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Joint Special Operations University Press Publications



Trained to Win? Evaluating Battlefield Effectiveness and Sociopolitical Factors Among Partnered Forces by Matthew Cancian

In Trained to Win? Evaluating Battlefield Effectiveness and Sociopolitical Factors among Partnered Forces, Matthew Cancian offers a much-needed framework for evaluating the effectiveness of Special Operations Forces (SOF) in the effort to professionalize partner forces. The author proposes that structured surveys related to tactically oriented training outcomes can yield significant information about partnered forces’ evolution over time. Since SOF often operate in politically sensitive or denied environments, it becomes all the more necessary to conduct the kind of research he describes in this monograph to assess the best strategies for improving partner capabilities while recognizing the limitations imposed by their sociopolitical realities. Effectiveness is ultimately a political as well as military condition, and in this monograph Matthew Cancian offers an excellent approach to evaluating both.


The Blurred Battlefield: The Perplexing Conflation of Humanitarian and Criminal Law in Contemporary Conflicts by Patrick Paterson

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.


undefinedVillage Stability Operations and the Evolution of SOF Command and Control in Afghanistan: Implications for the Future of Irregular Warfare by William Knarr and Mark Nutsch

In this monograph Bill Knarr and Mark Nutsch recount how the Special Operations Forces (SOF) command and control evolved with all of the Village Stability Operations (VSO) dimensions culminating ultimately in the creation of the Special Operations Joint Task Force. With the 2018  National Defense Strategy calling for expanding the competition space below the level of armed conflict, VSO provides a timely and relevant  example of how SOF can contribute to this vision. Just like terrorism, great power competition will play out in countries with weak sociopolitical systems. The inherently political character and joint, interagency, international/multinational, and corporate nature of VSO can be replicated  in many parts of the world for sustainable strategic effect. This monograph develops the concepts for SOF on how to contribute more  effectively and efficiently to the counterterrorism fight, but readers would do well to think about VSO principles and command and control in the context of great power competition.


Support to Resistance: Strategic Purpose and Effectiveness by Will Irwin with foreword by Lieutenant General John F. Mulholland, Jr.

This monograph is the first in a planned series of three volumes that will provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) with an in-depth study of resistance movements. Mr. Will Irwin provides a wealth of case studies focused on the United States Government’s support to resistance movements. For each of his case studies the author summarizes in a clear, concise manner the duration of U.S. support, the political environments or conditions, the type of operation, the purpose or objective of U.S. support, and the ultimate outcome: success, partial success, failure, or an inconclusive outcome. Unfolding world events are indicative of the need for SOF to maintain and enhance traditional unconventional warfare (UW) skills, but those skills must be assessed in the context of modern resistance movement dynamics. This work will serve as a benchmark reference on resistance movements for the benefit of the special operations community and its civilian leadership.


Growing SOLO: Expanding the Spectrum of SOF Advisory Capabilities by Troy White

The SOF advisory role is a long-term commitment to help enable and aid other nations improve their military forces and security. SOF advisors have traditionally operated at the tactical level to increase partner capabilities ‘by, with and through’ to generate sufficient rule of law, address local needs, and advance rapport building. Mr. White advocates for a SOF role in advising foreign militaries at the high operational/strategic and ministerial levels. He provides real world examples through four vignettes of SOF advisors in Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, and the Philippines. This monograph is a handy resource for commanders and planners needing to establish a rapport with allies and friends at the highest operational/strategic and ministerial levels.

Occasional Paper

Preserving Sovereignty in a Borderless World by Charles W. Ricks

In this paper, Mr. Charles Ricks explores the post-Cold War geopolitical environment--one that has evolved into a dynamic, churning environment in which flows of populations, transnational crime, violent extremism, and threats from open-source networks and the global commons have affected both the domestic and international environments. The reemergence of national identities and grievances long buried within the relative stability of the decades following World War II, along with mass migrations, has presented political leaders with serious challenges to their governance and, in many cases, sovereignty. The fact is that the distinctions between domestic governance and international engagement have blurred because the events in places like the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America regularly have direct effects on governance issues faced by American political leaders--from villages and towns to the federal level. It is within this context that the cultural acumen and expertise SOF possess may be an important source of knowledge for both military and civilian leaders looking for ways to anticipate, not simply react to, these emerging events.

