonable person.

Here comes the main question: who is to be responsible for these bombardments? Will it be the majority of the “working community” of the US State Department?

Or we will witness another famous Hollywood smile as it had been in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya."

Earlier, two American newspapers – the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal – have published information concerning an alleged signing of a letter of internal use, which contains a call for bombing government troops in Syria, by half a hundred officials of the State Department of the USA as they call it the only way to fight the Islamic State and establish peace in Syria.

NOTICE they say nothing about they ACTUALLY being the AF of choice for the Islamic State and their total and absolute utter lack of attacking IS positions AND their strange idea that by attacking FSA they are in fact a substitute for attacking IS.....

AND notice the Russian MoD has not stated WHY they are bombing strictly US supported proxy WHO is actually fighting only IS and WHY they are flying over them heavily today as a show of force...

NOTICE the Russian MoD has not stated just why they announced a 48 hour ceasefire in Aleppo and then openly violated it four hours later and now want a longer term ceasefire...

AND notice we have yet to see a response from the Russian FM......

Outlaw 09

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 7:30am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

AND the Obama WH response to this was what again...crickets and more crickets.....

Do we even have NCA leadership in the "grey zone"??

The #US confirmed, #Russia bombed its supported anti-#ISIS rebels near #Syria's border with #Iraq.…

AND this unit was under a short US/Jordanian MOC leash and only provided arms assistance IF they attacked strictly IS and not Assad.....and have been called traitors by the rest of FSA for not fighting as well Assad their common enemy.

WHAT is extremely interesting is that this comes as the Russian answer to Kerry's recent comments that Assad is the problem and the Us will get more assertive if Russia does not reign in Assad.

Russian answer....we do not listen to you and Assad remains.....

Outlaw 09

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 2:36am

I pick up again the theme of "grey zones" inside our own government and if one reads the entire linked article you will notice that there are "grey zones" within DoD as well.

While the article is a great one for a discussion but as long as there are "grey zones" within the NCA and DoD all the great "thinking and analysis and planning" done by the UW community literally goes nowhere.

This WH has literally walked away from the SF motto "To free the opposed" in it's perceived view of the world and that of their own legacy which counts far more than say the 500,000 killed in Syria, 1200 chemically gassed by Assad and currently being starved to death and the war crimes of cluster munitions and WP being used against civilian targets over the last ten days by the RuAF AND the deliberate bombing of the US proxy NSA which was only fighting IS not Assad.

So while the UW community tries to address the coming 21st century this WH is bogged down and fully complicit in the genocide and war crimes being committed inside that the image that the UW community wants to be known for or does their motto "To free the opposed" stand for anything these days?...that is a question that needs to be fully answered before one gets deeper into a "grey zone discussion".....??

Is there a growing revolt inside the Obama WH over his utter lack of a Syrian FP....

Charles Lister ‏@Charles_Lister

50+ State Department officials issue memo to #Obama demanding "judicious" air strikes vs. #Assad regime:

Middle East
Dozens of U.S. Diplomats, in Memo, Urge Strikes Against Syria’s Assad

Yes the defeat of IS is the common goal but in the end do we as a country and a military lose our compassion and humanity by turning a blind eye to war crimes, genocide, CW attacks, starvation, use of cluster and WP munitions on civilians and the killing of hundreds of children and women all in the name of a lack of a strategic strategy and a legacy....that is the core question?

By turning a blind eye to this we are in fact driving more into the arms of IS in the ME...and more Orlando's will happen because of it.....and the Arab Sunni ME and global Sunni community will never forget it in the coming years. some of the past comments made by the Orlando killer...he actually supports the sentence above and it will be the argument made by IS and AQ in the coming years.

That cannot be the goal of the UW community?

Outlaw 09

Thu, 06/16/2016 - 2:19am

In some aspects we have no problems with the "grey zone" but we do have some problems with our own politicians who might become the NCA.....

Under the rubric of "you have to be kidding".....

