The Army’s Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) are in transition. With the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan and the slow winding down of combat operations in Iraq, ARSOF units are moving from an emphasis to a door-kicking counter-terrorism role to a more traditional role of countering near-peer adversaries such as Russia or China. 

ARSOF’s operators spent 40 years working against Russia during the Cold War. Many of the concepts remain the same, but warfare has changed since then, and there are more domains to be studied and targeted.

The U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), funded the Rand Corporation to conduct research on how ARSOF and SOCOM would best be utilized in a near-peer conflict with Russia. The report, which was released earlier this week, took a detailed look at how ARSOF units should be used. It concluded that the units need better and more detailed direction. 

The Rand Corporation report recommends a return to ARSOF’s roots to combat neer-peer adversaries. Pictured above is the 7th SFG A-Team in El Salvador. (U.S. Army)

The report highlighted ARSOF’s history in countering Russia. “Long before ARSOF were used for counterterrorism missions, these forces were created for combat and competition with other great powers. Many of the U.S. antecedents of contemporary ARSOF arose in response to the exigencies of World War II, and they provided perhaps the preeminent military tools for competition with the Soviet Union in the Cold War.”