14 May 2017

*** Russia's cyber warfare is grabbing attention but missing target

by Joseph S. Nye, 

Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election, and its suspected hacking of French President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign servers, should surprise no one, given President Vladimir Putin’s (mis)understanding of soft power. Before his re-election in 2012, Putin told a Moscow newspaper that “soft power is a complex of tools and methods to achieve foreign policy goals without the use of force, through information and other means of influence.”

From the Kremlin’s perspective, color revolutions in neighboring countries and the Arab Spring uprisings were examples of the United States using soft power as a new form of hybrid warfare. The concept of soft power was incorporated into Russia’s 2013 Foreign Policy Concept, and in March 2016, Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov stated that responding to such foreign threats “using conventional troops is impossible; they can be counteracted only with the same hybrid methods.”

What is soft power? Some think it means any action other than military force, but this is wrong. Soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction and persuasion rather than threats of coercion or offers of payment.

*** The War in Yemen: Hard Choices in a Hard War

By Anthony H. Cordesman

The Middle East is filled with grim wars in failed states—Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen—none of which have good options for a lasting peace. The situation in Yemen, however, has moved beyond crisis, to the point of humanitarian nightmare. It has become a stalemate where the casualties from actual combat are limited, but where the fighting has produced a stalemate that has left the entire country without meaningful governance and security, and has crippled an already desperately poor economy.

The Burke Chair at CSIS has released a new report on the war in Yemen, entitled “The War in Yemen: Hard Choices in a Hard War.” The report is available on the CSIS web site at: 

At present, Yemen remains divided between two major factions: a mix of Houthi Shi’ite rebels and military supporters of its former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the Saudi and UAE-backed faction that supports a government led by his replacement in a one candidate election: Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

** OODA Loop 2.0: Information, Not Agility, Is Life


Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. The OODA Loop remains a key concept for those who fight, especially fighter pilots. After all, Air Force Col. John Boyd made it and his theory of Energy-Maneuverability famous with his bold claim to be able to defeat any other pilot within 40 seconds. Boyd helped inspire the designs of the F-16 and F-15. But the days of speed and agility as kings may be waning. In what we think is a groundbreaking piece, we offer a new theory for fighter dominance, as well as for the domains of Electromagnetic Maneuver Warfare and Cyber Warfare. The key: getting good information more rapidly than the enemy and being able to use it more quickly.The authors of the new theory are Lockheed Martin’s Tod Schuck and the Air Force Research Lab’s Erik Blasch. Read on. The Editor.

The F-35A excelled at the Red Flag exercises at Nellis AFB this year, leaving advocates of traditional fighter aircraft design and performance shaking their heads.

The 13 F-35As faced the most advanced aggressor aircraft and simulated threats available and the Joint Strike Fighter’s performance “far exceeded expectations,” Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan said. The latest figures show a kill ratio as high as 20:1 for the F-35A. This performance advantage is changing the way the services are understanding how to fight with the F-35. For example, Capt. Stephanie Anne Fraioli’s article in the Air & Space Power Journal notes that: “With fourth-generation fighter airframes, speed and energy equaled life and survivability. In the fifth-generation realm, information equals life.”

Neglect of national security: Modi needs to redress major deficiencies

By C Uday Bhaskar

The month of May this year has multiple relevance for India’s military and strategic security. It got off to an inauspicious start with the beheading of two Indian security personnel on May 1 and, predictably, the country is angry and anguished. The citizen is disappointed that such an event could have happened in the first instance (weren’t the 'surgical strikes' on militant camps in Pakistan last year supposed to stop such acts?) and expects a befitting response from the decisive Prime Minister Modi.

Kashmir valley is going through a phase of heightened domestic unrest including girl students pelting stones at security forces for the first time. The Army has indicated that it will embark upon stringent combing operations in the valley to weed out terrorists and their supporters.

May 11 marks the 19th anniversary of the nuclear tests by India in 1998 and at the time, in a letter to the US President Bill Clinton, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had identified China as the abiding anxiety to India’s strategic security and dwelt on the “distrust” index between the two Asian giants.