Trump on Vladimir Putin: "Our nuclear's old and tired. His nuclear is tippy top, from what I hear. You better be careful, folks."

US has 4-5 ICBM subs on extended patrol at any time; Russia has one. And Russia Early warning sats aren't tippy-top.

"Tippy-top" and this from a potential NCA with his finger on the nuclear trigger......"grey zone" seems to me we have far larger problems to discuss...the "grey zone" will take care of itself.....

Outlaw 09

Thu, 06/16/2016 - 2:01am

We can discuss the "grey zone" all day long but until we realize that the "grey zone" exists as well in our political leaders and until they catch up the military can discuss and plan but it will lead to nothing.

Under the rubric of "you have to be kidding me"........and it is possible that he becomes the NCA.....

Oh mein Gott #Trump: „Belgium is a beautiful city…“

This from the man that wants to fully decouple from NATO because "they are not carrying their load money wise".

Creepier still: Trump says DNC hacked itself, as in provocation! … revealing his campaign's ties to Russia PR.

Notice that the majority of the US MSM has not picked up his close ties to Russian oligarchs/one Russian mafia individual and the closeness of his PR to the Russian style of info warfare.

Europe is seeing it and calling it out...but nothing along the same lines from US MSM.......

Outlaw 09

Thu, 06/16/2016 - 1:02am

Bill...we talk a lot about so called "grey zones"..these zones also sit deep in the WH and in Moscow as well......

One does in fact have openly question the serious intent to destroy IS these days......

IslamicState established "no-fly zone" in a part of southern #Syria
No airstrikes by #Assad, #Russia, #USA ,#Israel

This area was not bombed for months, bc Assad & Russia & US & Israel are happy about IS fighting against FSA here

So this begs the simple question... what is actually behind all the global statements that first IS is the real enemy and secondly we will destroy IS.

In some aspects it looks like everyone just needs a "boo man" to beat up on for the MSM.

Remember the USAF announced last week during their US Kurdish proxy SDF/YPG/PKK charge to Manbij that they had hit over 265 IS targets....BUT then a total standstill as they simply do not have the manpower needed fro a brutal urban fight.

While on the other hand the Syrian AQ (JaN)supported by key FSA units are deep in combat against Assad and his Iranian supporters plus a week long Russian cluster and WP bombing campaign AND against IS along the way AND not a single attempt by the USAF to bomb an IS in their combat area.

So where IS is being directly attacked there is NO USAF CAS, but where the US proxy SDF/YPG/PKK sits stalled tons of CAS...

Does that make any sense to anyone...????

So we actually need to ask there a "grey zone" in our national level political decision making process.

Our author's final paragraph above:

"Senior players will not be prepared to establish successful policies for military force within the Gray Zone so long as their perceptions of SOF are limited or incomplete. If irregular warfare is to emerge strongly as a viable method within U.S. policy, a clear and concise narrative of SOF capabilities must be promulgated. ARSOF 2022 establishes the distinction between special warfare and surgical-strike operations within Army SOF, but fails to lay out for policymakers how actions taken with the range of available options can mutually support each other in irregular warfare campaigns.[3] To correct policymaker perceptions, the SOF narrative must move beyond counterterrorism to incorporate all aspects of irregular warfare. The global threat environment suggests that conflicts within the Gray Zone will not subside in the near future. If the United States is to prevail within this environment, decision-maker perceptions of SOF and irregular warfare must be accurate and complete."

As I look at this, what comes to mind is:

"For the first time in decades, the United States is facing a return to great power competition. Russia and China demonstrate both the advanced capabilities and the desire to act as global powers."

