I get asked a lot about the capabilities of various Special Operations units. People want to understand who does what and how all of these various SOF elements interact with each other. I’ve also had to explain that since 9/11 the entire SOF community has had to up their game, and the same also goes for the Conventional Army.
The types of tasks that would once have been left to the purview of Delta Force are often conducted by the 75th Ranger Regiment today. There has been such a high demand for Direct Action operations that Special Forces has also taken a huge role in these missions with their host nation partners. In fact, the demand has been so great that conventional units have had to step up and conduct Foreign Internal Defense (FID) to help fill the gap. My point is that everyone has had to adapt and overcome, often undertaking tasks that fall well outside their unit’s mission profile.
Even Dalton Fury, the Delta Force Commander at Tora Bora who led the hunt for Osama Bin Laden early on in the war in Afghanistan, made the comment in his book “Kill Bin Laden” that joining forces with local militias and assaulting the mountain redoubts that Al-Qaeda was holed up in wasn’t exactly part of Delta’s mission profile. Delta is a counter-terrorist unit that specializes in surgical raids, generally thought of as hostage rescues. This was more of a Special Forces mission, but Delta was the unit on that ground in that place, at that time, and so the job fell on their shoulders.
Now that you understand a little bit about how SOF has had to evolved in response to the post-9/11 battlefield, I hope that readers will indulge me for a moment as I’m going to speculate on where the community is going over the long term.