Defense News recently released a story, U.S. Africa Command Finally Receives Special Ops Unit, which talks about the addition of a new U.S. direct action/quick reaction force unit to the region. The author bases his information on a recent December 3rd Q&A session at George Washington University by General Carter Ham, Commander of U.S. African Command (AFRICOM).

According to Defense News, the General speaks about the addition of a new Special Forces CIF team, or “commander’s in-extremis force”, under AFRICOM. He revealed the existence of this additional CIF team to his command allegedly in response to what happened in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012.

General Ham speaking at HSPI on December 3rd
General Ham speaking at HSPI on December 3rd

The commander’s in-extremis force (CIF) was stood up on Oct. 1, AFRICOM chief Gen. Carter Ham revealed during a talk at George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute on Dec. 3. – Defense News

The video can be found here: HSPI Event – General Carter Ham, AFRICOM Commander. I watched the entire one-hour plus session and there was never any mention of any Special Forces CIF team or similar forces so I’m unsure where the information came from. But to be semi-fair to Defense News; the last question asked by an attendee was cut off prematurely from the video feed. Regardless I’m very interested to see what the source on this is.

According to the article the unit was activated on October 1st, 2012, a mere 20 days after the Consulate attack. Personally I find this very hard to believe as it would take months to get SF members selected and trained up for assignment on a CIF team.

Special Forces Sniper Course (formerly SOTIC), last I checked, is 8 weeks long, and SFARTEC (the training course for CIF team members) is also 8 weeks. Both courses are the foundation for a Special Forces CIF team. So aside from taking a bunch of regular A-Team guys and telling them “Hey soldier! Congratulations, you’re now on a CIF team!”, it’s impossible to have started the process after the Benghazi attack. The order must have been given months prior to Benghazi in order to have a fully functional or manned CIF unit for AFRICOM.

5th SFG CIF Company training on maritime interdiction
5th SFG CIF Company training on maritime interdiction

Now the way the U.S. military works around the world is by operating in divided commands called the Unified Combatant Commands, the geographic components include AFRICOM (Africa), PACOM (Pacific), EUCOM (Europe), SOUTHCOM (South America), CENTCOM (Middle East and Central Asia), and of course NORTHCOM (N. America).

The Special Forces Group assigned to African operations is 3rd Group, which already has a CIF team (Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion) elsewhere, and thus far Special Forces does not have the capabilities to stand up more than one CIF team per Group (Jack can expand on the reasons behind that).

The 10th Special Forces Group which is part of EUCOM is assigned for operations in Europe but is also secondarily assigned to Northern Africa as they have spent much time training and advising in Mali and Mauritania over the last few years. According to Lt. General John Mulholland (SOCOM Deputy Commander), the CIF team that AFRICOM previously relied on was from the 10th SFG, and at the time of the Benghazi attack the unit was on a training mission in Croatia. Shortly after word of the attack, the team was positioned out of Sagonella Naval Air Station in Sicily – a mere 500 miles from Benghazi.

So where is this “new” CIF team based out of? What Group is it assigned to? A new CIF team assigned exclusively to AFRICOM, in order to be effective and responsive, would have to be located in Africa and not somewhere in Europe. But considering our only base is Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti (a collection of Conex boxes and tents) – I don’t see an African-based CIF team for years.

[Ed note: It is true that 3rd SFG traditionally covers down on Africa but in recent years their primary AO has been Afghanistan, leading to 10th SFG to shift much of their focus from Europe to Africa. -Jack]

Combatant Commands and the Special Forces Groups assigned to them
Combatant Commands and the Special Forces Groups assigned to them

Other interesting tidbits in regards to AFRICOM and their fight against the Islamists straight from General Ham:

  • Boko Haram in Nigeria is one of the strongest groups in the area that is receiving training and huge financial aid from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
  • Al-Shabaab is in “survival mode” and is being decimated by Kenyan, Ethiopian, Somali, and Djibouti forces.
  • AQIM is the best financed al-Qaeda affiliate currently in the world.
  • A major Northern Mali operation MUST be African led. Challenges for the U.S. include that “the U.S. military is prohibited from military-to-military relationships with Mali armed forces” due to the recent overthrow of the government.
  • AFRICOM needs more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance resources and is suffering immensely in the human intelligence department.