Small Wars Journal

Special Operations Forces and the Professionalization of Foreign Internal Defense

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 5:33pm

Special Operations Forces and the Professionalization of Foreign Internal Defense

Matthew E. Miller

FID is the participation by civilian and military agencies of a government in any of the action programs taken by another government or other designated organization, to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, insurgency, terrorism, and other threats to their security.

-- Joint Publication 3-22

A world with rapidly evolving instability has required U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) to assume a global posture.   Through an examination of SOF support of persistent global operations, it is easy to identify the successes.  Striking raids conducted by secretive, highly specialized units against terrorist organizations perforate the 24 hour media cycle.  These highly publicized successes such as the killing of Osama bin Laden or the rescue of Captain Phillips from Somali pirates does well for the U.S. military, the administration, and the SOF community.  However, if the community chooses to take an honest look across the spectrum of special operations' core activities, one of these ‘core activities’ that has failed and failed consistently is foreign internal defense (FID).[1]   In this era of persistent global conflict, we do not have to look back even as far as the 1970s and 1980s to see the challenges and failures of FID.  Rather, a review of the first 14 years of the 21st century is telling.  FID is facing serious challenges in Afghanistan and has catastrophically failed in Libya and Iraq.  FID is failing now.  The solution is to create a mid-career SOF FID specialization for SOF Officers from all four special operations service components to build long-term institutional knowledge of regional issues and personal relationships with foreign SOF organizations.

The failures of the last decade of FID do not belong to any one part of the DOD.  Nor is it solely an outcome of the foreign policy decisions such as the 2011 end to the U.S. FID mission in Iraq.  It is however highly probable that specially trained SOF FID Officers could have done more to assist conventional planners to understand the needs of the host nation and the needs of newly minted conventional military advisors sent to train them.  As it stands, Iraqi units such as the Iraqi 8th Army Division were described by conventional advisors as “top-tier, arguably the best in the Iraqi Army in terms of tactical competence” in 2009.  Less than four years later, this same unit was found to be wholly combat ineffective against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).[2]  Drinking a few cups of tea and teaching host nation soldiers to all shoot in the same direction is no a longer sufficient measure of success in this era of persistent global instability.

Long-term investment in SOF FID will not produce the nearly instantaneous politically marketable results of the raid culture of direct action.  Nor will it have much effect on the short-term “prop-up” FID intended to buy time to exfiltrate U.S. forces from a given theater.  It will however add consistency to SOF operations over the next decades if SOF leaders embrace the professionalization of FID as a long-term operational capability and an investment.  In keeping with SOF truth number 1, “Humans are more important than hardware,” FID requires recruitment, training, and long-term forward deployment of SOF Officers specifically training in regional FID.  Globally, the U.S. has had a poor record of predicting the next destabilizing crisis that will require U.S. support or intervention.  The challenge of predictive analysis, which can identify future FID requirements, has become more difficult with “globalization with its subthemes of technology diffusion, free flow of information, interdependent and competitive economies, and relative empowerment of weak state, non-state, and individual actors”[3]  The fact is crisis and conflict will evolve rapidly in regions the U.S. military is unprepared to respond effectively.  U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) needs to place SOF FID Officers in as many countries as is practical, building partnerships with foreign SOF forces.  

Critics unfamiliar with the complexities of FID will argue the task of building foreign military relationships and the Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Program already serves the FID mission.  The FAOs, which come from each of the four branches of service, have distinct responsibilities, to “provide regional expertise from the political-military and strategic perspectives for planning and executing operations, observe and report on international military issues, serve in liaison, attaché/military-diplomat, and representational roles to other nations, serve as arms control inspectors, and oversee military security assistance.”[4]  The last task in the FAO job description “oversee military security assistance” has not provided the ground level relationships or SOF partnerships essential to current and future operations.  Oversight of security assistance is not enough in this era of global instability. Additionally, the majority of FAOs do not have a SOF or even a combat arms background, which limits the FAO programs' ability to assess the needs of host nation forces and SOF with any level of ground truth.  This gap in FAO capability and tasking and the failures of FID over the recent years clearly identifies the need for SOF FID Officers.  However, the foreign environments in which SOF FID Officers will serve require that they share many of the language and training requirements of the FAO program.

“Competent SOF cannot be created after emergencies occur,” arguably more than other special operations core activities, is a SOF Truth that FID planners need to embrace.  At the strategic level, the SOF Officer cannot acquire that acute knowledge of operational environment or build personal relationships with foreign SOF after the crisis arises.  Personal relationships and trust, like SOF competencies, cannot be forced into being the morning after a coup d'état.  The relationships developed by SOF FID Officers in peacetime amount to a strategic force multiplier for the larger SOF community and the DOD at large.  A SOF FID Officer who serves as a liaison, a partner, and possible mentor of foreign SOF will build relationships unobtainable through the current exercise model for SOF partnerships, the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET).  This model will not replace the JCET exercise, but the SOF FID Officer will be able to focus the mission of the JCET and will drastically shorten the incoming US SOF elements' local adaptation period with foreign SOF partners.  .  If history tells the U.S. military anything, it is that foreign SOF will be at the epicenter of future regional instability either as the defender of the status quo or as the vehicle of unrest to displace the foreign governments.  In the case of the destabilization of a regional partner state, decision makers would be able to draw upon experienced SOF FID Officers who had lived and worked in the region and possess a tactical and strategic knowledge of the crisis.  Additionally, the ability of SOF FID Officers to reach out personally to foreign SOF is the equivalent of the Cold War Moscow-Washington hotline. 

In addition to the personal relationships built with foreign SOF forged by FID Officers' foreign assignments, the SOF contingency and rapid response planners will benefit from an institutional knowledge of environmental variables such as the people, culture, and terrain.  Knowledge attained by SOF FID Officers will provide the tactical level SOF planners and decision makers with the key to what Admiral McRaven called ‘Relative Superiority.’ Relative superiority is defined as “the condition that exists when a smaller force gains a decisive advantage over a larger or well-defended enemy.” [5] In his master’s thesis at the Naval Post Graduate School, Admiral McRaven endeavored to develop a theory of special operations focused on the key elements of successful direct action operations conducted by SOF units and therefore did not address FID.  However, his theory emphasizes reducing Clausewitz’s ‘Fiction’[6] through the application of his six principles of special operations - simplicity, security, repetition, surprise, speed, and purpose - which in turn allow SOF direct action missions to achieve and maintain ‘Relative Superiority’ over the enemy force.[7]  Future SOF FID Officers offer an important key to gaining McRaven’s ‘Relative Superiority’ in regions or nation states, where the U.S. military has limited institutional knowledge.  The SOF FID Officer who has local experience and relationships will be invaluable to the information environment of the SOF decision makers and planners during the onset of deteriorating stability.  Historically, a lack of local knowledge has led to mission failure due to gaps in local knowledge, which has led to SOF mission failures during the 1980s and 1990s.  Tomorrow, SOF could be asked to operate in a region or environmental conditions foreign to units who have adapted their tactics and equipment to a specific climate.  The ability to call upon a SOF FID Officer with extensive experience in a jungle or a tumultuous region and knowledge of foreign SOF will be invaluable for SOF commanders in the zero phase of an operation.

The first necessary step is the establishment of a Joint FID Management Office at SOCOM Headquarters, tasked with the program development and the long-term career management of SOF FID Officers.  The SOF FID Officer designation would work best as a U.S. Army Functional Area and its sister services equivalent, with the FID Officer course contributing to the individual officer’s joint professional military education (JPME).  This Joint FID Management Office would be the vehicle that assists the services in determining joint requirements across the SOF service components.  The creation of a SOF FID ‘functional area’ would require the creation of a significant number of additional O4-O5 billets at SOCOM Headquarters.  These positions housed at SOCOM Headquarters, outside the SOF service components, would allow SOCOM the ability to retain a larger portion of the investment made in SOF officers who may be forced to leave the SOF based on the availability of SOF service component billets.