Occasional Paper

Enhancing the Global SOF Enterprise: A Consortium Concept, by Walter L. Christman, Ph.D.

In this paper, Dr. Christman proposes a means to better organize Special Operations Forces (SOF) worldwide to meet the " and collective brew of wicked problems...a world of panarchy...defined here to mean the competition of new actors in the gray zone, as described by SOF leaders, and accelerated even more by the unpredictable consequences of continuously evolving technology." To do this the author discusses a means to connect the global SOF enterprise so that U.S. SOF can effectively collaborate with the SOF from any nation willing to work with the United States and its regional partners. Dr. Christman proposes a consortium approach, through a Global Special Operations Consortium, to solve problems while avoiding a U.S.-centric solution set that is not always embraced by our international partners. This consortium approach would also include an array of defense, development, and diplomacy tools (for '3D' security) within a framework for success.


Training Surrogate Forces in International Humanitarian Law: Lessons from Peru, Colombia, El Salvador, and Iraq by Patrick Paterson


Patrick Paterson’s monograph, Training Surrogate Forces in International Humanitarian Law: Lessons from Peru, Colombia, El Salvador, and Iraq, leverages the author’s vast experience in Latin American history to examine how U.S. Special Operations Forces (USSOF) train surrogate forces. He argues that it is necessary to employ United States Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) indirect approach to grow and build partnership capacity through foreign internal defense (FID) and to find a balance with international humanitarian law (IHL). Paterson also examines the legal issues and restrictions on training and equipping foreign forces and the impact of these exchanges with our partners. His research methodology includes extensive interviews and incorporates a historical case study approach, examining FID efforts in Peru, Colombia, and El Salvador for lessons learned, and then compares and contrasts USSOF train and equip efforts in Iraq.


The Asia Pivot: Implications for U.S. Special Operations Forces by Russell D. Howard and John P. Duvall, Jr.


In this compelling new monograph by Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Russ Howard and U.S. Marine Corps Major John Duvall, Jr., the authors leverage their vast experiences and knowledge of the region to explore the Obama Administration’s Asia Pivot strategy, announced in 2011, and its impact on Special Operations. The authors begin by defining this vast region. They then look at the U.S. strategic goals, evaluate the threats, and provide an analysis of the progress of where America is today along with the importance and impact on special operations. This monograph is the culmination of two years of analysis of the “pivot to Asia” by the authors. It provides a starting point for all SOF to gain a better understanding of this vast region and the future role SOF could play to counter the threats to our national interests.


Countering Violent Extremism in Mali by Mark Moyar

Dr. Moyar analyzes U.S. and international efforts to counter Mali's panoply of extremist organizations. Violent opposition to Mali's government has deep roots, which include historic tensions between the Tuaregs and other ethnic groups, as well as the emergence of Salafist extremist groups in Algeria. Extremist attacks on Mali's democratic government in late 2011 and early 2012 culminated in a military coup that allowed rebels to take control of northern Mali. Because Mali had received extensive military and nonmilitary assistance from the United States and other foreign countries in the preceding years, these disasters led to the questioning of aid practices, including those of United States Special Operations Forces (USSOF). This study adds to a growing body of knowledge on special operations and counterterrorism in Africa. It also contributes to the general understanding of the troubling events in Mali, where the government continues to confront violent extremism and other forms of rebellion. Perhaps most significantly for USSOF, the monograph offers insights into the building of partner capacity.


