While much has been made over the last twelve years of American Special Operations Forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, and other locations around the world, Russian Special Operations have been almost completely overlooked. What American and Russian SOF share in common is the War on Terror. Both nations have had to tangle with extremist Islamic ideologies and the terrorists that draw inspiration from them.
Many Americans may recall Russia’s battles in Chechnya during the 1990s, but most are unfamiliar with the efforts of Russian Special Operations to conduct strikes against High Value Targets, or HVTs. High Value Targets are those individuals within a terrorist group who represent a significant node within that network, such as the leaders of that particular organization.
By targeting HVTs, American Special Operations have found that they can disrupt and sometimes destroy these networks. However, HVT strikes are just that, a disruption or delaying tactic. HVT strikes are unlikely to win the war in of themselves. Russia has more than likely reached the same conclusions but, like their American counterparts, these strikes continue in order to prevent these terrorist networks from getting stronger and eventually growing to the point that they are completely unmanageable.
Russian Special Operations have developed their own Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for hunting down and eliminating terrorist leaders. Many of these TTPs having been developed during the course of operations in Chechnya. Intelligence is gathered by both SIGINT and HUMINT to pinpoint where the HVT is located, then Russian forces move in to conduct an ambush or cordon off an area so that assaulters can raid a fixed target. One interesting TTP that surfaced as Chechen terrorists cells were targeted is the use of poisoned letters. At least one HVT collapsed and died when Russian forces contrived a situation in which a poisoned letter was delivered to him.