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Joint Special Operations University Press Publications


Quick Look: Cyber Fundamentals for SOF

Cyber Fundamentals for SOF

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.


Special Operations Forces Civil Affairs in Great Power Competition by Travis Clemens

This monograph explores one key element of the ability of SOF to compete below the level of armed conflict—civil affairs (CA). Although the counterterrorism fight has featured kinetic operations as the quintessential SOF strength, great power competition will likely see CA assume a more prominent role as the U.S. and its competitors seek broader influence across the Global South. Major Travis Clemens provides a terrific overview of how CA can contribute in new and highly valuable ways in seeking advantage in the context of great power competition. As the enterprise wrestles with adapting itself for the future, assessments from members of the force, such as this one, will become increasingly important.


Informal Governance as a Force Multiplier in Counterterrorism: Evidence for Burkina Faso by Margaret H. Ariotti and Kevin S. Fridy

Dr. Kevin Fridy and Dr. Molly Ariotti assert that a CT effect in Burkina Faso can be more fruitfully generated by incorporating the range of Burkinabè informal governance providers into joint, interagency, and partner operational concepts. Although joint doctrine correctly notes the host nation (HN) government must invite U.S. Special Operations Forces into the country, it errs in assuming that only the HN provides the population with governance. By differentiating between the concepts of government and governance, Fridy and Ariotti demonstrate how local political legitimacy can be enhanced—and the allure of violent extremist organizations diminished—by enhancing indigenous, informal governance structures. Although written from the perspective of CT, readers are encouraged to imagine how SOF could apply the insights in the context of great power competition as well.

Interagency Reference Guide (Fourth Edition)

undefinedSpecial Operations Forces Interagency Reference Guide, Fourth Edition, edited by Charles Ricks 

Mr. Charles Ricks, a Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) Senior Fellow, first compiled this guide over a decade ago and continues to provide updates and revisions so that it remains a valuable reference work for JSOU students, Special Operations Forces (SOF) staff officers, and partners within the interagency (IA) enterprise. This is now the fourth edition of this publication. This new edition recognizes the changing nature of the international security environment and the adaptive and evolutionary nature of the IA process. While counterterrorism and combating terrorism remain essential SOF activities, the IA concepts, principles, and processes discussed here apply similarly to the involvement of SOF across the entire competition continuum and to all SOF core activities. As noted by the fifth SOF Truth, “Most special operations require non-SOF support.” That reality continues to form the basis for this guide as it addresses SOF IA engagement across the entire international competition continuum.



Advancing SOF Cultural Engagement: The Malinowski Model for a Qualitative Approach by Robert R. Greene Sands and Darby Arakelian

In Advancing SOF Cultural Engagement: The Malinowski Model for a Qualitative Approach, Robert Greene Sands and Darby Arakelian propose a special operations relevant model for engaging populations, illuminating their worldviews and values, appreciating their interests, and translating significant social, cultural, and political information into operational analysis. Their objectives are to introduce the core concepts, the base vocabulary, and the foundational skills in anthropology and sociology necessary for improving the human aspects core competency. While Greene Sands and Arakelian do not expect SOF to become anthropologists, they assert that Malinowski’s population-centric research methods are desperately needed to make sense of contemporary human aspects of military operations.

Occasional Paper

Special Operations Forces as Change Agents by Jessica Glicken Turnley, Ph.D.

Dr. Turnley examines Special Operations Forces (SOF) through a cultural anthropologic lens to explore the socio-cultural aspects of the SOF community and their ability to perform as change agents. As the author explains in her introduction, "Well-positioned or particularly persuasive individuals from the SOF community have been able to use personal connections and social networks to catalyze and institutionalize change in a wide range of communities, stimulating individuals to coalesce around ideas presented through charismatic players." Through the use of historical examples, such as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II or the more recent Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines (JSOTF-P), Dr. Turnley guides the reader through explanations of organizational change and the modern day SOF operator who is creative and performs as a change agent within established bureaucracies. She arrives at the conclusion that, "SOF bring to the military the potential for change, realized through an ability to create, stimulate, and work through social networks and the power of individual personalities."


IS and Cultural Genocide: Antiquities Trafficking in the Terrorist State by Russell D. Howard, Marc D. Elliott, and Jonathan R. Prohov

In this monograph, the authors offer compelling research that reminds government and military officials of the moral, legal, and ethical dimensions of protecting cultural antiquities from looting and illegal trafficking. Internationally, states generally agree on the importance of protecting antiquities, art, and cultural property not only for their historical and artistic importance, but also because such property holds economic, political, and social value for nations and their peoples. Protection is in the common interest because items or sites are linked to the common heritage of mankind. The authors make the point that a principle of international law asserts that cultural or natural elements of humanity’s common heritage should be protected from exploitation and held in trust for future generations. The conflicts in Afghanistan, and especially in Iraq and Syria, coupled with the rise of the Islamic State (IS), have brought renewed attention to the plight of cultural heritage in the Middle East and throughout the world.


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.


Unconventional Economics: Operational Economics in Unconventional Warfare by Major Riley J. Post and Colonel (Ret.) Jeffrey D. Peterson, Ph.D.


In this monograph, Major Riley Post and Dr. Jeffrey Peterson offer a compelling look into economic activities and influence in the context of unconventional warfare (UW). The value of this monograph lies in the creation of a framework that provides a structured approach for UW practitioners to employ as they assess and analyze economic factors that influence and support insurgency movements. This framework offers a way to simplify the varied and complex economic activities required to support equally complex resistance operations. This monograph provides examples of tactical, economic opportunities that support operational and strategic objectives. As a vignette, the authors evaluate the rise and potential vulnerabilities of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This monograph concludes with recommendations to enhance training for Special Operations Forces leaders and operators in the application of economic factors in UW.

