Showing posts with label VSO. Show all posts
Showing posts with label VSO. Show all posts

Sunday, December 6, 2015

SOF News

VSO, Gant, Water, Crops, and COIN. One writer, Doyle Quiggle, manages to combine a variety of topics (although related) into an essay on how to win a small war! He tells us of the failures of the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program of U.S. special operations in Afghanistan, of how Jim Gant was doing VSO right, and the importance of water in counterinsurgency at the village level. Read "Small Farms and Small Wars: Planting The Garden in Village Stability Operations", Small Wars Journal, November 29, 2015.

Event - "Lessons from VSO and ALP". Dr. Corey Lofdahl is presenting a lecture on the topic of Implementing  Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan: Lessons from Village Stability Operations and Afghan Local Police (VSO/ALP). He is a senior scientist with Charles River Analytics who worked in 2011 and 2012 at the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command - Afghanistan (CFSOCC-A). The presentation is on Thursday, December 10th in Washington, D.C. and is hosted by The Institute of World Politics. (Note: CFSOCC-A is now known as the Special Operations Joint Task Force - Afghanistan or SOJTF-A).

DoDIG Investigation on ANASOF TAA. The Inspector General for the Department of Defense intends on conducting an assessment on U.S. and Coalition efforts to Train, Advise, Assist, and Equip the Afghan National Army Special Operations Forces (ANASOF). The objective is to determine whether U.S. government and coalition goals, objectives, plans and resources to train the ANASOF are sufficient, operative, and relevant. Read the memo from DoDIG, November 25, 2015.

Joint U.S. - Afghan SOF Raid Frees 40 from Prison. A prison rescue mission successfully liberated at least 40 Afghan security personnel from a Taliban prison in Nawzad district of southern Helmand province in an operation that began on Thursday night. (Tolo News, Dec 4, 2015). See also an NBC News report dated December 4, 2015.

"Project Gray" - Fighting in the Gray Zone. Warfare has changed over the past few decades. The advent of Hybrid Warfare, Irregular Warfare (IW), and the use of Unconventional Warfare (UW) by our adversaries (Iran, ISIS, al Qaeda, Russia, and others) has forced the U.S. military to take a long look on how to operate in this new environment. The UW experts at Fort Bragg (that would be the Green Berets) are learning to fight in what is now being referred to as the "Gray Zone".  The initial Special Forces training that Green Berets undergo goes a long way to prepare its members for this kind of fight; yet the learning never stops. As part of this never-ending learning process the U.S. Army Special Operations Center of Excellence has started "Project Gray" and published a website that reflects the work in this area.

Advocating a "Human Warfighting Domain". One writer is strongly proposing that a Human Warfighting be established and that the proponent should be those in the U.S. Army who are the most proficient in counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare - that would be the 1st Special Forces Command. Read "Should There Be a Human Warfighting Domain?", by Thomas Doherty, Small Wars Journal, December 3, 2015.

5th Group Reviving Vietnam Era Flash. The solid black flash worn on the berets of members of the 5th Special Forces Group will be giving way to a bit of history. The new (or old) flash will be the one worn by 5th Group Soldiers while serving in Vietnam (and also stateside). Read more on the perplexing move by 5th SFGA and Special Forces Command in "Army's 5th Special Forces Group to Resurrect Vietnam-Era Beret Flash",, December 1, 2015.

'Targeting Force' to Iraq / Syria. In testimony before Congress SECDEF Carter stated that more U.S. military forces will be headed to the Middle East to fight against ISIS. The number of airstrikes will increase as well as on-the-ground intelligence gathering and special operations raids. Carter also said that a "specialized expeditionary targeting force" will assist Iraqi and Kurdish peshmerga forces fighting the Islamic State. Sounds very JSOC-like! Read more in "DoD to deploy 'targeting force' to hunt down ISIS leaders"Military Times, December 1, 2015. See also Kim Dozier's article - "Obama Unleashes Hunter-Killers on ISIS", The Daily Beast, December 1, 2015.

USSF Fighting with Kurds for Months. Kurdish fights say that US Special Forces have been fighting ISIS for months in northern Iraq. The Obama administration continues to maintain that there are 'No Boots on the Ground"; however, perhaps that is because the SF dudes (in another era they were referred to as "Sneaky Petes") are all wearing sneakers. (The Guardian, Nov 30, 2015).