The core candidates for the SOF FID Officer program should come from the officer corps of U.S. Army Special Forces, U.S. Naval Special Warfare Seals, U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations, and U.S. Air Force Special Tactics.[8]  There would likely be opposition to diverting already highly trained officers from line positions in their respective SOF service components.   However, if we are to accept Dr. Turnley’s contribution to SOF theory, which argues SOF service members are uniquely qualified to be “warrior-diplomats,” then SOF must embrace the need for this level of character and experience for the sometimes ambiguous world of FID.[9]  To advance Dr. Turnley’s assumptions, we must extend her model to our foreign SOF partners and competitors who to varying degrees will be “warrior-diplomats” with whom relationships can be built.  Turnley notes that the SOF service components embrace the “warrior-diplomat" concept with varying enthusiasm.[10]  She specifically makes the point that “becoming a warrior diplomat is a nontrivial process involving far more than just learning a language and a few behavioral do’s and don’ts.”[11]  The concept of the “warrior-diplomat” must not be solely embraced as a second or third order effect of SOF training and experience, but must become a formal ‘functional area’ and an advanced specialization within the SOF community. 

The argument can be made the SOF Officers are already trained in FID and a specialized course is not necessary.  The counter point however is again the fact that FID is not only facing a more complex operational environment but has had little success in creating sustainable security as demonstrated by the striking collapse of western-trained Iraqi Divisions or Libya security forces in the face of Islamic extremist.  Obviously, what is being done now is not sufficient to properly assess the needs, the institutions, and the cultural challenges of the persistent FID mission around the world.  Therefore, the SOF FID candidate, already a trained and experienced SOF operator, would follow a pipeline similar to the previously mentioned U.S. Army’s Foreign Area Officers (FAO), only with a focused specialization in SOF FID requirements.  A joint SOF FID Officer ‘functional area’ training course must be developed, piloted, and managed at JSOU.  Following the function area’ training a graduate level education program is essential.  Numerous DOD educational institutions provide regional training as well as formal graduate level education.  For the SOF FID Officer ‘functional area,’ the best choices for graduate education are the JSOU and the Naval Postgraduate School, the latter of which has a long history in graduate education in special operations topics. 

A significant number of SOF Officers already possess language skills but for service in FID ‘functional area,’ language training would need to be conducted at a higher level.  The Defense Language Institute (DLI), which hosts 6 to 12 month programs, should support this task with quotas specifically designed for SOF FID Officers.  The Joint FID Management Office should endeavor to follow the FAO model, matching skills and capabilities of SOF FID Officers to the region for which they are trained.  The Joint FID Management Office would put an end the old military cliché of sending Chinese languages speakers on operational tours in Italy. 

Following a utilization tour in the SOF FID Officers region of specialization, the Joint FID Management Office would be responsible for assisting in identifying follow on positions best suited for these highly specialized officers.  Of course, a certain number of SOF FID Officers will return to their SOF service components, however every effort should be made to continue to match skills and experience to the follow on position.  Additionally, positions should be established or opened to these highly specialized officers as members of the staff or advisors to the Combatant Commands and Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOC).  Outside the SOF community, these unique skill sets would be invaluable as JSOU/NPS instructors, DOD and service branch contingencies planners, or joint staff assignments, which require regional specialization. 

Another challenge is allocation of funding for a long-term program in a fiscally constrained environment.  “Enhancing stability and preventing conflict are more cost-effective than fighting wars.”[12]   The cost of training and deploying SOF FID Officers, to include the contributions these experienced officers will contribute in future assignments is a minuscule cost in comparison to the estimated $25 billion spent  training and equipping Iraqi Army divisions, which collapsed in the face of ISIL.  In comparison to the highly popular overhead platforms, SOF FID Officers would be considerably cheaper than these systems, which will never provide any insight into the causes of the instability or crisis.  Overhead platforms can only serve as mechanical witness where the relatively low cost SOF FID Officers can provide analysis and outreach to the foreign partner.  Another administrative concern is the status of SOF FID Officers during the utilization tour in a foreign nation.  Whether this program operates under individual Status of Forces Agreements or as part of State Department Country Team, or both, will depend on the politics of the day and is beyond the scope of this essay.

The simple fact is our long term efforts to promote global stability are not working.  In the late 1990’s, al-Qai’da amounted to a few hundred radical Islamists renting land from the Taliban government.  Today, groups that have embraced al-Qai’da’s radical Islamist ideology physically control territory in at least seven countries.  The challenges of the 21st century FID efforts have made it evident that FID requires and deserves an independent professional SOF work force to counter present and future vehicles of instability, including al-Qai’da and a multitude of other current and potential threats.  Experienced special operations officers, from all four SOF service components, trained and educated as FID professionals, are the key to the successful long-term goal to “support training, advising, and equipping HN security forces.”[13]

End Notes

[1] Joint Publication 3-22, Foreign Internal Defense, 12 July 2010, defines FID as U.S. activities that support a HN’s internal defense and development (IDAD) strategy and program designed to protect against subversion, lawlessness, insurgency, terrorism, and other threats to their internal security, and stability.  In addition, to enabling HNs to maintain internal stability and counter subversion and violence, FID should address the causes of instability. FID programs are tailored to the individual HN, and focus on CT, COIN, counterdrug, or stability operations. 

[2] Deady, Timothy, MiTT Advisor: A Year with the Best Division in the Iraqi Army, Military Review, November-December 2009;  Iraqi Army Launches Offensive on Islamic State in Three Cities, Reuters, September 17, 2014  Last visited on: November 24, 2014; Roggio, Bill and Weiss, Caleb, Islamic State photos detail rout of Iraqi Army at Camp Saqlawiya, The Long Wars Journal, September 30, 2014,  Last visited: November 20, 2014; Zucchino, David, Why Iraqi Army Can't Fight, Despite $25 Billion In U.S. Aid, Training, Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2014, Last Visited: November 20, 2014, pg. 10

[3] Yarger, Harry R., 21st Century SOF: Toward an American Theory of Special Operations, JSOU Report 13-1, The JSOU Press, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida 2013,

[4] Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1315.20, SUBJECT: Management of Department of Defense (DoD) Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Programs, September 28, 2007

[5] McRaven, William H., The Theory of Special Operations, Master’s Thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, June 1993, pg. 4

[6] Clausewitz, Carl von, & Maude, Frederic Natusch, On War, K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & Company, Limited,  1908, pg. 222

[7] McRaven, William H., The Theory of Special Operations, Master’s Thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, June 1993, pg. 11

[8] In times of expanded requirements, the program could be scaled-up with other SOF Officers to include Civil Affairs, Psychological Operations, Naval Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Officer, and SOF experienced Intelligence Officers.

[9] Turnley, Jessica G., Cross-Cultural Competence and Small Groups: Why SOF are the way SOF are, JSOU Report 11-1, The JSOU Press, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida 2011, pg.

[10] Ibid 46

[11] Ibid 46

[12] United States Special Operations Command, Special Operations Forces, Operating Concept, May 2013, pg. 23

[13] Joint Publication 3-05, Special Operations, 16 July 2014


About the Author(s)

Matthew E. Miller is a U.S. Army Reserve Officer. He holds degrees from University of California San Diego, the London School of Economics, and has a Ph.D. in History from the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Forces Academy. The views and opinions expressed in his articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army or any agency of the U.S. government.


Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/03/2016 - 1:02am

Bill C.....this is exactly what CIA understood about Syria that CENTCOM, the Obama WH and it's 700 person NSC and the USA SF....DID NOT nor took the time to fully they were far to busy "doing nothing stupid"....

Just a few suggestions by one of three solid ME/Syrian SMEs that were never approached by the Obama WH nor CENTCOM....

Charles Lister ‏@Charles_Lister
Pushing back against the grain:

- 10 ideas for those following/writing about #Syria's opposition & its allied jihadi factions.

1. Military unity & cooperation does *not* equal ideological affinity.

2. Short-term priorities (military) far outweigh long-term (political, ideological) considerations, most of the time.

3. Once a [... fill: faction/ideological current] does *not* mean always a [... fill: faction/ideological current].

4. You *cannot* understand underlying drivers & dynamics of insurgents & armed actors using Twitter & YouTube.

5. Ignoring complex nuance visible only to 1st-hand research & producing generalizations = dangerous/flawed self-fulfilling prophecy

6a. Our enemies (whether state or sub-state) are not supremely smart actors devoid of internal divisions or conflicting visions.

6b. Our allies and/or their civilian base are not supremely ignorant & incapable of discerning short/long-term and good/bad.

7a. Combating/isolating/undermining oppressive terrorist actors *can* be done utilizing a military-heavy approach.

7b. Combating/isolating/undermining socially-embedded terrorist actors *cannot* be done utilizing a military-heavy approach.

8. You *cannot* draw an inference from behavior of (a) 1 man out of 10,000 or (b) 1 faction out of 100 as representing the totality

9. Sometimes, people in #Syria don't see things like you do in #Washington DC/#London/#Paris etc.

10. A lot of complexity/difference of opinion happens behind the scenes & rarely is revealed in the open - so dig a little…

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/02/2016 - 1:59pm

Bill C.....articles like this should have been fully understood before CENTCOM and USA SF and the Obama WH decided to support the PKK/YPG Kurdish forces.....

Well worth reading the entire excellent Syrian SME.....

Kyle W. Orton ‏@KyleWOrton
New post: supporting #PYD to keep #IS out of the Kurdish areas was necessary. Support beyond that was dubious:

Of Kurds and Compromises in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on September 2, 2016


Having written extensively about the authoritarian structure in the areas run by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in northern Syria, and the problems of media, local and Western, in covering this, it was very interesting to see a report in The Wall Street Journal underlining some of these points.

The Journal notes that the PYD and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), have engaged in a ruthless consolidation of power within a single party, despite claims to be governing in a democratic way. This has included: heavy pressure on all non-pro-PYD media via various Soviet-style accusations of subversion; demographic engineering by a refusal to allow Arab inhabitants to return to homes or actively expelling them; forced conscription, including of children; the imposition of an ideological curriculum in schools; and the suppression and/or expulsion of all opposition.

As the Journal puts it:

[A]s Rojava gets mightier and realizes long-held ambitions of self-rule for Kurds, some of its own people feel alienated by what they claim are heavy-handed tactics that feel reminiscent of the Syrian regime. …
Since late 2014, at least 6,000 young Syrian Kurds have been compelled to serve in the military … In addition, … Rojava officials have arrested and forced into military service a total of 1,178 civilians, including 217 minors and 69 women. …

Opposition parties say Kurdish leaders have arrested and beaten dissenters and shut down rival party headquarters. Rojava officials also banned two independent media outlets from operating freely. Elections originally scheduled for 2014 have been repeatedly postponed.

“Anything that has the hint of not working for their benefit, they ban it,” says Imaad Omar Yusuf, general coordinator for the opposition Kurd Youth Movement. “Seventy percent of Kurds are against them.”

On Aug. 13, Rojava’s police force arrested the president of the Kurdish National Council, … deported him to Iraq and threatened to kill him if he returns …

Sinam Mohamad, foreign representative for Rojava, … [says that] people detained or deported were guilty of criminal offenses … The independent media outlets were engaged in “intelligence gathering” and “antagonizing the autonomous administration,” Ms. Mohamad adds. “And this is against the law.”

In some villages, Sunni Arab residents who fled as the YPG pushed out the … Islamic State have been banned from returning to their homes … Officials defend the ban on the grounds that Rojava is vulnerable to continuing attacks from Islamic State sleeper cells and sympathizers. Mass expulsions also are justified under tribal customs if one or two people in a family are members of Islamic State, say some Kurdish administration officials. …

Marwan Hussein says his sister was lured into joining the [all-female] YPJ by friends when she was 15. She was taken to the Qandil Mountains in Iraq, where the … PKK maintains a base. … She was allowed to come home for a visit late last year, and Mr. Hussein took his sister into hiding. YPG officials have said minors joined the militia without parental consent, though some were fleeing unstable homes. …

At the start of the 2015-16 school year, the Kurdish administration instituted a new curriculum mandating that Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians all be taught in their native language.

Most teacher salaries are still paid by the Syrian regime, though, and it told teachers not to follow the new curriculum. … Teachers say they signed in every day during the school year to get paid but didn’t teach any students. Syrian Kurdish officials brought in replacement teachers, but they were poorly trained. … Salha Abdulrahman, the mother of Jude Hamo, who fled to Germany to avoid the draft, says the Kurdish curriculum hurts students because universities across Syria still teach solely in Arabic. …

Even with her son safely in Germany, the family has continued pushing back against what they call the authoritarian Kurdish administration.

All of these points were raised in the post a couple of weeks ago:

The fleeing of civilians from combat zones is inevitable, but the PYD has taken steps toward preventing the return of Arab inhabitants, sometimes by threats of live fire, more often by demolishing homes. Amnesty International has also reported incidents of direct ethnic cleansing of Arabs …

Anti-PKK Kurdish demonstrations have been violently quelled by the PYD. Journalists face stern restrictions in PYD-held areas. Political opponents are arrested and there is torture in the prisons to extract confessions. Aid is exploited as a means of social control. Conscription is enforced, including for child soldiers. Artefacts are looted.


Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/02/2016 - 11:15am

Badly executed USA SF is a buffer between the CIA proxy FSA/Turkish supported as well and the CENTCOM supported YPG/PKK .......

.@RT_Erdogan: Kurdish forces have not retreated east of Euphrates

Maybe he didn't get the Kurdish PKK/YPG memo about US Special Forces posing as human shields for YPG/PKK?SDF south of the Sanjur?! ...

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/02/2016 - 10:04am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.....if CENTCOM and USA SF are conducting FID with their Kurdish terrorist proxy PKK/YPG...the 3 groups of Arab fighters that gave PKK an "Arab multicultural aspect" which is what CENTCOM has been claiming......

WELL that "Arab fig leaf just crossed over to the Arab Sunni side and joined the FSA/Turkish Jarablus operation......

NOW CENTCOM and USA SF must ask themseleves do they continue to support a purely Kurdish PKK.YPG (PKK is a US/EU named terrorist group) OR simply go home????

After 2 days of tensions, Liwaa al-Tahrir defected from #SDF and joined #FSA's Euphrates Shield in #Jarablus.

Liwaa al-Tahrir leader (SDF/#FSA): "We fought with #YPG 3 years to liberate North #Syria, now they want to end us".

Liwaa al-Tahrir, Liwaa Thuwar al-Raqqah and Sanadid are the only Arab groups in SDF, and they did not fight the FSA.

Syria: Unconfirmed reports saying that Liwaa al-Tahrir (SDF/#FSA) leader trying to flee to #Turkey after #YPG attempts to arrest him.