The 2005 Iraqi Sunni Awakening: The Role of the Desert Protectors Program by William Knarr

Dr. Knarr tells the story of Al Sahawa, the Awakening, in Iraq from a different perspective than most narratives. Many associate the beginning of the movement with Sheikh Sattar Albu-Risha's 14 September 2006 proclamation in Ramadi, where he coined the term Al Sahawa. However, Dr. Knarr contends that the Anbar Awakening, as a movement, started  12 months prior to the Sheikh's proclamation. As a movement, the Awakening began in the northwest of Al Anbar, in Al Qaim District along the Syrian/Iraqi border with the Albu-Mahal tribe. The Albu-Mahal, in what would become a fight for survival, realized that they could not fight Al Qaida in Iraq (AQI) on their own and pleaded for help from the Coalition and the Government of Iraq. The foundation for developing that partnership was a little known program called the "Desert Protectors." The development of the Desert Protectors has tremendous lessons for today as a newly formed Coalition organizes to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant(ISIL), an outgrowth of AQI.


Building Partner Capacity by Harry R. Yarger

Dr. Rich Yarger discusses Building Partner Capacity (BPC) as a strategic necessity and contends that BPC is an essential strategic concept for any practical U.S. grand strategy. He addresses the questions of how SOF and others might think strategically about BPC in the 21st century environment and the implications of such thinking. In order to best develop this grand concept, he maintains that decision makers, strategists, and planners need to comprehend and develop a high level of strategic understanding and be able to distinguish between cooperation, partnering, and strategic partnerships among states and other  international actors. While recognizing the Joint Force and all the services and agencies play important roles in this larger picture of BPC, he reasons that USSOCOM and SOF are presented with unique opportunities and challenges in pursuit of the grand strategy. There are multiple ways of viewing the role of BPC as part of a U.S. grand or defense strategy and the place of SOF in these strategies. 


Village Stability Operations and the Afghan Local Police by Dr. Mark Moyar

Dr. Mark Moyar outlines the history of the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program and its Afghan partner program, the Afghan Local Police (ALP). Based on years of extensive research within Afghanistan, Dr. Moyar covers VSO and ALP from their inception through the end of VSO and the transition of the ALP to complete Afghan control. He notes that the programs came into existence out of recognition that exclusive reliance on direct-action counterterrorism had been unable to stop the Taliban and other Afghan insurgent groups. He highlights the importance of understanding the human terrain and the strategic context when attempting to mobilize populations against insurgents and explains the challenges of empowering qualified and motivated Afghan leaders at multiple levels. He also emphasizes the importance of USSOF leadership and describes the challenges encountered in transitioning the ALP to complete Afghan control and its implications for the transition of future SOF programs. 


Challenges in the Asia-Pacific Theater for U.S. and Partner Nation Special Operations Forces by Robert Haddick

Mr. Haddick discusses why USSOF and partner nation SOF in the Asia-Pacific region should prepare for expanded regional roles and responsibilities. China's re-emergence as a global power and its pursuit of its security interests has exposed increasing friction between it and its neighbors and the United States. Haddick asserts that a competitive and sustainable response to the looming security challenge in the Asia-Pacific region willinclude not only naval and aerospace components, but also diplomatic, information, political, and economic tools. In addition, U.S. and coalition partners must prepare for the likelihood that the security competition in the region will eventually manifest itself in various forms of irregular and unconventional conflict. U.S. and partner SOF will have critical roles to play in a truly competitive response to the growing security competition in he Asia-Pacific region. The goal of an effective competitive strategy will be to sustain an open-ended peacetime competition with China that successfully perpetuates the current rules-based status quo.


Counterinsurgency in Somalia: Lessons Learned from the African Union Mission in Somalia, 2007-2013 by Bronwyn E. Bruton and Paul D. Williams

Ms. Bronwyn Bruton and Dr. Paul Williams bring their expertise ingovernance, conflict mitigation, and Africa, to this analysis of Somalia's attempts to establish security and build state institutions while facing the Harakat al-Shabaab insurgency. By every measure of state effectiveness-income generation and distribution, execution of the rule of law, and ability to provide basic human security-Somalia has little or no capability. The authors address the roots of Somalia's long-running conflict and examine the often conflicting motivations of the large range of actors: local, national, regional, and international. This context is essential for understanding the evolution and sustainment of Harakat al-Shabaab. With its links to al-Qaeda, Harakat al-Shabaab remains a security challenge for the entire Horn of Africa. While AMISOM's goal was to protect Somalia's weak transitional national government and stabilize the security environment, its mission went well beyond traditional peacekeeping to include warfighting, counterinsurgency operations, and humanitarian assistance. The AMISOM approach may come to characterize future operations in this region.


