Special Operations Forces

  • A serviceman atop a Russian army vehicle outside a Ukrainian guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava, March 1, 2014

    Report

    How Russia's Military Has Evolved

    The Russian armed forces are not like the Soviet Army in size, depth, or global ideological aspirations. But Russia has demonstrated its military competence and operational flexibility in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and Syria.

    Dec 7, 2017

  • Report

    Supporting Persistent and Networked Special Operations Forces (SOF) Operations: Insights from Forward-Deployed SOF Personnel

    RAND Corporation researchers identified three key operational challenges that forward-deployed personnel have encountered and then assessed the extent to which persistent, networked, and distributed operations can mitigate these challenges.

    Oct 16, 2017

  • Report

    Implications of the Security Cooperation Office Transition in Afghanistan for Special Operations Forces: An Abbreviated Report of the Study's Primary Findings

    Presents findings from six historical case studies in which the mission of special operations forces in each of the six countries transitioned over time to include some level of inclusion in the U.S. embassy's Security Cooperation Office.

    Aug 1, 2017

  • U.S. Army Special Forces members train Iraqi fighters from Hashid Shaabi at Makhmur camp in Iraq, December 11, 2016

    Commentary

    SOF's Evolving Role: Warfare 'By, With, and Through' Local Forces

    U.S. special operations forces are not providing the muscle of the frontline combat troops fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Instead, they are providing meaningful support to the various indigenous forces. If they succeed, this model could become a standard option in the U.S. military playbook.

    May 9, 2017

  • U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force special forces personnel participate in a training exercise at Naval Station Pascagoula, Mississippi, October 26, 2016

    Commentary

    The Mission to Counter WMD: Avoiding Missteps While Transitioning Responsibility

    U.S. Special Operations Command will soon lead the Pentagon's anti-WMD efforts. SOCOM is well positioned to contain and reduce threats, but will need new expertise to prevent the acquisition of related material and respond to crises.

    Feb 10, 2017

  • News Release

    Humanitarian Relief and Reconstruction Program Helped Improve Economic Conditions and Security in Afghanistan

    The ability of the U.S. military to quickly provide small-scale humanitarian relief and reconstruction services in Afghanistan enhanced the operational effectiveness of U.S. forces there during the counterinsurgency-focused 2010-2013 time frame.

    Oct 13, 2016

  • Key Leader Engagement attendees observe a solar-powered water pump while discussing ongoing projects in Farah province, Afghanistan, September 28, 2013

    Report

    CERP Projects in Afghanistan Proved Effective

    Projects under the Commander's Emergency Response Program in Afghanistan ranged from rehabilitating a local well to hydro dam and reservoir restoration. The U.S. military's ability to provide humanitarian relief and reconstruction services enhanced the operational effectiveness of its forces there.

    Oct 13, 2016

  • News Release

    Al Shabaab Weakened but Not Defeated in Somalia

    Efforts to weaken the al Qa'ida-linked terrorist group al Shabaab in Somalia have had some success, but the U.S. campaign there is in jeopardy. Urgent steps are needed to address the political, economic, and governance challenges at the heart of the conflict.

    Sep 13, 2016

  • New recruits belonging to Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group march during a parade at a military training base in Afgoye, Somalia, February 17, 2011

    Report

    Al Shabaab Is Weakened but Not Defeated in Somalia

    Efforts to weaken the al Qa'ida-linked terrorist group al Shabaab in Somalia have had some success, but the U.S. campaign there is in jeopardy. Urgent steps are needed to address the political, economic, and governance challenges at the heart of the conflict.

    Sep 13, 2016

  • Gayle Tzemach Lemmon speaks at a RAND Policy Circle briefing at RAND's headquarters campus in Santa Monica, California, September 21, 2015

    Blog

    Special Ops Women: A Conversation with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

    Best-selling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon discusses how recent conflicts changed the role of U.S. military women, the missing story about women in uniform, and more.

