Home / World Politics / Middle east / Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq – Special operations forces should not be America's Band-Aid

Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq – Special operations forces should not be America's Band-Aid

And these are where forces, which make up just about 3% of the United States military and about 3% of America’s defense budget, are now in the driver’s seat in counterterror and training missions that are growing in importance as the post-9/11 fight against extremism enters its 17th year.

But as much as the nearly 9,000 commandos (part of special operations command) are capable of, much more is being asked of them. And the trend — which began with the Obama administration — of America sending in special operations forces to avoid large-scale deployments of boots on the ground may at last be reaching its limits. The ghost of the Iraq war hangs over every decision made on the use of American military strength today, and it has pushed America to scale back its ambitions for US interventions in the Middle East.

In Iraq’s aftermath, the use of hard-to-detect, shadow-friendly special operations forces sent overseas in smaller numbers has made for fewer forces required and far fewer headlines blaring of ground troop deployments — and, most importantly, large-scale losses of American lives.

But unseen doesn’t mean unused, as special operations deployments show.

And American policymakers would do well to remember that special operations forces are not the answer to all military questions, nor are they an endless and infinite resource that can be used to solve all manner of vexing threats.

Actually, it’s quite the opposite. An exceptionally high price is being paid by these elite American forces designed for unconventional warfare: in 2016, for the first time ever, special operations deaths outnumbered those of conventional forces. This is a striking fact, given that special operations accounts for not even 5% of all American troops. And special operations leaders want America to know their forces are neither superheroes nor catchalls for American military efforts.
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