(From Admiral John M. Richardson's testimony before Congress 15 March 2016.)…

Likewise, what comes to mind, in this exact same light (the return of great power competition) is:

“You’re looking at different level of capabilities when you’re talking about a higher-end threat, and the United States Army hasn’t fought against that type of enemy in a long time,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army chief of staff, said in an interview.…

Thus, as the bottom line, I suggest the article by our authors above can most easily be understood in terms of:

a. This "return of great power competition" (specifically, the New/Reverse Cold War of today).

b. The need to get our "senior civilian and military leaders/players" up-to-speed on how all our instruments of power can and do operate in such an environment (one that we have been away from since, shall we say, about 1989?). And, specifically as per this education,

c. An explanation of what services SOFs routinely provide in such a "great power competition" environment (wherein, the emphasis often/normally is on "special warfare," rather than on "surgical strike?").

Note: Based on this understanding, there may, after all, be a problem with our authors' paper here -- if my suggestions above are accurate.

This being that while:

a. The Philippines example does appear to have bearing (1) as per great power competition (both as per the Old Cold War of yesterday and as per the New/Reverse Cold War of today) and, thus, (2) as per special warfare,

b. The '92/'93 Somalia example (given that this occurs in a period devoid of great power competition) does not seem to have such great power competition/special warfare bearing.

Thus, even if we have confirmed that the Somalia example provided by our authors is both (a) humanitarian and (b) strategic (as I have suggested immediately below), the fact that this such engagement does not occur at time of "great power competition;" this might suggest that it should not be considered.

This, unfortunately, may bring us back to "apples" (Philippines - strategic-yes, and also within the context of great power competition) and "oranges" (Somalia cir. 92/93 - strategic-yes, but within a different light/NOT within the context of great power competition)?

(Note: My definition of the "gray zone" -- which below uses an explanation thereof from authors GEN Votel, LTG Cleveland, COL Connett and LTC Irwin; this explanation appears to be dead-on. This, given that it also appears to be based on the idea of "great power competition" and specifically, as I suggest, the great power competition which occurs within the context of today's New/Reverse Cold War?)

So: Now let me throw a potential HUGE monkey-wrench into my own argument below; this, re:

a. Apples: Philippines: A "gray zone"/"strategic conflict"-yes -- both as per the Old Cold War of yesterday (the Soviets/the communists doing "expansion" then; the U.S./the West back then doing "containment"/"roll back," etc.), and as per the New/Reverse Cold War of today (the U.S./the West doing "expansion" today; Russia, China and Iran today doing "containment"/"roll back," etc.). And

b. Oranges: Somalia: A "humanitarian" effort only, and, thus, "gray zone"/"strategic conflict"-no.

As follows. (And the date of this strategic document -- which formally announces our new strategic goal/objective/concept of enlargement/expansion of number of the world's market-democracies -- this is indeed 21 September 1993 -- and, thus, approximately two weeks before the Battle of Mogadishu):


The Humanitarian Agenda

The fourth part of a strategy of enlargement involves our humanitarian goals, which play an important supporting role in our efforts to expand democracy and markets. Our humanitarian actions nurture the American public's support for our engagement abroad. Our humanitarian efforts also can stimulate democratic and market development in many areas of the world. Ultimately, the world trusts our leadership in that broader effort in part because it witnesses our humanitarian deeds: it knows that our responses to hunger and suffering, from Bangladesh to Somalia to Chernobyl, are an expression of who we are as a nation. Our humanitarian efforts must continue to include a broad array of programs -- economic and military assistance, disaster relief, and projects to assist education, nutrition and health. Over the coming months we plan to work with Congress to reform this array of aid programs -- to focus them more strategically and efficiently on the promotion of democracy and markets, environmentally sustainable development and early responses to social and economic chaos.

We face great challenges to our humanitarian instincts in this era, and far fewer barriers to action than there were during the period of superpower competition. Public pressure for our humanitarian engagement increasingly may be driven by televised images, which can depend in turn on such considerations as where CNN sends its camera crews. But we must bring other considerations to bear as well: cost; feasibility; the permanence of the improvement our assistance will bring; the willingness of regional and international bodies to do their part; and the likelihood that our actions will generate broader security benefits for the people and the region in question.