Liwaa al-Tahrir leader (SDF/#FSA): "Syrian Democratic Forces (#SDF) is supposed to be for all Syrians, but it seems #YPG is against this".

Liwaa al-Tahrir leader (SDF/#FSA): "#YPG ended the food supply to Sanadid group, and now trying to end us and Liwaa Thuwar al-Raqqah".

Looks like in the end CIA had the better understanding about what was going on inside Syria than did CENTCOM/Obama WH...

Bill C.

Wed, 08/31/2016 - 12:33pm

If we are doing FID in Syria -- and thus assisting Assad re: his various internal threats -- then it appears that our current documents/publications re: FID (such as the current iteration of Army Techniques Publication 3-05.2 -- Foreign Internal Defense -- dated August 2015) are already out-of-date/obsolete.


Because these such current documents/publications suggest that FID, today, must be:

a. Focused on helping a friendly host nation transform its state and societies more along modern western political, economic, social, and indeed "value" lines. This, preferably,

b. Via the application of an Internal Defense and Development Plan/Strategy -- designed to help achieve this exact purpose -- that both we and the host nation government have worked on, and developed together, at an earlier date.

Re: these (now outdated/obsolete?) requirements for contemporary FID, consider, for example, the following from Appendix B (Internal Defense and Development Strategy) to our current ATP 3-05.2 (Foreign Internal Defense), referenced above:


The IDAD strategy is the full range of measures taken by a nation to
promote its growth and to protect itself from subversion, lawlessness,
and insurgency. Every nation’s strategy is specific, but the end state
is universal—a responsible and accountable local, state or provincial,
and national government that ensures the personal safety of its citizens
by providing a climate and institutions that demonstrate the ability to
improve their material well-being. In addition, those governments must
ensure the basic freedoms that the world community has come to regard as
fundamental. For the Army planner who has been born in or naturalized
into a nation founded on those principles, one of the fundamental truths
he must remember is that the above end state is frequently contradictory
to the government the HN has experienced in the past or even from its
inception. In some cases, one of the objectives may be to help formulate
an appropriate IDAD strategy. This may mean instilling values that
heretofore have not been present.


Thus, if we are doing FID in Syria today; herein, attempting to help Assad (a non-friend?) deal with his various internal threats (some of whom are attempting -- as we desire -- to transform Syria more along modern western lines?), then it appears that the requirements/the prerequisites dictated by our current FID publications (see "a" and "b" above) are no longer applicable/have been rejected/have been, shall we say, mugged by reality/overcome by events?

This, suggesting that FID, today, can also be seen from the -- odd-ball -- perspective of (a) helping one's enemy (not friend), (b) via a non-plan, worked out, in advance, by no one, (c) deal with his various internal threats (some of whom are, indeed, our friends)?

Relevant "Bottom Line Question," thus, re: our author's suggested Professionalization of Foreign Internal Defense for our SOFs:

With the concept of FID today (a) so-little understood (by all involved/concerned) and (b) in such great flux (as I have outlined above), then should we suggest that a call for professionalization of FID, re: our special operations and/or other forces, this should be seen as premature; this, because it would serve no relevant purpose -- at least at the present time?


Because it appears we simply do not know, today, what FID will look like -- today, tomorrow and/or in the future -- and, thus, we simply not do not know what we should be teaching/training our such forces to be aware of/to do re: FID?

Outlaw 09

Wed, 08/31/2016 - 1:48pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Bill C...notice who provided CAS yesterday for the YPG/SDF attack...certainly not USA SF and the USAF.....

SDF/#YPG attack on Umm Hosh (north of #Aleppo) w/ #Russian air cover yday.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 08/31/2016 - 3:37am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

So again my core the USA SF in the combat FID role they are in now via CENTCOM actually supporting a terrorist group against a CIA supported Syrian moderate proxy group FSA fighting for independence from a genocidal dictator?? is a fair question to ask....

AND it should have been a question raised by USA SF to CENTCOM and Obama the NCA.....

Outlaw 09

Wed, 08/31/2016 - 3:33am

Seems CENTCOM and the Obama WH in their selection of the YPG to be their "favorite" proxy in Syria overlooked this very fine point........APPEARS to prove that both failed to notice that a tiger never loses it's stripes........

Polat Can: once in the mountains with the PKK, now leads America's favorite anti-terrorists

Obama and CENTCOM have taken us back to the 60s when Che was beating the bushes and PLO/PFPL and RAF were on the war path in the ME and Europe...."one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter"

One Man’s Terrorist …

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 30, 2016


Over the last twenty-four hours, as fighting has escalated between Turkey and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), in northern Syria, an YPG/PYD operative has taken to Twitter to protest. Polat Can is the PYD’s representative to the American-led international coalition ranged against the Islamic State (IS), and his missives have sought to inform the coalition who and what terrorism is, which can be broadly summarized as: the Turkish government. Can himself, however, might easily be considered a terrorist since he is an allegedly-former member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a registered terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, and Turkey.

Polat Can was the PYD’s spokesman before taking up his current post after the U.S. began using the PYD as its primary anti-IS instrument inside Syria after the Kobani battle.

Turkey’s relationship with the anti-IS coalition has been troubled, primarily because of the PYD’s involvement (more below), but in the early morning of 24 August the Turks intervened directly in northern Syria to help a consortium of mainstream rebels drive IS from Jarabulus.

The timing of Turkey’s intervention was determined by an IS suicide bombing in Gaziantep on 20 August, but the intervention intended to serve the dual purpose of degrading the IS threat and forestalling the PYD creating a contiguous statelet all along her border. There have since been clashes between Turkish and allied forces with the PYD, and Turkey has launched still-controversial airstrikes against PYD positions.

This was Can’s first tweet last night:

Polat Can 1

To say the rebels Turkey backed in taking Jarabulus “no different from ISIS” is ridiculous. Most of them vetted by the U.S. and under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) brand.

This morning Can added:

Polat Can 2

While Turkey has not supported IS, she has pursued policies that mean IS is stronger now than it otherwise would be. The reticence to be more aggressive against IS is largely a function of the government having other priorities, rather than any desire to see IS remain. There is little appetite in Turkish public opinion for greater involvement in Syria, and the U.S.-enabled expansion of PYD-held areas on Turkey’s border was seen as more threatening, not least because it is more durable. The world will accept a PYD statelet; it will not accept IS’s statelet. The U.S.’s refusal to act against Bashar al-Assad, whom the Turks wish to see toppled, likewise took precedence for a long time. This distance with Washington, experienced by many regional allies, is the cause of many of the more destructive decisions.

Can’s lecture on “eliminating terrorism,” however, is audacious. Can was a member of the PKK, and his being one of the founders of the YPG is not a testament to his moving on but to the PYD’s nature. The official U.S. position is that “the YPG is not connected to the PKK,” but this is unsustainable upon even a cursory look at the facts.

The PYD was set up in 2003 by the PKK as its Syrian branch under the control of its transnational political structure, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). The PYD claims that it only draws inspiration from the PKK’s founder, Abdullah Ocalan (“Apo”), and his ideology, “Democratic Confederalism,” but has no material link to the PKK. In reality, the PKK is not only in political but physical control of the PYD/YPG.

Several thousand PKK fighters moved from the Qandil Mountains to Syria in 2011-12, likely initially under a deal with their old ally in Damascus to sow dissent in the anti-Assad ranks, and then to fortify the PYD-held areas once the regime drew back from them. There are certainly many more PKK operatives in YPG ranks now, many of them Syrians from the time the PKK was an instrument of the Assad regime against Turkey and was allowed to widely recruit in the country, though a recent visitor to northern Syria said the presence of Turkish PKK troops was visible in many areas.

