Special Operations Forces (SOF) are designed, organized, equipped and trained to achieve critical objectives that typically combine (potentially) high risks and high pay-offs through low-visibility operations in politically sensitive and militarily risky environments.
The changing nature of interstate competition has increasingly pushed states to make use of the grey zone between peace and (overt) war. Special operations forces form an ideal vehicle to perform clandestine, covert and ambiguous military and non-military activities to attain their objectives. Such activities may create, either intended or accidental, faits accomplis that place the adversary between the unsatisfactory alternative of acquiescence or escalation. Russia’s actions in Crimea are a case in point, forcing Ukraine and NATO to concede to Russia’s influence or to escalate.
This study will focus on identifying and describing the functional requirements for a future proof NLD SOF, thereby contributing to a better informed and more articulate debate on the utility and use of SOF. This necessitates a regular critical review of the core SOF roles and tasks, which in turn requires a clear vision and strategy about how to best use the very limited and scarce SOF functionality to promote and defend strategic national interests at stake.
Authors: Rob de Wijk, Frank Bekkers, Tim Sweijs, Stephan De Spiegeleire and Dorith Kool.
Contributors: Max Sarel