Washington, D.C. – A leading think tank told the Senate Armed Services Committee Dec. 6 that the incoming Trump Administration should undertake an assessment of special operations forces as part of any new counterterrorism strategy. The incoming Trump administration will have the burden to ensure SOF is enveloped into the Pentagon structure appropriately with new authorities.
Shawn Brimley, executive vice president of the Center for a New American Security, made the remarks to SASC in his testimony during a hearing on emerging U.S. Defense and Worldwide Challenges.
“Over the past decade, SOF have been deployed at unprecedented rates, placing immense strain on the force,” Brimley said. “SOF cannot operate in large numbers for long periods without enabling support from conventional forces, which is the case with ongoing operations today.”
The assessment should focus upon a wide-range of issues affecting SOF, including personnel recruitment and retention, command and control, global readiness, and deployment posture, Brimley added.
SASC held the hearing on the same day that President Barack Obama delivered what is likely the final national security speech of his administration at Special Operations Command (SOCOM) headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
Discussion at the hearing encompassed a wide-range of national security challenges, including the campaign to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Syrian Civil War, as well as threats posed by Russia, China, and Iran.
Former Army Vice Chief of Staff calls for increased SOF resources in Afghanistan
At the hearing, John Keane, a former Army Vice Chief of Staff, called for increased use of counterterrorism SOF in Afghanistan as part of a new counterinsurgency strategy to roll back the Taliban.
Keane currently serves as the chairman of the board for the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington, D.C. – based think tank. SOF could provide much-needed enabling support, including intelligence, logistics, attack helicopters, and anti-improvised explosive device capabilities, among others, he said.
“What’s required is a new strategy with a commitment to force the elimination of sanctuaries in Pakistan and a commitment to provide to the [Afghan National Security Forces] the enablers they need to turn the momentum,” Keane said. “Without an on-the-ground assessment, I honestly cannot tell you if that is sufficient, how many additional troops are required to support those functions and for how long. I do know this, without the U.S. and Afghan resolve to win, we never will.”
Trump Administration will Need to hit the ground running
SASC held the hearing amid continuing news related to the presidential transition. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the committee, noted President Donald Trump will have little time to set new U.S. strategic priorities.
“[W]hen our next president is inaugurated just six weeks from now, he will look out on a world on fire and have several consequential strategic choices to make: how to address Russian or Chinese aggression; how to confront threats from North Korea; whether to alter our relationship with Iran; how to improve and quicken our campaign against ISIL; how to counter the instability radiating from Syria; how to ensure victory in the war in Afghanistan,” McCain said. “Our next president will not have the benefit of time and cautious deliberation to set a new strategic course for the nation. That work begins with a series of decisions that will present themselves immediately on Day One.”
Featured image courtesy of Vice News