The PYD-regime relationship is complicated but overall very clearly more conciliatory than confrontational, even with recent events in Hasaka City. The regime has retained a considerable presence in PYD-held areas that has only recently been challenged, but the reliance of the PYD on regime services remains. The regime has also not engaged in wholesale aerial bombardment of PYD-held areas, as it has rebel-held areas, an indication that just as the regime saw benefit in IS holding territory, so it is with the PYD.

It was alleged in 2012 that Fehman Hussein (Bahoz Erdal), one of the triumvirate that leads the PKK, was leading the military wing of the PYD. Hussein was reported to have been killed in Syria in July. Hussein is probably alive and also probably in Syria. Hussein is additionally accused of leading the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), which gives the PKK deniability for the more gruesome terrorist attacks in Turkey.

In short, if you believe the PYD and the PKK are unconnected, there could very well be beachfront property in Chad in your future.

The PYD’s nature will sometimes be conceded, but its local focus will be highlighted as a mitigating factor. There are two problems with this. One, as Sam Heller has pointed out, is the troubling parallel it raises with Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda in Syria, which has now rebranded itself as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS) to further its local integration—and al-Qaeda’s agenda. Second, it ignores the unguarded statements of PYD members, who are clear that the PKK’s transnationalism is at best paused: they are starting with Syria but Turkey specifically is next and then all Kurdish-majority areas. In just the last few hours, a pro-PYD journalist, Hussein Omer, has reported that the PKK will begin a wave of attacks inside Turkey if she continues confronting the PYD in Syria, and a PKK leader, Duran Kalkan (Selahattin Abbas) has publicly threatened the same.

Given this, Turkey’s extreme anxiety about a PYD-run statelet on its border looks less irrational—it is not some racist, anti-Kurdish vendetta, but a security concern that any Turkish government, of any ideological character, would share. Same with the annoyance Ankara felt when Brett McGurk, the U.S. representative to the anti-IS coalition, met publicly with Polat Can in northern Syria.

Maybe the PKK should be taken off the terrorism list. Maybe the PYD’s authoritarian governance, which inter alia regards information put out without the approval of the PYD Media Center as “an attempt to deliver information to terrorists,” and its dubious methods of warfare, are just prices we have to pay to defeat IS. Maybe providing political extremists with weapons to fight jihadists that they use against NATO partners and other assets like Syrian rebels should come with some kind of penalty.

There are trade-offs on all points, and supporting the PYD to keep IS out of Kurdish-majority areas is clearly necessary, not least because the PYD have ensured there is no other option. But honesty about the PYD is the starting point analytically, even if political front-groups and legal obfuscation is required operationally.

PYD fighter captured by Faylaq al-Sham, 28 AUG 2016. Patch is a picture of PKK's Abdullah Ocalan ("Apo"), reads: "Apo the Leader".

It should be recognized that while Turkey has taken a dark turn, internally and with some deeply problematic allies and proxies in Syria, this current round of chaos was something Ankara tried hard to avoid. Since June 2015, Turkey tried diplomatically to have the U.S. restrain the PYD’s maximalism, and the PYD serially violated these agreements with no U.S. sanction, even when the PYD employed Russian airstrikes to attack U.S.-supported rebels. Manbij was the final straw and after the White House slow-rolled again earlier this month—either to prevent the operation altogether or to keep the U.S. out of it—Turkey acted alone to enforce her red lines.

The flare-up was inevitable once it reached this point, but the U.S. could have arrived at a sensible PYD-Turkey modus vivendi—and prevented this intervention, whose complications it now decries—had it heeded the concerns of its ally earlier. Still, the U.S. has ratified Turkey’s fait accompli and the situation appears to be stabilizing—albeit with the PYD now making moves from Efrin.

In the meanwhile, the irony can be savoured that the U.S. ignored her own laws against terrorism to invite a PKK operative into a counter-terrorism coalition, and he then accused her allies of being terrorists.


BTW..this author is about one of the best SME's when it comes to understanding Syria and the players on the ground there.....AND he has never been asked his opinion on Syria by either Obama and or CENCTOM...why is that...because just maybe he has a counter view.....


An attempt at (a) putting "the oppressed" and (b) FID -- as relates to certain of "the oppressed" -- in perspective today:

Q: From the point-of-view of the U.S./the West, and re: our "containment"/"roll back" designs in the Old Cold War of yesterday, who were "the oppressed?"

A: Those who -- in the face of then-communist "expansionist" efforts and designs -- wished to retain, or to regain, their own individual and unique ways of life, their own individual and unique ways of governance and their own individual and unique values, attitudes and beliefs. (Example: the Afghans?) Or, who wished to adopt modern western such attributes. (In both cases above, these such entities being prevented from achieving their hearts desire by the Soviets/the communists, and/or by their communist-backed supporters/rulers/overseers.)

Q: From the perspective of the U.S./the West "expansionist" designs in the New/Reverse Cold War of today, who are thought of now as "the oppressed?"

A: Only those who (a) wish to adopt modern western ways of life, modern western ways of governance and modern western values, attitudes and beliefs only and (b) are prevented from doing so by their non-western/non-western-backed rulers/overseers.

Q: What of those who -- in the New/Reverse Cold War of today -- much as was the case with the Old Cold War of yesterday -- simply wish to retain, or to regain, their own individual and unique ways of life, their own individual and unique ways of governance and their own individual and unique values, attitudes and beliefs? (Again, the Afghans?) Or, who wish to attain other, different-from-the-West such attributes? (But, in all cases above, are prevented from doing so by the U.S./the West and/or by their U.S./Western-backed rulers/overseers?)

A: These such folks -- re: the U.S./the West "expansionist" designs in the New/Reverse Cold War of today -- and much as was the case with the Soviets/the communists and re: their "expansionist" designs in the Old Cold War of yesterday -- ARE NOT considered to be "the oppressed. Rather, these such folks -- by both to the Soviets/the communists back then and by the U.S./the West today -- were/are considered, at best, as simply "misguided" and, at worst, as "the deadly enemy"/"the clear and present danger"/the folks that stand directly in one's way. (And, thus, as the folks that clearly must be "dealt with" -- in one way or another.)

Q: Foreign Internal Defense, thus, in the either -- or more correctly both -- of the "Cold War" "expansionist" contexts outlined above?

A: Designed to help the Host Nation "deal with" such -- "non-oppressed" -- individuals and groups as have been described/noted in the "Q" and "A" paragraphs immediately above?

Outlaw 09

Wed, 08/31/2016 - 3:25am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C....a short answer to your comment can be summed up in about five major points which I will post later....

ALL actions by the Obama WH, CENTCOM and USA SF advising the known PKK terror group via their fig leaf YPG/SDF......AND I would go a step further and state the YPG has often worked together with IS in the past year against the CIA proxy FSA and that alone should have been picked up on by their SF it was picked up on by the CIA....

ALL HAVE in fact actively supported the Assad regime to remain in power....not the opposite as many seem to think....

Check my next posting which sums up that view......

And remember the old political saying of the 60s...."one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter"....

BTW...something to think about....the PKK from it's inception as a Stalinist/Leninist left terror group has NEVER changed it's tiger stripes even today it still holds to those 60/70s principles....check their twitter comments....

BUT the so called rebranding of the Syrian AQ group JaN into JFS which many in the US said did not occur....should really go back and follow their internal debates bitter at times on that rebranding and theoretical/religious debates and in the end the radicals left and the JFS if it continues to evolve might in fact be something worth watching in the coming year or two on how does a perceived jihadi group evolve into a Salafist moderate group and how does it interact with the civil society from which it needs support....

