For months now, SOFREP has been writing a series of articles about how badly things are going for the Special Forces soldiers assigned to covert and clandestine programs in Syria, Turkey, and Jordan. Some of the frustration that the Green Berets are experiencing is indeed normal, as the unconventional warfare mission is difficult, complicated, and results are seen only over a long time horizon. However, the Green Berets assigned to this mission are outraged for another reason: many of the “moderate” rebels they are charged with training are actually ISIS and al-Nusra collaborators.
Since those articles have been published, 5th Special Forces Group has held “sensing sessions” between the commander and his staff. The 5th Group commander has also conducted battalion briefs in which he stuck to the party line, but never actually denied any of the charges made in the SOFREP articles about what is going on in his unit. One 5th Group member reported that the briefs were extremely awkward, especially when the commander told them that he got them all ball caps which at that point felt like it was compensation to the men for the mess he had gotten them in.
The commander, Colonel Leahy, went on the record for the Washington Times saying, “No one knows how to work with rebels better than our Green Berets…We provide lots of latitude on how guys work with various groups. Of course to accomplish goals we have to tell them what we want done, but we let them figure out how to do it. I can only discuss Syria, but can firmly say I and my subordinate leaders do not micromanage.” SOFREP sources report exactly the opposite. Micromanaging is a issue that has been ongoing in 5th Group for over a decade and Colonel Leahy seems to have taken it to a new extreme.
The Washington Times article does a good job describing the micromanagement and careerism that exists in Special Forces, and the horrible effect that this has on morale, as well as retention. However, the article also glosses over the complaints that Green Berets have made about the Timber Sycamore program in which “moderate” rebels actually turn out to be Jihadists. The Special Forces men complain and drag their feet, refusing to train the next generation of terrorists, but their words fall on deaf ears at the CIA. The brass as Special Forces also seems uninterested in challenging the CIA, and the only mission that is keeping their unit relevant at the moment.
One of the sources that the Washington Times talked to was clearly a Sergeant, who shot from the hip and told it like it is. The other is obviously a staff officer who walked the party line. Still, something is better than nothing so it is good to hear at least part of this story make it into the mainstream media. As for the larger story involving America training our future enemies, for now it seems that we will have to wait until something really blows up in our faces.
As of now, three 5th Group members killed outside a CIA base in Jordan by a Jihadist sympathizer is not enough to get Congress asking questions about what is really going on with these programs.