U.S. Military Deployments to Africa: Lessons from the Hunt for Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army by James J.F. Forest

Dr. James Forest's monograph explores lessons and observations from the recent U.S. Special Operations Forces' (SOF) effort to help Ugandan and other African regional forces locate and apprehend Joseph Kony and members of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Dr. Forest examines the context behind the decision to deploy U.S. military advisors to the region and the significant public pressure placed on the Obama administration to do something. Four themes are identified as important for the success or failure of future U.S. military deployments to sub-Saharan Africa: (1) preparations and logistics, (2) perceptions and expectations management, (3) partnerships and relationship management, and (4) policy and politics. He argues that in the case of Uganda it is critical that any successes derived from collaborative operations must be owned by the Ugandans. Dr. Forest's concluding chapter offers some thoughts about further research and implications for policy and SOF education. This report makes a meaningful contribution to the effectiveness of future U.S. SOF teams deploying to sub-Saharan Africa.


Persistent Engagement in Colombia by Dr. Mark Moyar, Brigadier General (retired) Hector Pagan, and Lieutenant Colonel, (retired) Wil R. Griego

This monograph analyzes United States Special Operations Forces’ (USSOF) assistance to Colombia in the context of decades of counterinsurgency and counternarcotics operations. While the case of Colombia is often cited as an exemplar of global Special Operations Forces (SOF) foreign engagement, the details of the engagement, and the reasons for its success, have not previously been addressed in a scholarly publication. This study represents the first comprehensive analysis of the persistent SOF engagement in Colombia. It draws upon the collective wisdom of numerous U.S. and Colombian government personnel, and the authors’ own decades of experience in Colombia and other countries where the United States has undertaken prolonged partnership. 


Countering the al-Shabaab Insurgency in Somalia: Lessons for U.S. Special Operations Forces by Graham Turbiville, Josh Meservey, and James Forest

In this report, the authors argue that al-Shabaab's current prospects have probably never been so low.This work provides a meaningful context to al-Shabaab and the Somali milieu. Al Shabaab has been pushed from all of its major strongholds by a robust international effort, and its violent Salafism has alienated many Somalis. But it still has teeth. It continues to harass coalition forces, as well as ordinary Somalis, with improvised explosive devices, suicide bombings, and assassinations. Its tactics reflect a strategic decision made by its leadership to fight a guerrilla war, a familiar role for a group that thrived by waging an anti-Ethiopian insurgency in the mid-2000s. This monograph is a useful resource for anyone who wishes to know more about the conflict in the Horn of Africa. 


Security Force Assistance and Security Sector Reform by Richard H. Shultz Jr.

In this monograph, Dr. Shultz conducts a study of the impending requirements and likely contexts in confronting future security challenges.  He argues that weak and failing states will play a central role in coming conflicts.  Dr. Shultz advocates for not only engagement in these failing states, but to engage as early as possible to prevent the growth and festering of violent extremist organizations which will require larger more costly intervention later.  He specifically recognizes the need for an irregular warfare tool to engage early through security sector reform to prevent just such growth.  Dr. Shultz delves into five key issues to find patterns and common logic to support early engagement.  Importantly, he identifies the contributions SOF can make to a new U.S. security force assistance and security sector reform strategy. 


Knowing Your Partner: The Evolution of Brazilian Special Operations Forces by Souza Pinheiro

Retired Brazilian Army Major General Alvaro de Souza Pinheiro, in his monograph highlights the importance of knowing our partners. General Pinheiro begins by presenting a Brazilian point of view of the post-9/11 world. He then presents a history and over view of Brazilian SOF units from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. Modern day Brazilian Army SOF pioneers attended U.S. Army schools and founded Brazil’s Special Operations Course in 1958, which later expanded to include Commando Actions, Special Forces, and Jungle Operations qualifications courses. In 2002 the Brazilian Special Operations Brigade was created by presidential decree. As U.S. Special Operations Command looks to thicken the global SOF network, General Pinhiero’s monograph is a must read for the American SOF operator in order to better know our partners. 