While there will be increasing calls on us to help stem bloodshed and suffering in ethnic conflicts, and while we will always bring our diplomacy to bear, these criteria suggest there will be relatively few intra-national ethnic conflicts that justify our military intervention. Ultimately, on these and other humanitarian needs, we will have to pick and choose.

Where we can make a difference, as in Somalia and Northern Iraq, we should not oppose using our military forces for humanitarian purposes simply because these missions do not resemble major wars for control of territory. Such missions will never be without risk, but as in all other aspects of our security policy, our military leadership is willing to accept reasonable risks in the service or our national objectives.

Ultimately, it is through our support for democracy and sustainable development that we best enhance the dramatic new winds of change that are stirring much of the developing world. In Africa, for example, we recently have seen the birth of democracy in Namibia and multiparty elections in over a dozen African countries. These developments, combined with new efforts at regional conflict resolution and a shift away from planned economies, provide real hope that sub-Saharan Africa can at long last begin to realize her vast potential. One key to that progress will be South Africa, which has now begun its historic countdown toward a full non-racial democracy. Just as our strategy of enlargement focuses on key points of leverage, so our strategy toward Africa must focus on providing international leadership to help South Africa's transition succeed.


BAM !!

Effective 21 September 1993 -- and re: our new strategy of enlargement/expansion of the number of market-democracies in the world -- "humanitarian" missions are now considered "strategic." Big as you know what!

Question: Does this concept -- that humanitarian missions are now considered "strategic" re: our goal of increasing the number of world's market-democracies -- does this concept still have "legs"/apply to our current times?

Answer: Apparently Yes. As Page 6 of the current Defense Strategic Guidance seems to indicate:

Thus, back to "apples" (Philippines) and "apples" (Somolia)?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 06/13/2016 - 1:39pm

In reply to by DickRubrubright

AND the Obama WH national level strategic strategy for anything is exactly what again?......crickets....crickets......

Right now words are being spun to just deflect from the simple fact there is no strategy nor has there been any strategies out of this WH in roughly eight long long years and everyone is making it up as they go along trying to cover up this simple fact.

Strategy is then a plan implemented to use available means to accomplish the political objectives; this too has had a few books written on it.


Mon, 06/13/2016 - 12:49pm

The Exciting New Gray Zone
Well it would be a new and exciting thing, if in the USSOCOM white paper on page one it didn’t state “Gray zone challenges are not new.” However, one thing is abundantly clear, something lurks between war and peace…and it will present challenges. As banal as this observation and new buzzword is it remains difficult to seriously dive into it while so many other topics de jour and buzzwords of the defense community remain so tantalizingly important.
As the Global war on Terror or Long War, or wait there is certainly a new name for it by now, oh yes the Overseas Contingency Operation continues to confront 4th Generation Warfare utilized by Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs) it is becoming clear that Phase Zero operations utilizing a Whole-of-Government (formerly All-of-Nation) approach is essential in the modern Three Block War conducted by Strategic Corporals to provide a Government-in-a Box solution to local challenges. Luckily we have Full-Spectrum-Dominance in Low-Intensity Conflicts and Military Operations Other than War (MOOTW). Special Operations in particular are blessed with Special Operations Power and Special Operations Forces Power to be effective in the Human Domain through the dual track of Special Warfare and Surgical Strike. This of course is complimented by more conventional assets like The Army After Next, or if you prefer, The Objective Force capable of harnessing Net-Centric Warfare to reduce the Fog of War. Of course it is not just the military that is ready to engage in the Gray Zone. We should be mindful of the potential of Political Warfare to employ Smart Power and Smart Sanctions to impact Small Wars/Guerilla Warfare/ Revolutionary Warfare. Unconventional Warfare is too uncomfortable a topic for many in the Interagency so we can forget about that.
The Gray Zone represents the new and exciting, the potential of a whole new phrase for at least a few months minimum. It could of course have serious legs to it and hang around for years. But, then again, we may realize that the so hard to define thing that lurks between peace and war is called politics and the subject has had several books written on it. This politics thing leads to policy, which in turn leads to policy objectives. Strategy is then a plan implemented to use available means to accomplish the political objectives; this too has had a few books written on it. Perhaps more reading and less reinvention of terms already well covered in literature is a better use of our time.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 06/13/2016 - 7:46am

Bill ......the SF motto of "To free the oppressed" referencing the 60/70s could actually be rolled into this statement below for the 21st century Grey Zone conflicts.