SOCOM Cdr Likely Choice for CENTCOM. General Votel is a top candidate to succeed General Austin for command of Central Command. Given the importance of the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria he is a good choice. Read more in "SOCOM's Votel is Top Choice to Take Over CENTCOM", Defense One, December 3, 2015.

How Does SOCOM Feel about the Gender Integration Order? - He is all for it! The commander, General Votel, seems to think it is a good idea. (The feedback I hear from those on the SF teams is quite different.) Listen to a 8-minute long video of the leader of SOCOM justifying his decision to support the SECDEF in the full integration of women into all special operations organizations. (USSOCOM, December 3, 2015).

How Do SOF Operators Feel about Women in SOF Units? Not So Much! The RAND Corporation conducted a study that special operations leadership commissioned on the integration of women into SOF units. 85% of the rank and file said "NO!, Don't Do IT". But with the proper 'career guidance', 'gender integration seminars', 'focus groups', 'safe space discussions', and more I am sure the steely-eyed combat veterans with multiple deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere will come around. Read "Special Ops Survey Showed 85% Opposed Serving With Women", Defense One, December 4, 2015.

Book - Relentless Strike. I just finished reading Sean Naylor's recent book about the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Very informative read with perhaps more information than USSOCOM would have wanted published. I am sure there was more than one former 'operator' talking out of school. The book is available on

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Report - VSO and ALP

From 2010 to 2013 the special operations forces in Afghanistan dedicated a significant part of their manpower and resources to the Village Stability Operations (VSO) and Afghan Local Police (ALP) programs. ODAs, SEAL teams, and MARSOC teams were aligned against key districts with the dual-role of implementing the VSO program and establishing, training, and advising ALP units at the community or district level. In this 95-page long paper Dr. Mark Moyar outlines the history of the VSO and ALP programs. He covers the history of the two programs from their inception to the end of the VSO program and the transition of the ALP program to the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI). He notes the complementary role that VSO/ALP played to the counterterrorism effort - using the 'indirect approach' to employ population mobilization and other counterinsurgency techniques to secure the Afghan populace. He describes how the two programs, VSO and ALP, provided not only security for some key districts in Afghanistan but also governance and development. Read his paper "Village Stability Operations and the Afghan Local Police", JSOU Report 14-7, October 2014.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

District Stability Operations (DSO) In Afghanistan

The concept of Village Stability Operations or VSO has been around for a year or two. VSO is a very successful program run by the Special Operations Joint Task Force - Afghanistan (SOJTF-A) - with the lead agency being the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A). VSO integrates the parallel and complimentary efforts of security, development, and governance to further the reach of the Afghan government and security organizations at the district level. The implementation involves committing a special operations team (SFODA, MARSOC, or SEAL) against a village to first establish security (primarily through the ALP) and then governance and development.

To assist the ODA (or Marines or Seals) SOJTF-A usually assigns one or two individuals to work as a District Augmentation Team (DAT) or Provincial Augmentation Team (PAT) to help coordinate and facilitate the governance and development lines of operations. The DAT or PAT works within the framework of the district or province headquarters coordinating with Afghan governmental, ministry, and security officials as well as other enablers present such as the State Department, DEA, NGOs, and others.

One Special Forces Warrant Officer presents the case that Special Forces should transition from Village Stability Operations (VSO) to District Stability Operations (DSO). His suggests that in certain regions of Afghanistan (RC East) DSO would be more effective. Read his online article in "VSO versus DSO", Small Wars Journal, March 19, 2013.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Afghan Local Police (ALP) to Expand

The Afghan Local Police or ALP program in Afghanistan may expand in the future. The U.S. military is looking for additional funding that will extend the ALP program for an additional five years and increase the number of ALP members to 45,000. The plan, which is backed by the U.S. Special Operations Command, will cost $1.2 billion to train, arm, and equip the ALP. The ALP, based on a village defense model, comes under the control of the Ministry of Interior and is supervised by the local Afghan National Police District Chiefs of Police and Provincial Chiefs of Police. The Special Operations Joint Task Force -Afghanistan or SOJTF-A has the overall responsibility for advising, training, and mentoring the MoI and the ANP in regards to the ALP. This includes training and embedding with the ALP in conjunction with the SOJTF-A Village Stability Operations or VSO program. Learn more about the ALP expansion at the link below (LA Times, Feb 10, 2013).