U.S. poised to expand military effort against Taliban in Afghanistan

By Missy Ryan 

Trump administration national security adviser H.R. McMaster, left, meets last month in Kabul with Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. (Afghan Chief Executive Office via European Pressphoto Agency)

President Trump’s most senior military and foreign policy advisers have proposed a major shift in strategy in Afghanistan that would effectively put the United States back on a war footing with the Taliban. 

The new plan, which still needs the approval of the president, calls for expanding the U.S. military role as part of a broader effort to push an increasingly confident and resurgent Taliban back to the negotiating table, U.S. officials said. 

The plan comes at the end of a sweeping policy review built around the president’s desire to reverse worsening security in Afghanistan and “start winning” again, said one U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. 

Putin’s Russian Roulette in Afghanistan

By Claude Rakisits

The recent Taliban attack on an Afghan army post outside Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan—the deadliest-ever by the Taliban on a military base, killing some 150 recruits—underscores the terrorist group’s growing strength more than 15 years after they were ousted from power. The attack confirms yet again that Afghanistan still has a major security problem, and it’s not about to be resolved.

There are still some 13,500 NATO troops which are part of the Resolute Support Mission which mentors and trains the Afghan security forces. An additional 1,500 US troops are involved in counterterrorism operations, hunting down al-Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists.

However, even with these troops still in place and the US having spent some $1 trillion in war and reconstruction since 2001, the Taliban controls more territory today than it has since being ousted from power in 2001. According to US Central Command, the Afghan government controls less than 60% of the territory, the Taliban about 10% and the remainder is contested.

China's Aircraft Carriers and Nuclear Bastion Defense

By Robert Farley

Last week, I suggested that the future of Liaoning may, with the construction of newer Chinese carriers, lay primarily in a training role. This was the role played by HIJMS Hosho in the early years of the Japanese naval aviation program, and by USS Langley in the first years of the U.S. program. But it’s also possible that the PLAN has more definite plans for Liaoning and her half-sister, Shandong. Specifically, it’s worth considering whether the PLAN intends to useLiaoning and Shandong as part of a system of nuclear bastion defense.

The design concept for the first Soviet aircraft carriers differed considerably from that of their U.S. Navy counterparts. Instead of supporting expeditionary operations, or carrying out strikes against high value targets, Soviet carriers were designed to deter or defeat Western forays into protected bastions for ballistic missile submarines. This included flying air defense against U.S. anti-submarine warfare aircraft (whether carrier or land-based), as well as having the capability of destroying invading U.S. surface ships and submarines (through SSMs and ASW helicopters). The VSTOL Kievs and the STOBAR Kuznetsovs could only launch short-range fighters, but this was all they needed in order to maintain a defensive perimeter.

This concept animated the design of the Kiev-class carriers, and of the Kuznetsov-class carriers that succeeded them. The Ulyanovsk-class, cancelled during the collapse of the Soviet Union, would have been the first true fleet carriers in the U.S. sense of the term, able to conduct long-range deployments with a multi-faceted airgroup capable of sustained strike operations.

Information Operations Countermeasures to Anti-Access/Area Denial

By Brian D. Wieck 

This essay is part of the #WhatIsInformationOperations series, which asked a group of practitioners to provide their thoughts on the subject. We hope this launches a debate that may one day shape policy.

China’s objective with its anti-access, area denial strategy to push the US out to what it terms the “first island chain” (Japan down through the Philippines) immediately, and to push the U.S. out to what it terms the “second island chain” (extends out to Guam) between 2020 and 2050 according to Chinese flag office Liu Huaqing's 1980s plan.[1] The U.S. response to this strategy—a whole of government response with synchronized information operations—requires U.S. Pacific allies to deem U.S. security objectives legitimate and support these objectives. China’s Three Warfares strategy attempts to undercut both of these.[2]

Memories Of China - Past And Present

Written by Econintersect

My wife and I just returned from a family trip to China - our ninth trip over the past 40 years. This trip was especially meaningful, as we were joined by our son, daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. Traveling certainly doesn't get any easier, and my body is still adjusting to being back, but the trip, as always, was fascinating, educational and fun. The food was wonderful and there is something special about eating Peking Duck while in Peking (Beijing) or enjoying Dim Sum in Hong Kong.