PKK has never had that discussion and debate level....

Something to think about....


As per your thoughts and comments below:

Correct me if I am wrong, but should we not see the United States' overall efforts in and around Syria today more from the standpoint of DESTABILIZING the Assad government?

Thus, our (CIA, SOFs, etc.) efforts today in Syria to be considered as being more consistent with an UNCONVENTIONAL WARFARE mission and role?

Only if the United States' efforts in Syria were:

a. Designed to SHORE-UP, SUPPORT AND STABILIZE the Assad government vis-a-vis an internal threat. And, this,

b. As per an Internal Defense and Development Plan/Strategy that both he and we, together, had worked on and devised.

Only then might we consider our (CIA, SOFs, etc.) efforts in Syria more from the FOREIGN INTERNAL DEFENSE perspective?

(In this regard, consider the information -- and specifically the Figure 1 chart -- offered by GEN Votel, et al., at the link provided below:… )

Possible/Potential "Bottom Line:"

Thus, while the goal of the United States is, indeed, to transform Syria more along modern western political, economic and social lines, the fact that the Assad government appears to oppose and stand in the way of both we, and segments of his own population, achieving this exact objective, this makes this more of an UW, rather than FID, mission?

(Potential monkey wrench that I can throw into my own thoughts above? What about ISIS? Are we [a] helping Assad defeat this internal threat? And, if so, does this [b] constitute some kind of odd-ball/weird -- preliminary -- FID role?)

Outlaw 09

Tue, 08/30/2016 - 4:00am

Bill is the example of the CIA's version of FID hard at work vs that of CENTCOM and USA SF....the CIA accepts the ground reality and works towards a firm removal of Assad as the key to unlocking the Syrian nightmare and it works with what it has determined to be "moderates" not what the Obama WH and CENTCOM has determined "moderates look like" ...IE Kurds....

The Syrian opposition has always and repeatedly stated to the US over the entire last five us in kicking out Assad THEN we will kick out IS....

NOW reread all the FID doctrine and you will notice that is exactly what FID is all is that simple...why make it harder than it really is....??

This is the Syrian ground reality that the Obama WH OR CENTCOM simply does not understand nor wants to fully it defies the rational/logical thinking Obama.....AND apparently CENTCOM as well

Crazy in #Hama yday ...
If one thing unites moderates and islamist extremists, it's #Assad.

He makes the shaved guy with the Victory sign and the spooky guy with the Schahāda flag fight together, no matter their differences.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 08/30/2016 - 3:02am

Bill C....this more than confirms what some of us over on the Syrian thread have been saying and questioning.....

So it now fully appears that CENTCOM for whatever reasons FULLY sided with the Kurdish proxy YPG....ALL the while knowingly accepting that they are part and parcel of the US designated terror group PKK....

It was actually simple to see....check the 1979 PKK logo/flag and then compare it today to the logo/flag of starters....

We now have the historically unique example of how DoD/CENTCOM actually supported the Obama WH ME strategy of "doing nothing stupid" BUT that support placed USA SF fully on the "wrong side"...AND YET we saw no pushback from USA SF itself.

Thus my comments on the apparent fact currently USA SF has no clear vision of what exactly FID is....or simply put USA SF has "an identity crisis"...

On the other side we have CIA fully supporting the "correct side" YET USA SF is not supporting them...and believe me from the ME SMEs many comments the CIA fully understands each and every player on the ground inside Syria and their supporters.

WHY is that?

THIS came in this morning here in Europe and confirms in fact that the USA SF supported Obama "fig leaf" of a Syrian FP has completely fallen....

BTW this is one of the leading independent not tied to anyone MS SMEs that USA SF and CENTCOM could have asked for input before launching into space...they are out there and will answer any question put to them...put they were not asked...why??

Charles Lister Verified account 
Charles Lister Retweeted Sarkawt Shams

Senior PKK leader says *more* forces will be sent to N Syria to fight Turkey

But I thought YPG was different?

Telling comment after the same PKK leader admitted yesterday his PKK troops have been fighting in N Aleppo for awhile YPG troops.....

AND CENTCOM/USA SF did not see this?...come on .......

Outlaw 09

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 3:39pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Is CENTCOM paying attention to this PKK Statement from today..virtually admitting that their forces are in norther Aleppo area.......they are just hidden in YPG and SDF uniforms

PKK: If #Turkey's attack on Rojava continue, #PKK to deploy more forces there. We are ready to do everything to defend it - @SarkawtShams

REMEMBER Russia recently admitted to sending PKK weapons

Outlaw 09

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 1:40pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill is the honest truth about this article.....we can have FID theoritical debates, FID debates using doctrine and even debates using military publications..BUT here is the ground reality of the current USA SF combat FID ops mission inside Syria....right this minute on the evening of 29.8.2016......

US Army SF is now caught between the CIA supported Arab Sunni proxy FSA and the CENTCOM supported Kurdish proxy YPG which is just a fig leaf for the terroist group PKK....which has been ethnically cleansing all Arab areas they have captured......

SO who is the idot that put them in that position?????

Originally Posted by OUTLAW 09 View Post
Wait ... what?
Didn't #Putin say, Kurds are good?!
Now they are just pro-#US "terrorists".

Seems like the latest #Putin-#Erdogan pact is more serious than we thought ...
Russian state media turns YPG & FSA around into "terrorists".

Russia wants influence in #Syria & the #US getting humiliated.
MAYBE #Putin realised,this won't work with #Assad ...
Now,he has a new ally.

But we have to see how this works out.
If the first Russian plane bombs for the #FSA in the north, guessing turns reality.

DOD: We want to make clear that we find these clashes -- in areas where #ISIL is not located -- unacceptable and a source of deep concern.

And you are serious?! ...
Your guys (SDF/YPG) do not withdraw and Turkey considers them terrorists.
Too predictable.

WHAT eight year old inside DoD and CENTCOM is creating US FP right now????

Looking at #Aleppo province, there is only one force, NOT fighting #ISIS since 8 months ...
Guess who.


Dear @OIRSpox,
if you can reach @PolatCanRojava, would you please inform him,he is part of the #YPG/#Turkey deal?!..

Meaning...withdraw east of the Eurphates.....

RIGHT now there is nothing in Army FID doctrine that covers this situation which will get SF personnel killed if this continues as it has the last 72 hours......

SO again the core question...what idot thought this FP up inside DoD and CENTCOM????

Bill C.

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 12:52pm

Consider the following initial paragraph from Appendix B (Internal Defense and Development Strategy), to the current (August 2015) edition of Army Techniques Publication 3-05.2 - Foreign Internal Defense:


The IDAD strategy is the full range of measures taken by a nation to promote its
growth and to protect itself from subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency. Every
nation’s strategy is specific, but the end state is universal—a responsible and
accountable local, state or provincial, and national government that ensures the
personal safety of its citizens by providing a climate and institutions that
demonstrate the ability to improve their material well-being. In addition, those
governments must ensure the basic freedoms that the world community has come to
regard as fundamental. For the Army planner who has been born in or naturalized
into a nation founded on those principles, one of the fundamental truths he must
remember is that the above end state is frequently contradictory to the government
the HN has experienced in the past or even from its inception. In some cases, one
of the objectives may be to help formulate an appropriate IDAD strategy. This may
mean instilling values that heretofore have not been present.


Thus, in sum, and in other words:

a. FID's goal and objective today is to help the U.S./the West achieve its grand political objective for outlying states and societies, to wit: the transformation of these outlying states and societies more along modern western political, economic and social lines? Herein:

b. The Host Nation's Internal Defense and Development Strategy -- correctly formulated -- to specifically provide for and explicitly service these U.S./Western foreign policy goals/objectives?

