While American Special Operations units are often written about and are part of the public discourse in the United States, the particular challenges faced by our allied SOF units in Europe tend to get overlooked if not disregarded. From Lithuania to the United Kingdom, our European SOF partners have made a significant contribution to the War on Terror, some of them nearly stretched to the breaking point. The purpose of this article is to discuss the specific challenges that some of these units face, and when possible, propose a few solutions.

Based on interviews with half a dozen European Special Operations veterans, each from a different country, this article’s goal is to educate and inform the public about military Special Operations and perhaps give some credit to our often neglected friends on the other side of the Atlantic. This all the more important as the war against terrorism evolves and changes forms, and the dominant form of conflict will, perhaps, once again be against nation-states like Russia.

Switzerland’s DRA-10 Counter-Terrorism Unit

As a country with a long-standing policy of neutrality in international affairs, and a nation which is not a member of NATO or the European Union, Switzerland faces many unique challenges in fielding a Special Operations capability. In recent years, the disclosure of a planned rescue mission in Libya led to open debates amongst politicians as to whether a unit like DRA-10 should even exist.

“Most policymakers don’t know what the unit [DRA-10] can do and bring to the table,” a veteran of the unit told SOFREP.  “Some of them don’t even know that Switzerland has such a unit let alone that they are basically just waiting to be deployed, and the ones that do know of the unit prefer to send civilian contractors at a higher cost.”


This is a result of Switzerland’s hesitation to deploy troops, as it may violate their constitutionally enshrined neutrality. “In the end, there are no unconventional deployments along with other Special Forces units, and they get deployed for conventional missions, mostly alongside conventional troops,” the former DRA-10 soldier said. Operators assigned to DRA-10 must feel the way that American SOF soldiers felt in the 1990s when they have had a high level of training, but deployments were few and far between.

With the rest of European SOF and the Atlantic Alliance deploying to combat over the last 15 years, there has also been a serious concern that DRA-10 could be left far behind their partners in neighboring countries. Without combat experience, DRA-10 has had to rely on bilateral cross-training with friendly units in Germany and France in order to stay current on new tactics, techniques, and procedures.