While enjoying exotic foods and mystical sites, trips like this can also put you in a reflective mood.

When we first visited Beijing many years ago, bicycles and motorbikes dominated the streets. But bicycle use in Beijing dropped from 60% in 1986 to 17% in 2010 and has doubtless declined further since then, while car use has grown 15% per year over the past 10 years. Status-conscious Chinese see bikes as transportation for losers, as evidenced by their saying "I would rather cry in a BMW than smile on a bike." Unfortunately, a direct result of the Chinese economic boom of the past decades is polluted air and horrendous traffic jams in their capital city of 23 million people; however, we fortunately gazed on glorious blue skies and avoided the periodic sandstorms blowing in from Mongolia's Gobi Desert.

PEACE OUT Could World War 3 really happen? How chemical warfare and nuclear weapons could lead to the Apocalypse

By Neal Baker, Tom Gillespie and Mark Hodge

Kim Jong-un has already threatened weekly tests of missile launches, with relations becoming increasingly strained. So are these signs of an outbreak of World War 3?


4 Donald Trump’s attack on the Syrian regime could be viewed as a direct affront to Moscow

4 Russia is a key Syria ally and global nuclear power – so could Putin retaliate and spark World War Three?

Could World War Three happen?

Tensions between US, Russia, China and North Korea are increasing.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and 24 ballistic missile tests in 2016 alone, defying six UN Security Council resolutions banning any testing.

And it has conducted additional missile tests on 2017 – including one that failed when the missile blew up soon after launching.

But the secretive country has shown no signs of slowing down, warning that it is ready for “full out war”.

Can China and Israel Reconcile their Interests in Syria?

By Christina Lin 

Sino-Israel relations have improved recently, but problems still remain. A case in point is Syria. Israel wants to replace the Assad regime while China wants it to remain in place. The collision of interests matters, argues Christina Lin, because 1) there are 1000s of Chinese Uyghurs who have joined al-Qaeda and ISIS affiliates in Syria, and 2) they’ve also intermingled with ‘moderate’ jihadists that are sponsored by the US and its allies. Not surprisingly, Beijing wants the Uyghurs eliminated. So much so that it could increase its military support to the Syrian Army and risk escalating and extending the current conflict.

Thousands of anti-Chinese Uyghur militants are tacitly supported by the West and fighting alongside western-backed rebel jihadists to topple the Syrian government. Following the U.S. airstrikes on Syrian government forces that are followed by Israel and likely other allies, this will provoke China to correspondingly support the Assad government to neutralize the Uyghur militants. Given foreign intervention prolong civil conflicts, this risks escalation of the Syrian war into a more violent, bloodier, and wider campaign. With the Mideast region in tatters from decades of misguided U.S. policy of violent regime change and democracy-promoting bombing campaigns, China's "Belt and Road" vision of building economic connectivity across Eurasia to reduce ungoverned space for terrorist actors to thrive, may be an alternative path to break this vicious cycle.

Sino-Russian relations: Historical secrets and modern ambitions

BYKyle Wilson

This post is part of a debate on Bobo Lo's Lowy Institute Paper A Wary Embrace. Other debate posts can be found here.

The day will come when we Russians will get back into bed with the Chinese, and then we’ll screw you from both ends.

So said Yevgeny Rogov, Minister Counsellor at the Soviet Embassy in Canberra, testing the sang froid of some senior DFA officers in 1981 and passing into DFAT legend. Three decades later we can appreciate how prescient Rogov was. But the Sino-Russian recoupling that has come about since Putin came to power in 2000 has seen a reversal of roles: for the first time in about 160 years, Russia seeks entry to China’s bed not as the senior but as the junior party. So who will do what to - or for - whom? And how might we be affected?

Charting the Future of the Modern Caliphate

By Colin Clarke, Craig Whiteside

The slow demise of the so-called Islamic State’s (IS) caliphate has reached the point where it’s fair to ask what comes next. Will the group experience its own “Reichstag moment,” for example? As Colin Clark and Craig Whiteside see it, IS’ future survival will be determined less by its own agency and more by the complex interactions of others. Here are the possible scenarios that might unfold.

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks, on 3 May 2017.