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Afghan Hands Program Receive Months of Language and Specialized Training

The Afghan Hands program has proven itself to be one of the most successful endeavors in Afghanistan. Selected members of the U.S. military forces are entered into an intensive language and cultural training program in the U.S. and then deploy to Afghanistan for one-year to work with Afghan counterparts. View a recent video (Feb 13) about the Afghan Hands who are selected to work with the Special Operations Joint Task Force - Afghanistan (SOJTF-A) at the link below:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Task Force Iron Ranger and VSO in Afghanistan

In 2010 1st Battalion 16th Infantry was assigned the mission of deploying to Afghanistan to augment the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A) and assist in the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program. The battalion deployed in January 2011 and very quickly sent out platoon and squad-sized elements across Afghanistan to work with Special Forces ODAs, Navy SEAL elements, and MARSOC teams who were training the Afghan Local Police (ALP) and establishing Village Stability Platforms (VSPs). This augmentation by conventional troops allowed the special operations forces to further expand its VSO / ALP program to additional locations in Afghanistan.

The twelve man Special Forces ODAs (and other special operations teams) were split into two 6-man elements and augmented with squads from the 1/16 Infantry. They were then assigned to multiple locations throughout Afghanistan. It soon became apparent that the division of SF teams into two elements and then pairing with conventional infantry units was a workable solution to expanding the VSO program. A second infantry battalion was soon deployed to Afghanistan to continue the program. 1-505 Parachute Infantry from Fort Bragg soon followed 1-16 Infantry into Afghanistan for further augmentation of the CJSOTF-A.

The command and staff of Task Force Iron Ranger (1-16th) was widely dispersed. The battalion commander became the Director of the Village Stability Coordination Center (VSCC) North - which provided oversight of Provincial and District Augmentation Teams (PATs and DATs) fielded by the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command - Afghanistan (CFSOCC-A) and in coordination with the Village Stability National Coordination Center (VSNCC) located on the ISAF HQs compound in Kabul. The PATs and DATs, assigned to provincial and district centers provided the conduit from the VSPs to the various Afghan government officials and other actors to provide governance and development to the local areas. Staff members of Task Force Iron Ranger were used as PATs, DATs, in the VSCC-North, or in augmentation roles for the CJSOTF-A.

An article recently posted on the Small Wars Journal goes into great depth describing the integration of Task Force Iron Ranger into the CJSOTF-A to augment special operations teams conducting VSO and ALP training. Read "Innovation in Integration: Task Force Iron Ranger and Village Stability Operations in Afghanistan 2010-11" by Craig Whiteside, Small Wars Journal, February 7, 2013.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Paper - Effectiveness of Village Stability Operations (VSO) and Afghan Local Police (ALP)

The Small Wars Journal has posted a detailed paper about the Village Stability Operations (VSO) and Afghan Local Police (ALP) programs that were initiated and are now supported by the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command - Afghanistan (CFSOCC-A). The paper explores the history and background of VSO and ALP. Read an abstract of the paper below:
This paper seeks to analyze and assess, to the extent possible, the efficacy of the Village Stability Operations (VSO) and Afghan Local Police (ALP) missions currently being carried out by U.S. Special Operations Forces (USSOF) in Afghanistan. By examining security indicators for provinces where VSO/ALP operations are being conducted, scholarly research and assessments, and Congressional records, this paper finds that VSO/ALP is having a positive impact on security and governance at the local level in Afghanistan. In addition, this paper addresses areas of concern regarding VSO/ALP and makes some recommendations for improving the size and scope of these initiatives.
The link to the paper can be found at "The Only Game in Town: Assessing the Effectiveness of Village Stability Operations and the Afghan Local Police", by Seth A. Shreckengast, Small Wars Journal, March 27, 2012.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Karzai Wants ISAF Out of Afghan Villages

In a reaction to the Panjwai massacre President Karzai wants all NATO troops to withdraw from Afghan villages to large bases. He has stated that Afghan security forces are now ready to take over all security responsibilities now. This will have an adverse effect on ISAF's plans for an orderly transition to Afghan security forces over the next few years. Part of that transition includes the use of special operations forces working in Afghan villages with the Afghan Local Police or ALP as part of the Village Stability Operations or VSO program. Read more in "Karzai Urges NATO Withdrawal From Afghan Villages", Voice of America, March 15, 2012.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Village Stability Operations Explanation

Carmen Gentile has wrote a piece about the Village Stability Operations program in Afghanistan. In this program, called VSO for short, special operations teams move into rural communities and establish Village Stability Platforms. These small organizations built around the special operations teams work with local community leaders to enhance governance and development at the same time trying to improve the security situation. They frequently work with the Afghan Local Police or ALP. The recent shooting of sixteen Panjwai civilians took place at one of these VSO locations.

