On June 22, 2016 the government of Norway announced that it will be sending Norwegian special operations forces (NORSOF) to Jordan in mid-2016 to train up Syrian Arab Sunni fighters that are battling ISIS. The Norwegian parliament has given the go-ahead for this deployment. Norway currently has over 100 soldiers (possibly from the Telemark Battalion) in northern Iraq training up Kurdish forces opposing the Islamic State. There is also a small Norwegian medical detachment in northern Iraq as well.

There are two SOF units in the Norwegian military. One is the Forsvarets Spesialkommando (FSK) and the other is the Marinejegerkommandoen (MJK). The FSK is similar to U.S. Special Forces and Delta and the MJK is roughly equivalent to the U.S. Navy SEALs. My first exposure to NORSOF was at Flint Kaserne in Bad Tolz, Germany in 1977. At the time 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group was based there (just south of Munich) and many of the European SOF units would take part in training and exercises. My impression of the Norwegians was highly positive.

Quite a few years later I would once again encounter NORSOF – this time on my first Afghan tour in 2002-2003. I was once again favorably impressed with their capabilities in conducting strategic reconnaissance (SR) missions in austere environments. At the time NORSOF worked as part of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A).

NORSOF continued their involvement in Afghanistan – especially in support of the special police units of the General Command of Police Special Units (GCPSU) of the Ministry of Interior (MoI). Norway has also contributed general purpose troops to Afghanistan over the years – especially in northern Afghanistan as part of Regional Command North (RC North) based at Mazer-e Sharif. In addition, Norway has deployed a number of staff officers to work in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters and later Resolute Support (RS) headquarters in Kabul.

The contribution of NORSOF to the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is welcome news to the United States and bolsters the coalition effort against the Islamic State. Norway has proven to be a dependable ally of the United States in Afghanistan, around the world, and now in the Middle East. In addition to this invaluable assistance, the NORSOF contribution will improve the interoperability of Norwegian and United States special operations forces.

For more information about NORSOF read an article by Jack Murphy entitled “Inside the FSK – Norwegian Special Forces Command”, SOFREP, March 20, 2014.

See also a press release entitled “Carter Welcomes Norway’s Expansion of Counter-ISIL Role”, Operation Inherent Resolve, May 2, 2016.