The slow demise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) caliphate project since 2015 has proceeded to the point where it is realistic to ask the following question: What next after the caliphate? As the battle of Mosul moves slowly to its inevitable conclusion, analysts are confidently predicting the end of ISIL — complete with a “Reichstag moment” — as the group continues to hemorrhage territory, lose access to its tax and extortion base, and find less things to celebrate in its media operations.

North Korea's Drama Masks South Korea's Political Complexity

by Rodger Baker

The North Korea-U.S. relationship plays far and wide, a daily drama that at its extreme threatens to draw Asia into another regional war. Less attention is paid to South Korea, its national security interest, the drivers of its foreign policy, or even the special election underway following the impeachment of its president. Whereas focus on the North centers on its nuclear and missile programs, questions about the sanity of its leadership, and reasons for its behavior, attention on the South generally revolves around major electronics and automobile manufacturers, popular culture exports and, more recently, the oddities connected to the recent scandal that engulfed former President Park Geun Hye.

South Korea is emerging from an intensified period of political uncertainty, culminating in the May 9 early election to replace Park. Though the circumstances around the election may be unique, South Korea is just one of many modern democracies facing significant social and political upheaval. The challenges of social change stemming from globalization, an aging society, and rising youth unemployment, are ones South Korea shares with many developed Western nations. But while South Korea may be a major East Asian economy known for its technology and automobile exports, it is still struggling to overcome a tumultuous political history.

Fight Over Soros-Founded Hungarian University Shows US’ Power Vacuum in Europe

Mike Gonzalez 

Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, is a widely experienced international correspondent, commentator, and editor who has reported from Asia, Europe, and Latin America. He served in the George W. Bush administration, first at the Securities and Exchange Commission and then at the State Department, and is the author of "A Race for the Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans." Read his research.

That nature abhors a vacuum is a cliché but also a postulate about the immutable laws of nature. And once again, we’re seeing the unchangeable rules of the physical world being replicated in human action—especially in foreign policy.

Exhibit A is Europe east of the Fulda Gap, where Obama appointees are still dictating American policy and a group of senators have had a testy exchange with the combative leader of Hungary.

To be clear, there is no power vacuum when it comes to hot spots like Afghanistan, North Korea, and Syria, where the Trump Defense Department has acted decisively. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also personally handled the Russian front.

Europe´s Digital Power: From Geo-Economics to Cybersecurity

Stefan Soesanto 

This report explores the concept of European digital power. More specifically, it looks at 1) the status of the continent’s digital economy; 2) new digital innovations and cyber threats; and 3) evolving, digitally-fed perceptions of power. The text’s author ultimately concludes that Europe’s faltering progress towards a digital single market and its sluggish response to cyber threats are symptomatic of “a residual reluctance towards the digital medium.”




Reaper Drones: The New Close Air Support Weapon

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE: Over two days of briefings here by everyone from pilots to maintainers to the operations group commander of the 432nd Wing, one message rang out loud and clear: the Reaper has grown into a key Close Air Support (CAS) tool for the US military and should not be viewed primarily as an Intelligence, Surveillance, & Reconnaissance (ISR) asset.

How well has the MQ-9 performed as a CAS weapon since first being widely used in that way in Sirte, Libya from last August to December? “In an urban CAS environment, we absolutely give the A-10 a run for its money for who is the better urban CAS platform. I realize that is a bold statement, but Colin, our men and women and their equipment are a formidable combination,” 432nd Wing operations commander Col. Joe (we agreed not to use last names for security reasons) tells me in his fairly spartan office on this isolated base.

A-10 supporters, whose fervor can sometimes seem religious, need not worry that the MQ-9 is going to supplant the A-10 in other situations — yet. “In other CAS environments though, the MQ-9 isn’t where the A-10 is at. The A-10 has more weapons and the 30mm gun can do things we can’t do,” he concedes, a former F-16 pilot himself.