See the article by Carmen Gentile entitled "Afghanistan massacre casts pall over village operations", USA Today, March 15, 2012.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Village Stability Operations (VSO) Program Under Scrutiny

One of the unfortunate (among many) effects of the Panjwai massacre is the high-lighting of the Village Stability Operations or VSO program. The SSG who committed the killings was a conventional Soldier attached to a special operations team conducting VSO at a small compound called Belandai Base (named for a nearby village) in Panjwai district, Kandahar province.  As the correspondents and commentators filter through the news reports they are learning more about the VSO program. Many will make the leap that the VSO program is somehow at fault - which would be a huge mistake. For instance, see "Massacre by U.S. Soldier clouds NATO's Afghan strategy", AlertNet, March 14, 2012. Learn more about the Village Stability Operations program.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

U.S. Military to Switch from Combat to Advisory Role in Mid-2013 in Afghanistan

The Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, stated on Wednesday (February 1, 2012) that the U.S. forces will move from a combat role to an "advise and assist" role by mid-2013.  The ISAF nations have all agreed to a timed withdrawal by 2014 - although France may pull out one year early. Read more in "Panetta Says U.S. to End Afghan Combat Role as Soon as 2013", The New York Times, February 1, 2012.  Currently there are about U.S. 90,000 troops in Afghanistan with 22,000 scheduled to return to the United States in the Fall of 2012.

A big question is if the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will be able to bear the brunt of the fighting.  So announcing mid-2013 as a fixed-time for this move from combat to advisory role is risky (see Fred and Kimberly Kagan's thoughts on this here).  Big advances have been made in the south of Afghanistan although the job is not finished there.  The north and west is under control as well - for right now. But lots of fighting remains to be done in the east and the southeast of Afghanistan.  It is questionable if the ANSF can do the hard work in these provinces alone over the next two years.

The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) number about 320,000 as of February 2012 and will grow to 352,000 by the end of 2012.  It is unclear who will pay the bill to continue to support an Army of that size. The ANSF may have to downsize.  Downsizing the Afghan army has a couple of drawbacks - there are less security forces to keep the insurgency in check and you now have to "demobilize" an individual who has been trained to fight and now does not have a job or source of income.  However, we have to move towards transition.  This goes against the grain of many of our brigade commanders who want to do the job themselves rather than have the Afghans take the lead. See "Putting the Afghans in charge", by Roger Carstens, The AFPAK Channel - Foreign Policy, February 2, 2102 for more on how senior (O-6 level) commanders need to become the supporting unit instead of the supported unit.

The Afghan Local Police may be an option for downsizing the Afghan army.  Perhaps a plan could be devised to discharge Afghan soldiers from the Army but sign them up for the newly-formed Afghan Local Police or ALP. Prior to his discharge the soldier is enlisted into the ALP by the Ministry of Interior (MOI).  He undergoes police training (currently ALP members receive 3 weeks training) and then returns to his local village or community. The pay of an ALP member is significantly less and the logistical support required (food, housing, fuel, transportation, etc.) for the ALP member is very little - he lives at home and feeds himself.  His equipment consists of a uniform, AK-47, ammo pouches, radio, and some other inexpensive items.  Plus the ALP gets a trained and combat experienced infantryman who has been vetted with the national government.

If the U.S. combat forces are going to switch to an advisory role then now would be the time to train up the next few rotations on how to be advisors.  A certain amount of these advisors that would deploy in 2013 and 2014 should be allocated to an advisory role for the Afghan Local Police (ALP).  Currently a large proportion of the Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan are advising and training the Afghan Local Police under the Village Stability Operations (VSO) initiative.  Unfortunately there are only so many SOF teams and they are currently maxed out.  For the ALP to grow - especially if demobilized Afghan soldiers from a down-sized ANSF are integrated into it - more advisors will be needed. Advising a local police unit in remote and austere locations at the village level is very different than advising company or battalion sized units located on large compounds.

So what is a possible solution?  As we move towards the end of 2014 the Afghan security forces of 350,000 (which we can't afford) should enlist a significant amount of their force (100,000?) into the Afghan Local Police.  A portion of the U.S. units scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014 should start training now to be advisors to the Afghan Local Police here in the states (learn language, culture, police functions, etc); and the future ALP advisors training should have oversight from SOF teams that have conducted this ALP advisory and training mission on their rotations over the past few years.