    Apr 26, 2016

  • Philippine Army Lt. Col. Henry Bellan (left) and U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Garrity (right) bury a time capsule during a groundbreaking ceremony in San Narciso, Philippines, March 18, 2013

    Report

    The Impact of U.S. Special Operations Forces in the Philippines

    U.S. special operations forces' activities in the Philippines between 2001 and 2014 helped reduce transnational terrorist threats and support for terrorist groups. They also increased Philippine security forces' capabilities and enhanced bilateral defense ties.

    Apr 6, 2016

  • Advisor Training Cell prepares female engagement team for Marine Expeditionary Unit employment, at Camp Pendleton, California

    Commentary

    Women in Special Security Forces: What the U.S. Can Learn from the Afghans

    The contributions of the women in Afghanistan's special security forces demonstrate the unique value that women can bring to special operations forces in socially conservative societies. They are successful in tactical roles and in operations requiring interaction with the community.

    Mar 28, 2016

  • Joint naval special warfare training at Stennis Space Center

    Report

    What Are the Advantages and Risks of Special Warfare?

    Special warfare provides policymakers with an additional option that can help secure U.S. interests and manage risks. It can stabilize a friendly state or destabilize a hostile regime by operating through and with local state or non-state partners, rather than through unilateral U.S. action.

    Feb 23, 2016

  • Special Operations Forces utilize the Melrose Air Force Range's rough terrain and unique layout to conduct realistic training, November 8, 2012

    Report

    Considerations for Integrating Women into U.S. Special Ops Forces

    A survey of special operations forces (SOF) personnel identified their concerns with allowing women to fill SOF positions. Many said they thought mission effectiveness and unit cohesion would suffer as a result.

    Dec 16, 2015

  • Soldiers from 7th Special Forces Group Airborne are suspended by a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during a training event Eglin Air Force Base, February 5, 2013

    Commentary

    ISIS vs Special Ops

    However critical to the fight against ISIS, using special operations forces for raids represents only half of the needed military adjustment. The other half is the effort to build indigenous forces capable of taking and holding territory in Iraq and Syria.

    Dec 8, 2015

  • U.S. soldiers arrive at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 17, 2015

    Commentary

    Keeping U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: RAND Experts React

    Several RAND experts agree that sticking to the plan to remove all troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year would have ignored the reality on the ground and made an unstable situation more so.

    Oct 15, 2015

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast

    Multimedia

    The Changing Face of America's Front Lines: Women in Special Operations and Combat Roles

    In this Events @ RAND podcast, author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Pardee RAND dean Susan Marquis, and RAND expert John Winkler discuss how a pioneering team of women who served alongside Rangers and SEALS in Afghanistan in 2011 helped pave the way for women's roles in the military, as well as the issues that remain.

    Sep 21, 2015

  • Rebel fighters in Syria prepare a mortar to be launched

    Commentary

    How to Lose a Civil War: Lessons for Afghanistan and Syria

    Recently, both Syria and Afghanistan have seen battles that demonstrate anew the potential risks of seeking to defend exposed positions. Syrian leaders seem to have recognized that there are limits to the amount of territory its military can hold. Afghanistan's leaders would be well advised to come to the same conclusion.

    Sep 10, 2015

  • U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice visits Camp Commando near Kabul, Afghanistan to discuss the state of Afghan Special Forces with mentors to the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command on Nov. 24, 2013

    Report

    Best Practices for Special Operations Advisory Groups

    Special Operations Advisory Groups are tasked with the responsibility of advising commanders and staff of the Afghan Special Security Forces. In-depth interviews with these personnel address rapport building, pre-deployment training, and continuity of operations.

    Aug 10, 2015

  • Afghan Road Maintenance Team members learn proper weapon firing positions during a combat skills class taught by International Security Assistance Force Special Operations Forces at Forward Operating Base Kutschbach, Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2010

    Report

    Building Special Operations Partnerships

    Building the capacity of Afghan special operations forces (SOF) is a key goal of the U.S. and its coalition partners. An analysis of partnering practices from case studies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Colombia helps identify best practices to benefit the development of Afghan SOF, as well as partnerships beyond Afghanistan.

    Jul 31, 2015