Saving a life doesn't change the world, but for that person, the world changes forever.

So what would that world look like if the US had declared the saving of 500,000 Syrian lives "was worth the effort" and how would the ME in that "world" look today if the US had taken action to protect these 500,000.

The Grey Zones of the 21st century will be about lives...not ideology or politics....globalization has basically killed both.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 06/13/2016 - 1:55am

Bill...this goes to the heart of this debate......

FBI never thought gay club would be target, i.e. they are NOT threat-focused…

NEVER senses to to amaze me that US IC and that includes the FBI....just how little they fully understand the ideology of Sunni AND Shia Salafist jihadi's....

Do they never watch their info war gay killing videos or read their anti gay announcements or is it still being just viewed as "propaganda"...????

13 years into this and yet they still do not "understand" what they are "seeing".....

IS is talking to directly to the West and their "believer's" yet we are unable to "listen"....BTW...that dialogue has been ongoing since 2002 and we are now in what ....2016.....and have we learned anything from this dialogue...nothing absolutely nothing.

In order to truly work the "Grey Zone" you must first and foremost FULLY understand your "enemy".....are we simply incapable of learning?...a valid question.

Bill C.

Mon, 06/13/2016 - 11:31am

(Edited and added to just a tiny bit:)

So let me make a, potential, "apples" and "oranges" observation -- actually more of a question -- that all may consider:

First: To attempt to distinguish -- in a seemingly important way -- between the two mission examples provided by our authors above, as follows:

a. Somalia: A "humanitarian" mission; one which DOES NOT, thus, appear to occur within the "gray zone between war and peace." And, in stark contrast,

b. Philippines: A "strategic" mission; one which DOES, thus, appear to meet the criteria of an intervention which occurs within the "gray zone between war and peace."


The "gray zone" between war and peace, I believe, is understood within "strategic" terms/context something like this:


The Gray Zone is characterized by intense political, economic, informational, and military competition more fervent in nature than normal steady-state diplomacy, yet short of conventional war.

It is hardly new, however. The Cold War was a 45-year-long Gray Zone struggle in which the West succeeded in checking the spread of communism and ultimately witnessed the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

To avoid superpower confrontations that might escalate to all-out nuclear war, the Cold War was largely a proxy war, with the United States and Soviet Union backing various state or nonstate actors in small regional conflicts and executing discrete superpower intervention and counter-intervention around the globe.

Even the Korean and Vietnam conflicts were fought under political constraints that made complete U.S. or allied victory virtually impossible for fear of escalation.


Thus, if I were going to summarize the critical components that distinguish "gray zone" conflicts from others, then I might say that "gray zone" conflicts generally occur between:

a. Opposed, nuclear-armed and/or otherwise powerful great nations (who are engaged in an existential war/conflict?),

b. Who, because they cannot allow for a head-to-head conflict -- or for such a conflict to "go nuclear" -- engage in "proxy wars" against one another.

c. Herein, backing/using "various state or non-state actors in small regional conflicts, and executing other discrete great nation interventions/counter-intervention around the globe."

d. This, suggesting that the term "gray zone" is actually synonymous with the term "cold war."


a. While one can, thus and by this explanation, easily see the Philippines in this "gray zone"/" strategic" light -- both as per the Old Cold War of yesterday (the Soviets/the communists doing "expansion;" the U.S./the West doing "containment"/"roll back," etc.) and indeed as per the New/Reverse Cold War of today (the U.S./the West doing "expansion;" Russia, China and Iran doing "containment"/"roll back," etc.)

b. Can one see Somalia in this "gray zone"/"strategic" light; this, given that this such conflict occurs cir. 1992/1993 and, thus, (1) immediately after the Old Cold War ends and (2) immediately before the New/Reverse Cold War actually begins?