Economic Sanctions as an Option to Fight Pakistan Sponsored Terrorism

Vivek Chadha

Nuclearisation of the Indian subcontinent limits conventional military options available to India for punishing Pakistan’s employment of terrorism as a tool of state policy. While India has rightly balanced the use of diplomatic and limited military means over a period of time, even as these remain relevant, the option of economic sanctions deserves deeper analysis for its efficacy and impact. Economic measures can be undertaken both in the form of direct and indirect actions against a target country, individual or an organisation with varied degrees of impact. The US sanctions against Iran are an apt case study, which were successful to a large extent. This article discusses the reasons for the same while underlining contextual differences in the Indian scenario. It further provides options for placing economic sanctions against Pakistan, along with the challenges and potential for impact in each case, thereby providing policy alternatives that can be explored.


226.43 KB 

Army says smartphone, digital tech increase vulnerability


Whether they are on a training mission or in actual combat, U.S. military forces bring along a zillion electronic gadgets. That has been a trend for decades, and one viewed as positive--a sign of technological progress.

Now the Army fears that its massive electronic footprint is becoming a major vulnerability that could leave troops more exposed and open to detection.

Electronic signals emitted by U.S. forces make it easier for tech-savvy enemies to keep tabs on units’ locations and movements. The spying tools are relatively cheap and ubiquitous: iPhones, Goggle maps, commercial tracking software. “It’s an unbounded battle space,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr., Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

The idea that anywhere the Army goes there might be people out there “pushing pictures” fundamentally undermines “our ability to have operational security,” Ashley said at an AFCEA information technology forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

This is becoming a growing concern for the Army as commercial IT becomes more sophisticated and accessible. The service not only has to figure out what countermeasures it will need to thwart electronic trackers, but it also will have to rethink how it organizes and equips units, Ashley said. “We have to understand what signature we are actually emanating. We have to understand the signals that we are putting out.”


Multi-Domain Battle (MDB) has become the flavor of the month. Pushed predominantly by the US Army and Marine Corps, it is the current iteration of various recent attempts to meld the services, the military missions, and the strategic environment into a coherent, all-encompassing concept. Jointness is no longer enough.

As repeatedly seen since the end of World War II, however, the United States has a consistent record of losing wars, both on the battlefield, and as policy contests. The US military services’ institutional cultures—what Carl Builder called their “masks of war”—deserve a significant amount of blame for these failures, as these masks are only useful when the enemy fights exactly as the services’ masks want them to. That is a genuine rarity, and becoming ever more unlikely, as Army and Marines’ initial MDB white paper itself states. But just as with any attempt at reform, the services, as bureaucratic entities, will continue to do their thing unless radical change is forced upon them.

Therefore, there is only one way to make MDB both effective and a reality: Eliminate the independent services. By sweeping clear the current organizational structure of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force and rebirthing them from scratch as cross-functional corps, built to fight according to the twelve Joint Force Prioritized Missions delineated in the most recent National Military Strategy, battlefield victory with strategic purpose will be possible again.

How Desert Storm Destroyed the US Military

By Ray Starmann

The US military that won Desert Storm or Gulf War I in 1991 was a spectacular military, a gargantuan industrial age military with high tech weaponry and well trained personnel, that when called upon, achieved victory with the speed of Patton and the elan of Teddy Roosevelt.

Overlooking the vast eight mile carnage on the Highway of Death in Kuwait, destruction that was caused by a US Air Force and Navy that bore almost no resemblance to the two services now, a sergeant in the 7th US Cavalry remarked, “America sure got its money’s worth from those Joes.”

In 44 days, the largest military force assembled by the US and its allies since Normandy destroyed the world’s fourth largest army in a brilliantly led, fabulously executed air and ground war in the sands of the Middle East.

The Work World Is Changing And Society Needs To Change As Well

by John Slater

We live in a time of great paradox. Technologies such as low cost renewable energy and automated production tools promise a world of abundance in which global poverty is abolished and human drudgery is eliminated. Yet even a casual glance at the daily news confronts us with a sense of dread that, far from Utopia, we are instead headed toward a dystopian future in which the benefits of technological advance will be reserved for a privileged few.

Please share this article - Go to very top of page, right hand side for social media buttons.

The disquieting consequence is that the bulk of humanity is relegated to scraping out a meager existence in a mean-spirited world where jobs (and the prosperity they bring) are reserved for a global elite trained to read the sacred texts of a new religion of technology.