Confronting the Terrorism of Boko Haram in Nigeria by James J.F. Forest

In this monograph counterterrorism expert James Forest assesses the threat Boko Haram poses to Nigeria and U.S. national security interests.  As Dr. Forest notes, Boko Haram is largely a local phenomenon, though one with strategic implications, and must be understood and addressed within its local context and the long standing grievances that motivate terrorist activity. Dr. Forest deftly explores Nigeria’s ethnic fissures and the role of unequal distribution of power in fueling terrorism. Indeed, these conditions, combined with the ready availability of weapons, contribute to Nigeria’s other security challenges including militancy in the Niger Delta and organized crime around the economic center of the country, Lagos. 


WHAM: Winning Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan and Elsewhere by Thomas Henriksen

Dr. Henriksen argues that America needs to get back to the basics of counterinsurgency lest it bankrupts itself in nation-building and reconstruction projects that are driven from the top, not the bottom.  Citing tremendously expensive “Winning Hearts and Minds” efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, he hypothesizes that “WHAM operations must be waged with much less expenditure of U.S. dollars in the years ahead.”  He offers Britain’s frugal victory in Malaya as one example of a low budget counterinsurgency success that started with protecting the people, over time formed a representative government, and linked the people and their support to that government.  Economic development was part of the strategy, but it was a supporting and complementary effort.  It wasn't a major effort in and of itself. 

Keeping Special Forces Special (NPS Thesis)

Regional proficiency is a critical capability in irregular warfare. In preparation for increased engagement in irregular warfare, the Department of Defense and the Military Services made several significant improvements in developing regional proficiency. An analysis of Special Forces training and development reveals that the Special Forces primary means of developing regional proficiency is through deployment experience. While the Special Forces Groups are regionally aligned, several have consistently deployed outside of their Area of Responsibility to support combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. A survey and a series of interviews were conducted to determine the state of regional proficiency interest in Special Forces. Through survey analysis, several trends were identified. With this information this thesis concludes with a suggested strategy to improve regional proficiency in Special Forces non-commissioned officers.


Convergence: Special Operations Forces and Civilian Law Enforcement by John B. Alexander

The convergence of the operations conducted by SOF and civilian law enforcement agencies (LEAs)-especially Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units-has generated special training requirements. This monograph examines the elements precipitating this circumstance, provides SOF with a better understanding of changing domestic threats and operational capabilities of LEAs, and draws insights from the similarities and challenges imposed by transnational gangs and terrorists both domestically and abroad. The author argues that SOF needs new skills and training to assume the law-enforcement-like missions they are being assigned. In addition, the monograph provides leaders of major LEAs a better understanding of special operations and potentially facilitates a basis for future cooperation and mutual support. The forward-looking monograph also argues that the public attitude toward conflict is changing and perhaps the legal underpinnings on use of force as well.




Afghanistan, Counterinsurgency, and the Indirect Approach by Thomas H. Henriksen

In exploring Counterinsurgency and the Indirect Approach, Dr. Thomas Henriksen assesses several cases where the United States has employed an Indirect Approach toward achieving strategic objectives, and he suggests where this concept has landed short of expectations. In the cases of Vietnam, Somalia, the Philippines, and other countries, he demonstrates that it is often difficult to fit the Indirect Approach doctrine into such a wide variety of strategic and operational environments.


U.S. Military Engagement with Mexico: Uneasy Past and Challenging Future by Dr. Graham Turbiville

Dr. Graham Turbiville's account of U.S. military engagement with Mexico provides a broad account of the interaction among the military elements of both countries from 1846 to the present day. He describes the evolution of the Mexican military toward a more capable and modern force. Especially informative for the special operations reader is the advent of numerous special operations units within the military and some civil elements. As noted, this has fostered reciprocal opportunities for SOF training and education. 


