Commando Raids: 1946-1983

by Bruce Hoffman


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This Note assesses the effectiveness of a selected sample of raids executed by small commando and commando-type forces in response to terrorist threats or attacks. One hundred raids by irregular forces (guerrilla groups, terrorist organizations, and private individuals) and elite units (organized military units belonging to a country's national armed forces) were examined in terms of: (1) previous training of the personnel involved in the mission; (2) the geographical position from which the raiding parties embarked; (3) the effectiveness of methods of transportation used; (4) the character of the mission (destruction, stand-off assault, rescue, kidnap, or assassination); (5) the size of the raiding party; and (6) the effect of disguise and/or deception on mission outcome. Seventy-seven percent of the raids accomplished their objective, indicating that obstacles such as geographic distances and well-defended enemy positions can be overcome by the stealth and mobility of small paramilitary and military units. The author concludes that commando warfare and small-group raids may be a useful adjunct to U.S. military policy for responding to terrorist attacks or provocations. An appendix provides an annotated listing of the 100 raids studied.

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