Special Report

Tactical Operations for Strategic Effect: The Challenge of Currency Conversion by Colin S. Gray

Dr. Gray examines the currency conversion between tactical behavior and its strategic consequences. All strategy is comprised of tactical actions and Special Operations Forces (SOF) are often tasked with tactical operations with the expectation they will have desired strategic effect. A SOF community seeking to explain its functions needs to be crystal clear in distinguishing between the fundamentally distinctive meanings. If there is confusion about these two concepts-and the author believes there is-then charting a sensible relationship between them is then impossible. The author explains as an example that, "there are no, indeed there cannot be, any 'strategic' troops, forces, or weapons, for the simple reason that all troops, forces, and weapons have strategic meaning, be it ever so slight, or even arguable." This monograph attempts to reinforce the understanding of strategy and tactics by using historical examples where the two have failed each other. In the end, there must be the necessary direction and leadership that provides solid strategic sense so that SOF may achieve the effects needed to advance U.S. policy.


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. 


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. 

Initiating the Cognitive Revolution

The 4th Military Information Support Group (MISG) is the only active military information support group in the Department of Defense and operates across the full spectrum of military operations.  In 2006, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld designated the 4th MISG as a special operations unit.  In practice and by doctrine, special operations units possess highly specialized skills that they use in the routine execution of high-risk, politically sensitive missions.  Prior to 2006, the 4th MISG primarily supported general-purpose forces and its mission profile was random, broad, and unremarkable.


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.




Hezbollah: Social Services as a Source of Power by James B. Love

This monograph provides special oper¬ations readers with useful and important insights into how civic actions can achieve strategic objectives. The author uses Hezbollah as an illustration and reminder of this process by outlining the comprehensive activities of the Hezbollah Social Service Section as a precursor for success in Hezbollah’s political and military actions. The author estimates that about half of Hezbollah’s budget is dedicated to social services sectors such as health, veterans’ services, reconstruction and compensation, education, women’s groups, and even the Imam al-Mahdi Scouts (roughly analogous to the Boy Scouts). Such efforts are employed to capture the willing support of the people in order to further Hezbollah’s political aims. The concept is working, as Hezbollah has largely supplanted the Government of Lebanon in the southern part of that country while it continues to harass Israel and the West on the political-military front.


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.


Contemporary Security Challenges: Irregular Warfare and Indirect Approaches by  Richard D. Newton [and 4 PME authors]

The JSOU Press presents this collection of writings from five current and former practitioners in the field of irregular warfare. The writers delve into the concept of surrogate warfare, defined as a substitute force acting on behalf of the interests of another as well as its own interests. For many special operators, the concept of unconventional warfare provides the paradigm for working "through, with, or by" other forces to achieve strategic objectives. Here the authors expand the concept by exploring "surrogate warfare." This volume provides insights into this aspect of modern warfare and should be considered by senior military leaders and policymakers. Drawing upon their recent experiences in the field, the authors provide practical lessons for their colleagues' consideration. 


Policing and Law Enforcement in COIN--the Thick Blue Line by Joseph D. Celeski

Joe Celeski's current work on the role of policing in confronting security threats highlights the need to shift resources and emphasis towards policing, law enforcement, and internal security. Law enforcement and internal security are key pillars in a comprehensive national security strategy and are often under-emphasized. As the campaign against terrorist networks shifts out of a combat phase, the competition between governments and terrorist groups for the public's support, a key element in irregular warfare, will occur in noncombat zones. 

Information Warfare: Assuring Digital Intelligence Collection

Information Warfare: Assuring Digital Intelligence Collection by William G. Perry

In this paper, Dr. William G. Perry provides guidelines about processing computer equipment for transfer to information and intelligence professionals who might wring out from digital storage media the critical information needed to penetrate the enemy's decision matrix. In addition, captured computer gear may often need to be protected by a chain of custody in order to support legal actions against illegal combatants-criminals. Note: This paper is not available in hard copy 

Next-Generation Strategic Communication

Sociologists and researchers have used the term social networks for over a century to describe complex sets of relationships between members of social systems at all levels. At its core, a social network-whether face-to-face or web-based-is a map of relevant ties among participants in the network. Within this social network map, individuals in a particular network may exhibit varying degrees of interconnectedness-ranging from tightly connected cliques to those with few connections within a single network-but nonetheless, they act as gateways to other networks. 


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. 


Psychological Operations: Learning is Not a Defense Science Project by Curtis D. Boyd

This paper intends to demystify Psychological Operations (PSYOP) by framing the analysis in terms of certain cultural biases, organizational challenges, and troubles with terminology. The objective is twofold: a. Make PSYOP more understandable by looking at how it is defined in today's information environment and its relationship to other information activities. b. Create an understanding that PSYOP is truth-based, is an amalgam of many media and marketing tactics and techniques, and requires a closer alliance with Public Affairs to communicate a more comprehensible message. 


Civil-Military Operations and Professional Military Education by James F. Powers

In this monograph, the author addresses the historical, legal, doctrinal, and operational reasons CMO should be included in core PME. He discusses the impacts of this omission on the SOF assigned to the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and suggests that the time to correct the oversight is now. 


 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."