Special Operations Forces 'Play a Leading Role' in Terror Fight
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 8, 2006 Multiservice U.S. special operations forces are at the tip of the spear in the war against global terrorism, a senior DoD official said on Capitol Hill today.
America's special operators continue "to play a leading role in our nation's current campaigns" against international terrorists at far-flung battlefields in Afghanistan, Iraq and other locales, Thomas W. O'Connell said in remarks prepared for delivery to the House Armed Services Committee.
Terrorists in these places are being given a drubbing by U.S. military and allied forces, said O'Connell, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict. However, the terrorist networks remain dangerous and are expected to "migrate to places where they can survive, operate and grow" among the more isolated and ungovernable places in the world, he said.
A key challenge then for U.S. Special Operations Command, headquartered in Tampa, Fla., O'Connell said, "is to develop counternetworks to monitor, isolate, disrupt and destroy hostile (terrorist) elements."
The command has already started this process, he said, through the use of liaison elements, interagency intelligence and operations centers, and the collection and analysis of data that's then passed on to direct-action units operating with partner nations.
"Our SOF elements have performed successfully against high value individuals in the (U.S. Central Command) area of responsibility," O'Connell said. CENTCOM headquarters, also in Tampa, has military oversight over operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and other places.
O'Connell praised U.S. lawmakers' support in providing funding needed to keep special operations troops on the hunt for terrorists worldwide. He cited "the unwavering support of members of this committee, the full House and Senate in delivering necessary support, congressional oversight, and critical review for SOF programs and initiatives."
And President Bush's fiscal 2007 budget submission provides $5.2 billion to SOCOM, O'Connell said, a 27 percent increase over the 2006 budget submission. O'Connell said that money will enable USSOCOM to:
- Add more than 1,300 special operators to find, fix and finish terrorist networks;
- Maintain sustained operations in areas where terrorist networks are operating;
- Continue the investment in critical fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft that provide special operations forces with the mobility needed to deploy and to execute their missions quickly;
- Invest in additional active component civil affairs and psychological operations force structure; and
- Support the newly created Marine Corps Special Operations Command, providing SOCOM greater flexibility and capability to fight terrorism.
The extra money contained in the 2007 budget is needed to support Quadrennial Defense Review decisions "to increase SOF capability and capacity to conduct low-visibility, persistence-presence missions and a global unconventional warfare campaign," O'Connell said.
In short, America's special operations forces are being restructured to become "a global, proactive and preemptive force," O'Connell said.
"We are witnessing a key evolution in how we must conduct our security affairs in the future and address those 'ungoverned spaces,' and build capacity to deal with those who would harm our country," O'Connell said.