America’s Commandos Deployed to 141 Countries, And Criminal Misconduct Followed

tags: military history, special forces, Covert Operations, military oversight

Nick Turse began covering what might be thought of as the secret history of American war in this century--the rise and spread of American Special Operations forces--for TomDispatch in 2011. He is the author of "Next Time They'll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan."

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States has leaned ever more heavily on its most elite troops. While U.S. Special Operations forces (USSOF or SOF) make up just 3% of American military personnel, they have absorbed more than 40% of the casualties of these years, mainly in America’s conflicts across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa.

During this period, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has grown in every way imaginable -- from its budget and size to the pace and the geographic sweep of its missions. For example, “Special Operations-specific funding,” which stood at $3.1 billion in 2001, has, according to SOCOM spokesman Ken McGraw, increased to approximately $13 billion today.

There were roughly 45,000 SOF personnel in 2001. Today, about 73,000 members of Special Operations Command -- military personnel and civilians -- are carrying out a broad range of activities that include counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, security force assistance, and unconventional warfare. In 2001, an average of 2,900 commandos were deployed overseas in any given week. That number now stands at 6,700, says SOCOM’s Ken McGraw....

In addition to questions about the efficacy of their tactics and strategy, Special Operations forces have recently been plagued by scandal and reports of criminal activity. “After several incidents of misconduct and unethical behavior threatened public trust and caused leaders to question Special Operations forces culture and ethics, USSOCOM initiated a Comprehensive Review,” reads the executive summary of a January report on the subject. But that review is itself a bit of a puzzle.

Read entire article at TomDispatch

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