This suggesting that then-MAJ (now-COL?) Jeffery N. James' thoughts (at his paper I have referenced and provided below) -- that FID today has more to do with "nation-building" and less to do with "national assistance" in the old classic sense (we could love dictators back then) -- was indeed correct/was spot-on?

These such changes to best be understood as per our formal transition from "containing communism" -- in the Old Cold War of yesterday -- to "advancing market-democracy" -- in our post-Cold War strategic environment of today?

This such change being formally announced -- as then-MAJ James carefully and correctly notes in his paper (see the bottom of Pg 12) -- with President Clinton's introduction of his 1996 Engagement and Enlargement Strategy?

Attempting to come full circle now:

Thus, specifically, in the context and via the information provided above, to consider the questions posed by our author of this thread re: "Special Operations Forces and the Professionalization of Foreign Internal Defense" today?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 6:35am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

JUST how can this could have happened....??

CIA-backed rebels and Pentagon-backed Kurdish militia are again fighting in Syria. But this time Turkey's involved:…

AND the senior leadership of the USA SF never stopped to ask.....nor apparently got reports from the field questioning the deployment of SF to support PKK....

Maybe they need to read social media feeds more has been there for over FIVE long years posted by some of the best non DC/DoD paid talking they are viewed as true SMEs on Syria and the ME....

Sad...really sad....

Outlaw 09

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 2:19am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Two examples of what I am saying.......

Children in celebration of their liberation from #ISIS by the #FSA (Turaykham).

At the same time after YPG had taken Arab Sunni villages and towns the local Arabs were deported, houses looted (clear signs of ethnic cleansing) and the local Arabs immediately began calling for the FSA to come to their rescue....

NONE of this was evidently reported by the field ODA teams...why not??

Outlaw 09

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 2:11am

This might be taken as a "provocative statement" but the SF of my former days in the 60s was tied to the hip of the CIA....and from them we received some of the finest analysis products available written by knowledgeable analysts with years of experience in their fields...remember we were not the "info generation"...we had to read and fully understand in our brief backs the political minefields/players we were heading into.

There are some advantages to simply when we deployed we "understood immediately what we were seeing on the ground"....

Secondly, our FID and UW went hand in hand in those days today it appears SF has an "identity crisis" as to what it really is...we did not have that problem and we thoroughly believed in the motto "To Free the Oppressed".....AND we had national leaders who defined a national level strategy for anything...what do we have today...."do nothing stupid".....

Right now there is some serious disconnect between DoD/CENTCOM and the CIA in Syria and if the below Syrian thread comments are in fact accurate the SF of today has gotten "suckered into supporting the wrong side" WHICH would have not been the case in the 60s.....

YPG fighters wearing the logo/picture of the PKK leader and dedicating their victories to the PKK leader would have been a major red flag and run up the flag pole immediately to the Agency...asking the core question.."just what the hell are we doing supporting a terrorist group"???

"Further guidance requested immediately...."

Originally Posted by OUTLAW 09 View Post

YPG gave #US Airforce wrong coordinates to bomb Arab villages. 100s of Arab Sunni civilians were killed.

Especially a Manbij school house being used as an IDP facility killing over 100 civilians which the USAF has never reviewed even after claiming they would review the incident.....coordinates for that strike allegedly came from YPG forward observers....YPG claimed immediately afterwards those killed were ALL IS fighters..not women and children...


So while SDF and US SOF was busy "capturing Manbij"...the PKK was taking over every Arab Sunni village and town in their path to the Afrin Canton.....

Syria #Raqqa Kurdish #YPG deported all residents of Tal Osman

AND CENTCOM did not see this happening??????

Crowbat comment

You 'don't understand' a few things here, Outlaw.

A.) This (including ethnic cleansing of Sunni Arabs, obviously) was all 'higher US national interest', and

B.) the Pentagon and the CENTCOM declared the PK... erm... YPG for 'most reliable anti-Daesh ally'.

Read: they were left to do whatever they wanted. It didn't matter.

But good the US SOFs were so proudly wearing their insignia, wasn't it...?

THAT in a nutshell is why there is an "identity crisis" over FID inside SF....they cannot even figure out the players on the ground much less understand their political drivers...and fully understand that they got "suckered".....

One can say all you want but being tied to the hip of the CIA would have avoided all of this....hate to say it now it appears DoD/CENTCOM have gone the way of the failures of DIA......

In late 70 my ODA turned down....yes you could do that in the early 70s..turned down a mission set because we did not agree with the guidance issued by the CIA/DoS based on our combined team experiences in the realm of FID...GUESS what the mission set was then modified to match our requests....can a SF ODA do that today?...not really....

There can be something said for "traditions"......and "To Free the Oppressed".....THAT is if the ODA can even figure out who the "oppressed are" and why?????

Sad... really sad...thousands are paying with their lives in Syria for these it very clear who is the "Oppressed are" and who the "Oppresser is".....and SF ends up on the wrong can that happen??

Regarding a number of points/issues raised by Bill M. and COL Maxwell below, I found the following 2008 paper, entitled: "Understanding Contemporary Foreign Internal Defense and Military Advisement: Not Just a Semantic Exercise," by MAJ Jeffery N. James, U.S. Army, interesting:

This paper suggests, in essence, that FID, today -- and because of such things as 9/11 -- has much less to do with "national assistance" and much more to do with "nation-building."


"The Nunn-Cohen amendment to the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act legislatively directed Foreign Internal Defense as a core task for U.S. Special Operations Forces. From that time until the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the majority of U.S. SOF led FID operations were in direct support, not involving combat, providing training and advisory assistance to a host nation. The majority of these programs involved, joint and multinational exercises, exchange programs, and humanitarian de-mining.

However, the post 9/11 security environment created a change to the indirect nature of military assistance. In practice, U.S. foreign policy shifted from nation assistance to nation building and thus changed the nature of FID application.

The change in the security environment forced the United States to provide military assistance to failed, failing, or new states. This differed from the original logic of providing support to established states with capable militaries.

These aforementioned weak states did not have the national security infrastructure to guide and maintain their own security. This change is a major friction point as it is contrary to current military doctrinal guidance that states FID efforts support a host nation’s Internal Defense and Development strategy.

An IDAD strategy is the “full range of measures taken by a nation to promote its growth and to protect itself from subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency. It focuses on building viable institutions that respond to the needs of society.” This preemptive strategy blends the four functions of balanced development, security, neutralization and mobilization to prevent or counter an emerging threat.

Based on the prerequisite that a host nation must have or be capable of producing an IDAD strategy, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) did not meet one of the major doctrinally based prerequisites for the application of FID.


It appears that the powers-that-be have decided that FID must "get with the program;" which, in essence, and as our author points out above, is to support "nation-building" -- specifically: the transformation of outlying states and societies more along modern western political, economic and social lines.

Thus, and from this exact "nation-building" perspective, to understand GEN Votel's recent (November 2015) comments, re: Somalia, etc., below:


He pointed to Somalia as a successful albeit imperfect example of what happens when commandos take the initiative in the Gray Zone. In this case, training and bolstering the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia created to help take on insurgent groups and shore up civilian government control.

“We recognized that with a little bit of assistance from Special Operations Forces from the United States, a relatively small footprint, that we could really enable and help them and move forward,” said Votel. “And we were able to do that. And we were able to start that early and we were able to get our political leadership behind it. We were able to explain to them what the opportunity was. They saw it and they allowed us to get in there and do that and it’s allowed the African Union forces in Somalia to be much more effective.”