If the answer here is "No," then we might need to consider that the Somalia example must be thrown out. This, because it appears to be a "one off" humanitarian mission and one which does not, thus, occur within the strategic "gray zone between war and peace?" (As outlined, identified, defined and understood above?)

If such is indeed the case (Philippines "gray zone"/"strategic" conflict-yes; Somalia 92/93 "gray zone"/"strategic" conflict-no), then to properly look to this specific distinction to explain:

a. The difference in decisions and decision-making processes,

b. The different outcomes, and

c. Whether SOF should, or should not, be utilized (and if so, re: these non-"gray zone"/non-"strategic missions," then specifically where, when, how, etc., and an explanation of negative, "gray zone"/"strategic" trade-offs).

Bottom Line Thought:

Whether a "gray zone"/"strategic" mission or a "humanitarian" mission only -- if SOF can be of service -- then, in both cases, would it not be best if these such forces were, and indeed had been, "on-station" in this/these such foreign countries, and for a very long period of time?

Or would this, indeed, spread SOF much too thin.

This suggesting that -- true -- "gray zone"/"strategic" deployments are all that our SOF can hope to accommodate?

Outlaw 09

Sun, 06/12/2016 - 9:19am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill...this goes to the heart of what I have been writing here...the perception that US SF is being used to push a Kurdish agenda to the detriment of the Syrian Arab Sunni's without standing back and challenging the decisions being made by the Obama WH....this will in the end kill any long term ability for US SF to work in the ME....

Obama only wants a short term solution instead of the long term as he is out of office Nov 2017....

So it now appears that the US Obama WH FP is exactly that of Assad and Putin...the destruction of a civil societies' attempt to overthrow a genocidal dictator......

Sad time in US FP history if that is in fact what this WH is doing.....

AND it is being supported by US SOF.....

US-backed #SDF spokesperson in short: We have no problem with #Assad and will not fight him

BTW......we are seeing this exact same problem in Fallujah where US SF and CAS is supporting the attack there and Iranian led Iraqi Shia militia are committing documented atrocities and massacres of the local Sunni population WHO are not IS fighters....WITHOUT a single comment out of this Obama WH...AND or CENTCOM.

THIS cannot be what US SF states...."To free the oppressed"....

Outlaw 09

Sat, 06/11/2016 - 3:12pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill ........
highly recommend you read this article into the thinking of what I call the "Russian altered state of reality"......

Some solid insight in what we are seeing from Putin....

Playing Tic-Tac-Toe with Putin
Russia is playing chess in Syria. The United States is playing tic-tac-toe

AND it goes to the heart of my harsh critique of this Obama WH who has been played as if they are third graders playing in the sandbox world of geo politics....

Bill C.

Sat, 06/11/2016 - 12:13pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Obviously, a "Change 1" to "Answer No.1, Item b, "Enemies," above is required; herein:

a. Deleting that portion stating: "And those state and non-state actors that were, otherwise, helping us/willing to help us prevent/halt the spread of communism throughout the world. And

b. Adding, in the place thereof: "And those state and non-state actors that were, otherwise, willing to and actually helping the Soviets/the communists spread communism throughout the world."


Outlaw 09

Sat, 06/11/2016 - 6:18am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill...the problem between "theories" and "reality" is in all the mess of trying to fit "reality" into "theory" in order to define the current "present reality"........we foregt to look at the actual global "reality".

If one goes back to the "roots" then we do not need to have a large discussion on what is or is not "theory".

