We hear little about the Special Operations units of Scandinavian nations, but in recent days the veil has been lifted, if only just a little, to give us a small look at what our allied SOF units have been up to in Afghanistan. Policy-makers in Sweden have refused to confirm or deny any operations that Swedish troops may have participated in, but by correlating martyr biographies of dead jihadists, at least one newspaper has been able to put two and two together.
The dead are two Saudi foreign fighters who came to Afghanistan to wage the jihad and appear to have been killed in 2011. Abdul Rahman bin Obaidullah first waged jihad in his home country with Al Qaeda before traveling to Afghanistan. His martyr biography reads, “Self-trained in close combat and bomb-making, he took second jihadists to Afghanistan where he was killed for Swedish bullets during Ramadan fall 2010. After a confrontation he allegedly tracked into hiding. Armed with a gun and grenade wounded him three soldiers, whereupon he was shot ‘in the confrontation with the Swedes.'”
The second jihadist was Abdul Ilah Otaibi, who apparently saw action fighting American troops in Kandahar. The terrorist propaganda reads that he was, “wounded and killed ‘with a smile.’ He was shot by ‘mercenaries’ and ‘crusaders’ from Sweden.” That last bit will no doubt give both Swedes and Americans a chuckle. Despite the jihadi talking points, it appears that the unit involved, Sweden’s SOG (or Special Operations Group), met with enemy resistance and returned fire in accordance with Swedish policies and the Law of Land Warfare.
SOG is a relatively new unit, formed in 2011, that merged two previous Swedish Special Operations units, SSG and SIG. Think of SOG as a combination of Delta Force and Dev Group, a unit capable of counter-terrorism operations with added maritime capabilities. While information on SOG is scant, it seems reasonable to suspect that Sweden’s Ministry of Defense did this in order to pool resources. Both of the previous units are suspected to be small in number (less than 100 operators at best), so by combining the two units into SOG would allow the Swedes greater counter-terrorism capabilities. Recall that not every nation has the massive budget that SOCOM and JSOC have.
Swedish SOF are also reported to have deployed to Chad, the Central Africa Republic, and the Congo in recent years as well, prior to SOG being stood up. Swedish operators may have also conducted other classified covert operations, including domestically in their home nation, which have gone unreported thus far. SOG is reported to have a small number of women in the unit, or attached to it, who work in intelligence roles. Partnered with indigenous forces, SOG has conducted dozens, if not hundreds, of raids in Afghanistan.
SOG also appears to be a part of Admiral McRaven’s “Global SOF framework,” now called the ISCC under SOCOM. This is a new and unique organization that represents a positive step forward for US and Allied SOF.
“Sweden has two full-time officers in the NATO special forces team in Belgium and another tied to the new U.S. special forces management’s international staff, which opened in October in Florida. The latter is confirmed by Defence Minister Karin Enstrom (M) , who visited headquarters last summer…The U.S. is building a global network of special units that can work together. When the international headquarters opened in October last year included ten countries , Sweden and Australia are the only ones who are not members of NATO.” (Dn.se)
What the future holds for Sweden’s SOG, and for the new Global SOF network, is something that we will be keeping an eye on in the coming months and years.