In this monograph, Carole A. O’Leary and Nicholas A. Heras provide a comprehensive assessment of Muqtada al Sadr, one of Iraq’s most powerful and controversial political figures. The authors leverage their extensive network and experience (inside and outside of Iraq) to analyze how al Sadr overcame aggressive opponents to maintain his influence. A key feature of this study is its original research on topics of great importance to contemporary Iraq which are often underappreciated and understudied. The authors uniquely consider the influence of al Sadr’s father (a widely revered pre-1999 Arab nationalist) in al Sadr’s transformation from a figure of sectarian Shi’a to one of Iraqi nationalism.
We find ourselves at the start of a new era characterized by long-term strategic competition with revisionist powers. It is clear that we need to think hard about what competition is and what Special Operations Forces (SOF) require to address it. In On Competition: Adapting to the Contemporary Strategic Environment, we explore what competition means and outline a practical approach, bridging theory with practice. Competition is a consistent, natural occurrence across the history of human civilization. In the current and future security environment, states such as China, Russia, and Iran and non-state actors alike have new tools that allow them to pursue their interests in ways that undermine the existing international order and institutions.
The Special Operations Research Topics 2022 publication highlights a wide range of topics collaboratively developed and prioritized by experts throughout the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community. The topics in these pages are intended to guide research projects for Joint Professional Military Education students, JSOU faculty and students, and others writing about special operations during this academic year. This research will provide a better understanding of complex issues and opportunities for growth, and contribute to the evolution of the way SOF leaders think.
by Mark Grzegorzewski
In this Quick Look, Dr. Mark Grzegorzewski provides an overview of cryptocurrency—a medium of exchange aimed at digitally freeing economics from politics and developing a currency free from state oversight. In addition to a description of how cryptocurrency is created and managed, this Quick Look also includes how this currency is used by competitors and ways SOF can anomalously employ cryptocurrency.
To demonstrate how data-enabled intelligence and planning could be employed through a data science team, this occasional paper explores the practicality of using big data analytical techniques to identify local conflict patterns with operational-level consequences. This project offers the beginning of a modeling project for predictive analysis on the correlation between essential services and the incidence of attack in an active wartime environment. By creating data layers from existing information on essential services and comparing those data points with instances of attack, this research ultimately seeks to provide better models to forecast patterns of conflict in different sociopolitical contexts.
As cyber vulnerabilities proliferate with the expansion of connected devices, wherein security is often forsaken for ease of use, Special Operations Forces (SOF) cannot escape the obvious, massive risk that they are assuming by incorporating emerging technologies into their toolkits. This is especially true in the maritime sector where SOF operates nearshore in littoral zones. As SOF—in support to the U.S. Navy— increasingly operate in these contested maritime environments, they will gradually encounter more hostile actors looking to exploit digital vulnerabilities. As such, this monograph comes at a perfect time as the world becomes more interconnected but also more vulnerable.
The emerging Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management (C-SCRM) concept assists at all levels of the supply chain in managing and mitigating risks, and the authors define C-SCRM as the process of identifying, assessing, and mitigating the risks associated with the distributed and interconnected nature of information and operational technology products and service supply chains. As Special Operations Forces increasingly rely on sophisticated hardware and software products, this quick, well-researched monograph provides a detailed accounting of C-SCRM associated laws, regulations, instructions, tools, and strategies meant to mitigate vulnerabilities and risks—and how we might best manage the evolving and ever-changing array of those vulnerabilities and risks.
by Mark Grzegorzewski
In this Quick Look, Mark Grzegorzewski provides a brief overview of artificial intelligence (AI)—a specific field within computer science that explores how automated computing functions can resemble those of humans. In addition to an AI history timeline, the author touches on AI subfields, AI strengths and pitfalls, and ways SOF have employed AI technologies.
In this monograph, William “Bill” Knarr, Mark Nutsch, and Robert Pennington offer an unvarnished examination of America’s initial response to 9/11—the battle for Mazar-e Sharif and the events that preceded and followed that critical battle. Most remember the “horse soldiers” and the role U.S. Special Forces played fighting alongside the Central Intelligence Agency and Northern Alliance forces. Accounts of this operation have been portrayed in movies, but the difference between this monograph and other accounts is simple: the authors employ an academically rigorous methodology that is based on documentary evidence supplemented by interviews with those involved in the operations.
by Lieutenant Colonel Mitchell Wander
This Quick Look describes how Cyber Operations (CO) can present options to policymakers and military leaders to influence through the information environment or, if needed, create effects against critical infrastructure in the physical environment. Ultimately, SOF can use a foundational understanding of CO as both a planning consideration for force protection and operational enhancement to present opportunities to execute core mission areas.
This monograph is a serious and well-researched investigation into crucial factors of contemporary warfare. Readers will learn lessons on the distinctions between the Law of Armed Conflict and criminal law, particularly on important issues like lethal force, escalation of force tactics, and security detention. Professor Paterson makes a strong argument that the stated policy of respect and promotion of human rights (HR)—that has long been a guiding principle of the U.S. military—does not translate into specific and mandatory directives at the tactical and operational levels. Indeed, he asserts that at those levels there is no formal attention to HR, only ad hoc efforts by operational units that don’t receive guiding policy. This monograph will be essential reading for policymakers and those whose task is the development of granular precepts to guide implementation and execution of policy on the ground.
by John Longshore
This Intel Quick Look serves as a broad perspective and information about Special Operations Forces (SOF) Intelligence and the Human Domain, its definitions, and content in support of SOF’s unique missions. It echoes the first SOF truth that humans are more important than hardware. The key to intelligence support to special operations will remain the intelligence professionals that provide the support. Longshore provides insight into cultivating the premier SOF professionals who define and influence SOF future missions and support.