Irregular Warfare: Brazil's Fight Against Criminal Urban Guerrillas by Alvaro de Souza Pinheiro

Major General (Ret.) Alvaro Pinheiro-whose career in the Brazilian Army has seen service as a paratrooper, jumpmaster, pathfinder, commando, and Special Forces Operational Detachment commander-in this monograph addresses the challenges posed by urban guerrillas. Recognizing that urban guerrillas are far from limited to a few individual countries, he uses the experiences of Brazil in combating this complex criminal-terrorist phenomenon to illustrate the ways in which this threat can be understood and confronted within legal and Constitutional frameworks. In this assessment, General Alvaro includes their origin, operational environment, tactics, impact on society, and the role of the armed forces in countering these criminal-terrorist elements. The monograph includes both the theory and practice of the urban criminal-terrorist, and draws upon the writings and activities of the notorious urban terrorist Carlos Marighella's (author of the Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla) as well as his own experience and that of other military and law enforcement specialists who have dealt directly with this destabilizing threat.


Africa: Irregular Warfare on the Dark Continent by John B. Alexander

Dr. John Alexander's current JSOU Press monograph provides an assessment of the African continent with a particular focus on how Special Operations Forces (SOF) may need to operate and how the local environment impacts these operations. He provides a strategic overview and assessment of current conditions on the continent, identifies current conditions on the continent, identifies key concerns and issues, and discusses key players. For a variety of reasons, Africa is, and will remain, a region of critical importance not only to the United States but also to other regions and countries of the world. 


Block by Block: Civic Action in the Battle of Baghdad by Adrian T. Bogart III

This monograph describes one facet of the Battle for Baghdad during the period January through November 2006. The story is based on the recollections, notes, and reports of the author, who served with the Multi-National Division, Baghdad (MND¿B) as the G9-the principal staff officer responsible for civic action, Special Operations Forces integration, and counterinsurgency training. In this timeframe MND-B treated civic action as a maneuver function inherent to its operations, and it employed task-organized combat forces to conduct Phase IV (Stability Operations) and Phase V (Enable the Civil Authority) in order to achieve U.S. and Iraqi military objectives. 


Beyond Draining the Swamp: Urban Development and Counterterrorism in Morocco by Stephen R. Dalzell

In this paper civil affairs officer Lieutenant Colonel Steve Dalzell discusses ways that the Kingdom of Morocco is addressing some of the fundamental social and physical needs of its growing population in order to preempt social unrest-and the potential for support to extremist groups. Morocco's campaign against Islamic extremism merits study because of its importance for the global war on terrorism and the apparent linkages between urban conditions and domestic terrorist groups. 


One Valley at a Time by Adrian T. Bogart III

The 2004 counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan was historic. Service personnel of general purpose, special operations, coalition, and irregular forces worked in unison to defeat the insurgency in a country stricken by war. Their unwavering trust, cooperation, close integration, collaborative planning, and nested execution were in many cases, textbook. In recognition of their professional effort, this case study captures many of the lessons learned in their planning and operations. Success in Afghanistan also came from the determination of millions of Afghans who were supported by these gallant sailors, soldiers, Marines, and airmen. 


 Operationalizing COIN by Joseph D. Celeski

In this paper, Colonel Joseph D. Celeski, U.S. Army, Retired, provides his thoughts on how we might think about, plan and conduct operations in the new threat environment of "Terro-Insurgency." In this environment insurgents are joined by various terrorists, drug traffickers and other criminals to create what he calls the "Gray Stew" mix that confronts us today in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Based on his understanding of the new environment, Colonel Celeski posits a theory of counterinsurgency (COIN) and suggests techniques for developing the COIN plan and executing it employing special operations forces. He reinforces his concepts concerning COIN with a review of the war in Afghanistan. This paper is important because it reflects the experiences and thoughts of a recent special operations commander who dealt with the exigencies of COIN combat every day on the battlefield. Through a former 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) commander and two-time commander of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A), the reader, too, can gain a sense of urgency for improving our COIN strategy and doctrine and enhancing our abilities for "Operationalizing COIN."