Despite taking the brunt of the operations in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria while only being a fraction of the total force in the US military, the Special Operations forces are readying for even more responsibilities in the wars ongoing.
General Tony Thomas on Wednesday was speaking to a large group at the SOCOM Patriots Awards ceremony and stated that “We are an approach short of a lot heavier U.S. military commitment.”
Thomas’ comments come at a time when many leaders of the US in Congress are already wondering if the force is being pushed too hard, too far to keep up with operational commitments. Thomas and the SOCOM staff, however, are already in the contingency planning phase of sending, even more, troops into the fray.
Thomas said special operations forces are not “redlining,” but they are “pushing a hard tempo.”
“We may be making it look easy, it’s anything but easy … We’re not redlining but we’re pushing a hard, hard tempo. There hasn’t been a peace dividend for Special Operations lately and there’s not going to be, more than likely, for the next few years,” he said.
“We’re a valuable commodity that ironically, that keeps this nation from going to war more wholesomely, you know – more completely – with more folks on the ground. I’d like to think we keep the nation from sustaining more casualties by the very nature of our activities,” he added.
“Their biggest concern – Secretary Mattis [said] to me the other day, ‘How are we going to slow the tempo down for you? … [Senator Sen. John McCain was] adamant that we are burning SOF too hard: ‘You’re going too fast. How do we throttle this thing down?’” he said.
“It is absolutely a concern of our leadership. We want to be able to control the tempo, the pace, and the prioritization for our special operations forces — that they are being used appropriately, effectively across-the-board. We are not looking to sit back and not be used, but we want to hit that right balance.”
So, regardless of how hard the operational tempo has been for Special Operations Forces across the board, that is due to increase. Right now, there are “officially” 5262 troops in Iraq and quite possibly much more due to some units being there on a temporary basis., and 503 in Syria, and that isn’t counting Afghanistan, Yemen, and other countries as well where Special Ops personnel are working.
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Photo courtesy DOD