The United States doesn’t just possess some of the world’s top special operations units, but, more importantly, it leads the way when it comes to SOF doctrine and development. Earlier this month, the Netherlands established its own Special Operations Command (NLD SOCOM) in order to better face current and future threats. The NLD SOCOM is modeled after the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and will be accountable to the Dutch Chief of Defence. It is comprised of the Korps Commando Troepen (KCT), a unit of the Dutch Army modeled after the British Special Air Service (SAS), the Maritime Special Operation Forces (MARSOF), which belong to the Dutch Marine Corps, and various air force and navy support units.
Major General Theo ten Haaf, the commander of NLD SOCOM (and a helicopter pilot), said about the new command, “Other countries have already gone through a similar process. Mutual rivalry between commandos and marines in the past has delayed the process with us. We are now joining forces.”
The new command was launched in an attempt to counter terrorism and hybrid warfare threats. It will add another useful component to NATO’s SOF capabilities. Admiral Rob Bauer, the Chief of Defence, highlighted that the new command will enable the Netherlands to increase its strategic importance. Dutch SOF units have been deployed to Afghanistan and Africa, among other places. A joint command allows for more effective mission planning, resource allocation, training, and mission execution.
It is worth noticing how other countries have been emulating the American example when it comes to special operations. The U.S. made the first step by establishing the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in 1980 following the debacle of Operation Eagle Claw, during the Iranian Embassy hostage crisis. It brought together America’s tier one counterterrorism units. Soon thereafter, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) was established, in 1987, to bring the rest of the nation’s special operations units under a single command.
Since then, allied and opposing nations have been gradually seeing the wisdom of joint command and operations, and have replicated the American model. The examples are numerous. The United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF), a joint command that brought together the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) – now it also contains other units such as the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) and Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) — was launched in 1987. The Australian Special Operations Command (SOCOMD) was launched in 2003, although there had been some smaller iterations previously. The Russians have responded in kind by establishing their own version of a special operations command (SSO), in 2009.
The NLD SOCOM was inaugurated in a ceremony at the Gilze Rijen AFB. It will become fully operational in 2020.