Imperial Overreach: U.S. Special Ops Forces Deployed in 135 Nations

Published on naked capitalism, by Yves Smith, Sept 26, 2015 – (originally published by Nick Turse at Tom Dispatch, Sept 24 … also discussed on Global, Sept 25).

… You can find them in dusty, sunbaked badlands, moist tropical forests, and the salty spray of third-world littorals. Standing in judgement, buffeted by the rotor wash of a helicopter or sweltering beneath the relentless desert sun, they instruct, yell, and cajole as skinnier men playact under their watchful eyes. In many places, more than their particular brand of camouflage, better boots, and designer gear sets them apart. Their days are scented by stale sweat and gunpowder; their nights are spent in rustic locales or third-world bars.  

These men — and they are mostly men — belong to an exclusive military fraternity that traces its heritage back to the birth of the nation. Typically, they’ve spent the better part of a decade as more conventional soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen before making the cut. They’ve probably been deployed overseas four to 10 times. The officers are generally approaching their mid-thirties; the enlisted men, their late twenties. They’ve had more schooling than most in the military. They’re likely to be married with a couple of kids. And day after day, they carry out shadowy missions over much of the planet: sometimes covert raids, more often hush-hush training exercises from Chad to Uganda, Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, Albania to Romania, Bangladesh to Sri Lanka, Belize to Uruguay. They belong to the Special Operations forces (SOF), America’s most elite troops — Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs, among others — and odds are, if you throw a dart at a world map or stop a spinning globe with your index finger and don’t hit water, they’ve been there sometime in 2015.

The Wide World of Special Ops: … //

… SOCOM’s SOF Alphabet Soup: … //

… From Joint Special Operations Task Force-Juniper Shield, which operates in Africa’s Trans-Sahara region, and Special Operations Command and Control Element-Horn of Africa, to Army Special Operations Forces Liaison Element-Korea and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula, the global growth of SOF missions has been breathtaking. SEALs or Green Berets, Delta Force operators or Air Commandos, they are constantly taking on what Votel likes to call the “nation’s most complex, demanding, and high-risk challenges.”

These forces carry out operations almost entirely unknown to the American taxpayers who fund them, operations conducted far from the scrutiny of the media or meaningful outside oversight of any kind. Everyday, in around 80 or more countries that Special Operations Command will not name, they undertake missions the command refuses to talk about. They exist in a secret world of obtuse acronyms and shadowy efforts, of mystery missions kept secret from the American public, not to mention most of the citizens of the 135 nations where they’ve been deployed this year.

This summer, when Votel commented that more special ops troops are deployed to more locations and are conducting more operations than at the height of the Afghan and Iraq wars, he drew attention to two conflicts in which those forces played major roles that have not turned out well for the United States. Consider that symbolic of what the bulking up of his command has meant in these years.

“Ultimately, the best indicator of our success will be the success of the [geographic combatant commands],” says the special ops chief, but with U.S. setbacks in Africa Command’s area of operations from Mali and Nigeria to Burkina Faso and Cameroon; in Central Command’s bailiwick from Iraq and Afghanistan to Yemen and Syria; in the PACOM region vis-à-vis China; and perhaps even in the EUCOM area of operations due to Russia, it’s far from clear what successes can be attributed to the ever-expanding secret operations of America’s secret military. The special ops commander seems resigned to the very real limitations of what his secretive but much-ballyhooed, highly-trained, well-funded, heavily-armed operators can do.

“We can buy space, we can buy time,” says Votel, stressing that SOCOM can “play a very, very key role” in countering “violent extremism,” but only up to a point — and that point seems to fall strikingly short of anything resembling victory or even significant foreign policy success. “Ultimately, you know, problems like we see in Iraq and Syria,” he says, “aren’t going to be resolved by us.”

(full long text, hyper links).

(Nick Turse is a 2014 Izzy Award and American Book Award winner for his book Kill Anything That Moves. Turse has reported from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa and his pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the Intercept, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. His latest book is Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa).


Obama to UN: US ready to work with Russia and Iran on Syria, on Russia Today RT, Sept 28, 2015;

Erase the Borders, on Dissident Vice, by subMedia, Sept 28, 2015;

UN serves world leaders ‘landfill salad’ to highlight food waste, on Russia Today RT, Sept 28, 2015;

Marx is back in fashion – Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, on Russia Today RT, Sept 28, 2015;

Being human: the artist behind the London UBI posters, on Basic Income Earth Network BIEN, by Will Wachtmeister, Sept 26, 2015;

India: All about annuities, on The Hindi Business Line, by Aarati Krishnan, Sept 26, 2015;

Canada: Why Universal Childcare Isn’t a Perfect Solution, on City Lab, by Laura Bliss, Sept 25, 2015: An experiment in universal childcare in Quebec has been mostly a disaster. Here’s what could work for U.S. kids instead;

Tous salariés de l’Etat, et cela dès le berceau? dans 24 heures, par Judith Mayencourt, Sept 25, 2025;

How Does Canada Tax My Investments? on Huffington, by Tea Nicola, Sept 25, 2015;

Beyond Reform vs. Rupture, on New Politics, by Nantina Vgontzas, Sept 25, 2015: Greece still has alternatives. What mix of compromise and confrontation could yield something better than more austerity?

Almost one-third of families of children with cancer have unmet basic needs during treatment, on Oncology Nurse Advisoept 24, 2015;

YOUR VIEW: Most who need it, don’t use food banks, on York Region, Sept 24, 2015;

Ten Things to Know About Homelessness in Canada, on Behind the Numbers, by Nick Falvo, Sept 24, 2015;

Noam Chomsky on George Orwell, the Suppression of Ideas and the Myth of American Exceptionalism, 10.00 min, on Democracy Now, Sept 22, 2015;

Turkey and its Kurds at War, on New Politic, by Sungur Savran, Sept 19, 2015: Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Personal Quest for Survival;

The Typical Male U.S. Worker Earned Less in 2014 Than in 1973, on WSJ, by DAVID WESSEL, Sept 18, 2015;

Bernie Sanders between the Democrats and the Left, on spectrezine, by Victor Wallis, Sept 6, 2015; ;

Why refugees choose Germany: An in-depth look, 10.26 min, uploaded by i24News, Sept 3, 2015 … can Germany live up to its offers to refugees from the Middle East and Africa? Yehudit Lonyai Sagiv, volunteer at “Migrant Aid” in Budapest, and correspondent Ayman Sikseck in-studio discuss;

Macht ohne Kontrolle – Die Troika, 150.14 min, von stephen am 14. Juli 2015 hochgeladen … Arte Doku;

Black Lives Matter” Constructing a New Civil Rights and Black Freedom Movement, on New Politics, by Francis Shor, Summer 2015;

Public School Shakedown – A Project of The Progressive, on The Progressive Magazine, Cover of the June 2015 Issue;

Europe Or Die – Full Doc, 105.55 min, uploaded by Janez Zgaga, May 13, 2015;

Scamming of America, the $50 Billion Ponzi Scheme – Bernie Madoff, 44.56 min, uploaded by MLP Regal, March 4, 2014;

Syria conflict: BBC exclusive interview with President Bashar al-Assad (FULL), 26.42 min, uploaded by BBC News, Feb 9, 2015;

Top All Time: Stephen Harper Protest Songs, a mix by YouTube in Autoplay, uploaded by Alishia Fox, Dec 3, 2014.

… and this:

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