BUT we do need to get "smarter" about those we "support" meaning we as a SF must thoroughly understand present day global politics and do it smartly AND we must never forget to check "global politics against history"....AND if necessary we must as SF be able to defend our decisions even against the "National Command Authority" by demanding they ask the question WHY AND provide answers, leadership and a national strategy...all sadly missing in this Obama WH.?

Yes the military answers to civilian authority as it should BUT there is an unwritten law that the civilian authority do they jobs "smartly" which has not happened in say the last 13 odd years or so.

Three examples:

1. the NCA decision to support the Kurds while some might feel is correct...historical we stepped into a true geo political minefield by supporting YPG WHILE not thoroughly understanding the "geo political history" of the PKK. WHY because I seriously think people do not like to review and restudy "history" and frankly all including many on the Obama WH/NSC have been born after the guerrilla wars fought in Europe/Africa of the 60/70s by the various superpowers, geo political groups and political directions.

I spent several years on the front lines fighting PKK in the streets of Germany chasing their killers after they would gun down Turkish government officials....and after a 20 or so odd years of guerrilla warfare and over 100K killed and or wounded Turks later WE still seem unable to distinguish between the "good guys and the bad guys" on the Kurdish side....

Who in CENTCOM and the IC determined that there is no linkage between YPG and the PKK needs to be "fired" simple as that.

Now we have at least 300 SOF "boots on the ground" supporting YPD masked as the PKK and the "perception of the US and US SF is that they have a "golden handshake " with Assad, Iran and Putin which in fact might be actually true and in the ME "it is all about perceptions" at this stage.

2. we as a country including the NCA somehow has not paid attention to the true reasons for the rebellion in Syria and the NCA has simply not wanted to do "stupid shit" Quote/Unquote the WH. In not "doing stupid shit" we have now become effectively complicit in a genocide and numerous war crimes...THUS US SF on the ground while fighting IS are slowly becoming tied perception wise to genocide and war crimes as well so who on the Syrian Arab Sunni side will "trust" them?

When you start the dominoes falling they cannot be stopped regardless of what one does.

These rag tag anti Assad groups numbering well into the low 1000s have fought now for over five years Assad, IS on a daily basis because IS is not Syrian, Iranian troops of all flavors and now Putin a so called wannabe super power surviving on what little assistance the US would allow to flow to them.

Whether we like AQ or not JaN the Syrian version is fighting effectively and well against Assad, especially right now Iran AND actually IS which is not being reported in the US for some strange reason.

The Obama WH had a truly "golden moment" tin influence the direction taken by JaN and totally failed to take the chance....

JaN has learned to modify itself based on demands of the Syrians themselves and has earned a reputation for defending Syrian Arab Sunni's which the FSA respects regardless of the JaN politics.

Where is US SF in all of this...not to be seen? SF had a chance within FSA to effectively "change the narrative" and to attack IS literally FIVE years ago...a chance that the NCA did not want to take which would have finally put SF back into the business they are geared to do..."To free the oppressed"...

3. in 1971, my SF team was tasked to go to Greece and train the Hellenic Raiding Force along with some other national level tasks....HRF was at that time the core body guards of the Greek COLs who had kicked out the Greek King via a military coup. The entire team had a large number of VN tours behind us and we basically revolted against the tasking and openly told our Command we will not support a military coup against a government they did not accept even though it had been democratically elected and the King who was well liked.

WHY because we fully understood the Greek political history from 1945 onwards and what was ongoing inside Greece.

We were listened to and the national level tasking orders were modified to match our requests...the training went well and guess what the entire HRF was sidelined by the COLs after we left Athens as being "militarily untrustworthy" and basically restricted to their base until the COLs were thrown out.

There is a small saying on the SF flash emblem that says..."To free the oppressed".....

We just need to finally sit down and realize the effects of globalization, realize that the SF motto "To free the oppressed" is still as valid today as it was in the 60s and modernize our thinking to match the "reality of the ground". The term "oppressed" takes on a whole new meaning in the 21st century. Especially in light of the number of existing dictators in Africa etc.