Is the social contract of Western civilization, promising fair treatment and opportunity for all, which took root in 18th century England and France and flowered in the post WWII democracies, destined to fail? Just how will the world adapt to the current wave of technological advance which threatens the jobs of today’s middle class much as Mr. McCormick’s reaper drove earlier generations from the farms and into the factories of a prior era?

Cyber War’s Terror Trinity: Means, Motive, and Opportunity

By Ian Fairchild

In March of 2003, I commanded an EC-130 Compass Call, an aircraft configured to perform tactical command, control, and communications countermeasures, over the skies of Iraq. My crew’s mission was to jam enemy communications and help allied forces preserve Iraq’s oil infrastructure. During these missions, we positioned ourselves some distance from the intended target, while an electronic warfare officer controlled jamming functions using a keyboard located in the back of the aircraft.

While this mission demonstrates how developments in cyber technology can be used to further US security interests, a little more than a decade later a young man named Junaid “TriCk” Hussain aligned himself with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and undertook his own form of electronic warfare. Sitting comfortably away from his targets, like my orbiting EC-130, he used a keyboard to launch attacks through cyberspace. Specifically, Hussain built “kill lists” of US military personnel and published them online. He leveraged the increasing power and reach of social media to call for terror attacks against Western interests. These brash moves quickly attracted the attention of the US government. Ultimately, an airstrike from an unmanned aircraft killed TriCk in 2015.

The most alarming piece of Hussain’s terrorism journey is not hacking Gmail accounts, helping lead the CyberCaliphate, or even publishing a kill list. Rather, it is his willingness to undertake the actions in the first place, and the ease with which he could do so. Hackers like TriCk, and those under his tutelage, seek to combine means, motive, and opportunity to exact harm. They operate free from the legal tethering of a nation state, obfuscate their computer code to hide their origin, and have utter disregard for human life. Put simply, Hussain’s actions prove a single keystroke can turn the unfathomable into reality. While Hussain is gone, many others like him threaten US security through cyber terrorism.

Can the US Army's sci-fi fan fic save us from a dark future?

by Ben Fox Rubin

There's not a whole lot for Mike to do most days. Thanks to a trusty artificial intelligence platform, he can kick his feet up and let the machine handle the logistics work at his Brooklyn distribution company.

But today is different. Today the AI system gets hit with a flood of requests as if everyone in Manhattan simultaneously ran out of milk. The network is so slammed that workers at the nearby port in Red Hook switch to random manual scans of incoming containers, since several scanners are down.

Just as Mike senses something's wrong, a dirty bomb explodes close by. Scores are killed. The bomb, it ends up, snuck through thanks to a terrorist-controlled botnet made up of millions of smart refrigerators that all started crying for milk. We were undone by our fridges.

That story, predicting a cyberattack in 2025, wasn't created by a sci-fi author. The US Army whipped up this tale to prevent attacks like it from ever happening.

This is the first installment of a two-part series on cybersecurity and West Point.Aaron Robinson/CNET

It's one example of an idea called "threatcasting," which tries to anticipate and influence the world 10 years from now. The concept is being developed by the Army Cyber Institute (ACI) at West Point, a new military think tank created to study the not-too-distant future of cyberspace.

The Cipher Brief SOF Threefer

by Linda Robinson

One consequence of the heavy reliance on U.S. SOF is high deployment rates with little downtime. The demands in the rest of the world are significant: Special operators are also needed to conduct low-visibility operations in Europe in support of partners there, as a complement to conventional deterrence against Russian aggression. In addition, the parlous situation of Afghanistan may require more SOF, whose training and advice have made that country’s commando forces into very effective fighting units. In a turbulent world, hard decisions will be required about where SOF are most needed, and how other countries’ SOF may be able to help.

U.S. special operations forces are widely considered to be some of the most highly trained and effective military units in the world and, as a result, they have played a critical role in America’s wars. Nowhere is that truer than in the Middle East and North Africa, where the U.S. military has been in prolonged engagements since 2001. U.S. military commitments in the region have gradually decreased since the George W. Bush Administration but President Barack Obama, and now President Donald Trump, have continued to rely heavily on special operations forces.