The core question is...I think US SF is in fact making that transition BUT has in fact the NCA made that transition in the last 8 years?...NOT really because the term "legacy" and "spin" has overridden everything the NCA has been doing.

This NCA is in "love with shooters" not those that have to do daily and hourly grunt work of "advising" as "advising is not glitzy" and takes a lot of time to get it right and yes even "advisors get killed" and yes the results might not be seen for years.

The US MSM headlines about SF activities with the YPG and the leaked photos confirm the love of "shooters" ...great for the PR of the NCA but NOT so great for the vast majority of Syrian Arab Sunni's who have been fighting a genocidal dictator, Iran, Putin and fully engaged in fighting IS SINCE 2012.

IMHO this role was what SF was "designed" to do and sadly US SF is being misused and the "To free the oppressed" opportunity has been lost forever in Syria.

It will be interesting to see what historians say about SF activities in Syria in say 20 years.

Afraid I already know what they will say and write....

Bear with me a little. I will soon get to the "gray zone" and SOF therein, etc.

But first:

Question No. 1: In the Old Cold War of yesterday, when the U.S./the West was doing "containment" -- of the spread of communism -- who were our friends and who were our enemies back then?

Answer No. 1:

a. Friends: The more-conservative elements of other populations. And those state and non-state actors that would, otherwise, help us prevent the spread of communism.

b. Enemies: The communists. And the more-liberal/more-susceptible to "change" (along communist political, economic and social lines) elements of other populations. And those state and non-state actors that were, otherwise, helping us/willing to help us prevent/halt the spread of communism throughout the world.

Question No. 2: In the New/Reverse Cold War of today, with the U.S./the West now doing "expansion," i.e., advancing the spread of market-democracy throughout the world, who are our friends and who are our enemies today?

Answer No. 2:

a. Friends: The more-liberal/more-susceptible to "change" (along modern western political, economic and social lines) elements of other populations. And those state and non-state actors that would, otherwise, be willing to work with us to help achieve the spread of market-democracy throughout the world.

(President Obama, at his introductory letter to his 2015 National Security Strategy: "In doing so, we are working to support democratic transitions, while also reaching out to the drivers of change in this century: young people and entrepreneurs.)

b. Enemies: The more-conservative/least-susceptible to change (along modern western political, economic and social lines)/more-ensconced elements of other populations. And those state and non-state actors that would, otherwise, seek to prevent the U.S./the West from achieving the spread of market-democracy throughout the world.

Bottom Line Question:

If one's mission has changed/reversed so dramatically as this (from "containment" to "expansion") -- and if one's friends and enemies, likewise and accordingly, have been so dramatically changed/reversed --

Then how does SOF change or otherwise adapt (if at all) to accommodate these new realities (to wit: opposite/completely different mission; opposite/completely different friends and enemies); this, in the New/Reverse Cold War of today?

Specific Question as Per This Paper:

Given the findings of this paper, to wit: that: "... if SOF is given clear and concise policy objectives and the time to assess, plan, and execute a thorough irregular warfare campaign, it is likely to achieve policy objectives in the ambiguous environment between war and peace. If, conversely, SOF receives unclear guidance that must be followed rapidly, using a fraction of its competency, the likelihood of failure is high."

Given these findings, then how -- in the New/Reverse Cold War outlined above -- might the identified change in mission, and the identified and corresponding change in friends and enemies (a) help explain and/or otherwise confirm this paper's finding or, conversely, (b) suggest that these such finding may need to be changed/ altered/reconsidered; this, in light of the New/Reverse Cold War context offered above?

Outlaw 09

Fri, 06/10/2016 - 4:01pm

How hard is it to get back to your roots...????

Maybe one just needs to review the comments made by JF Kennedy when he allowed the wearing of the Green Beret and other comments when he talked about US SF...just a thought....he was already talking about the Grey the early 60s.