Votel acknowledges that it is no panacea.

“They’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “It’s certainly not perfect. It is Somalia and they’ve had a lot of challenges for a lot of years. But, today, they’ve got an elected president. They’ve got a parliament. They’ve got a constitution. They are now establishing a national army. And those are all good and positive things.

“Again, it’s not perfect, it’s far from perfect, but it is about identifying those types of opportunities and getting them teed up and then trying to move forward on them.”…


Bottom Line:

FID thus, now and today, being applied and understood more in terms of "nation-building;" this, rather than in old, outdated, "nation-assistance" terms?

And, thus, more in terms of helping the new/weak states and societies of the world (as GEN Votel so carefully points out above?) (a) get started and (b) "move forward" re: adopting modern western political, economic and social norms?

Bill M.

Sun, 08/28/2016 - 2:39pm

In reply to by Dave Maxwell

Seems like we're in general agreement on the important topics, the most important is your last sentence, "our problems cannot be addressed without a strategy." The Army and SOF (perhaps the other services) have become a force that engages in random acts of touching via submitting CONOPs that do not align with a plan or strategy. Instead they're based on what we can do, or worse, on what we have become comfortable doing. There is seldom deep analysis, and too many senior leaders, to include a former leader of SOCOM who brag about not planning, and not reading strategies and plans. Amazing when a former leader of SOCOM stated he never read the national counterterrorism strategy or subordinate DoD campaign plan, yet he would complain about the lack of interagency support? Maybe we should start with the existing interagency strategy and DoD plan as a basis to deviate from? IMO, DoD is as much at fault in these issues as any other interagency member, but I digress.

FID doctrine could be adapted to address external threats to a nation, but I think that would have put overall logic of FID doctrine as risk. Defeating subversion, insurgency, etc. is quite different than defeating a conventional force. On the other hand, most of our adversaries precede their conventional attacks with subversion and sabotage, so we need to understand that continuum. We already have a larger category called “nation assistance” that covers the full continuum, so perhaps we should develop a Capstone document focused on Nation Assistance with FID and external defense as sub documents, along with TTP manuals on best practices for delivering that assistance?

ADM Olson had a lot of good ideas; unfortunately, many of those ideas didn't gain traction and became missing in action. When the counterterrorist crowd took over SOCOM, they increasingly viewed the utility of SOF through a CT lens only. The full spectrum of how SOF can be applied to a number of our strategic challenges beyond CT is notably absent. When you look at SOF’s founding documents, they were strategic and intellectual. Now they are increasingly dumbed down to find, fix, and finish as a strategic approach, instead of as a supporting tactical way to a much more comprehensive effort.

I think you made a great point about the Army's focus on SFA. "The Army in particular wanted to focus solely on military training (to include building military institutions). In the end 95% of the SFA doctrine is built on the military component of FID and SFA leaves out the holistic interagency approach to helping friends, partners, and allies, defend themselves (against lawless, subversion, insurgency, and terrorism - and we could have added external threats)." SFA should have been focused on building partner capacity, albeit across the whole of government in a coordinate manner with interagency partners, while FID should have provided the strategic and operational level approach that would tie actions to political ends. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and as we heard repeatedly during GWOT the success metric was how many soldiers and units the army trained, apparently void of any comprehensive approach and true measures of effectiveness. And we wonder why we fail?

Agree this isn't the fault of FID, we don't follow the doctrine to begin with. I'm not sure where else FID is taught outside of Special Forces training? It needs to be taught to a collective interagency audience at the graduate level, so we all have the same lexicon and understanding the larger strategic aspects of insurgency, subversion, terrorism, etc., and how the U.S. can assist a nation counter them. Of course that understanding must evolve based on our evolving knowledge of the local situation where it is being applied.

It is frustrating to no end that we have evolved to his point, and one of the under recognized dangers of the long war is that the current way has become a new norm for the majority of our forces from E-1 to O-6/7. The gray beards for the most part that could bring balance back into the fold are out of the ranks now. The younger ones frequently don't know what is wrong, so they default to more CONOPs doing more of the same.

Dave Maxwell

Sun, 08/28/2016 - 9:09am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill: I do not think that FID became doctrine until post-Vietnam.

But in regards to SFA we have long provided training to friends, partners, and allies to help them defend themselves against external threats. That is part of national strategy and security assistance. Look at our global JCS exercises and the multitude of partner engagements all four services have conducted for decades to improve interoperability with the US and improve the self defense capabilities.

The problem with SFA was that original construct which still persists in the subconscious of building partner capacity, train, advise, and assist, the light footprint, etc is that we are going to train foreign forces to fight in the war on terrorism to accomplish our objectives. That was removed from the first iteration of the doctrine but it has always provided the psychological foundation for those who want to practice SFA. E.g., train Georgians to fight for us in Iraq and Afghanistan (and of course we couch it as interoperability with the coalition so that they can be effective in the GWOT working with the US)

FID doctrine could have easily been adapted to address external threats to a friend, partner, or ally. The institutional aspect of SFA that many hang their hat on could have been added to FID (though it already existed in SA) We did not need to waste the time

I would have been a supporter of SFA had ADM Olson's vision become the foundation. His idea was to bring together Title 10 FID doctrine, funding, and authorities with Title 22 security assistance doctrine, funding, and authorities and make effective and efficient the two titles so that there could be a holistic approach to strategy rather than the piecemeal application of Title 10 FID and Title 22 Security Assistance. But the Army in particular wanted to focus solely on military training (to include building military institutions). In the end 95% of the SFA doctrine is built on the military component of FID and SFA leaves out the holistic interagency approach to helping friends, partners, and allies, defend themselves (against lawless, subversion, insurgency, and terrorism - and we could have added external threats)

But in the end we do not need the doctrine as much as we need the strategy. We can argue about FID and SFA and all the other things we have invented in post-911 but it is strategy that has has been lacking. The military has tried to apply myriad ways within its capabilities (both SOF and Regular Forces) but there has not been the integrated and holistic strategy with all the instruments of national power orchestrated in such a way that there is balance and coherency among ends, ways, and means. To get back to the original article, this is not the fault of FID. FID has not "failed" we have failed to develop adequate strategy. Whether it is FID or SFA or a combination our problems cannot be addressed without a strategy.

Bill M.

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 11:11pm

FID should be limited to providing support to a partner or host nation to free and protect their societies from subversion, lawlessness, insurgency, terrorism, and other threats to their security. Ideally that partner has an internal defense and development plan (by whatever name) that we can assist the partner with, so we’re not defaulting to tactics that don’t have a larger purpose. It is strategic in scope, and ideally the military’s role is subordinate to other elements of national power. FID does not provide a strategic or operational approach to assist partners protect themselves against conventional and nuclear military threats to their security. I disagree with Dave's argument that we didn't need Security Force Assistance (SFA) doctrine. FID doctrine didn’t provide a doctrinal approach for training partners to protect themselves against a conventional military threat, or to participate in multilateral operations outside their borders, or to participate in peace keeping operations, and to conduct a host of other activities that are not FID.

If Dave’s point is that we could have leveraged the lessons from FID to build upon to provide that assistance, I agree. Just like small unit tactics (SUT) can be employed to address a wide range of missions. SUT can support conventional combat, FID, UW, CT, and other operations. SFA can support FID, UW, Peacekeeping, multinational operations, etc. I can't recall reading any FID doctrine that explained how to organize and conduct training for foreign troops (it may be there, I just don't recall seeing it). I learned that from my team sergeants years ago and lot of practice over time.

The U.S. military has been conducting FID for decades, but it really came into its own as a lexicon in 1961/2 period (not after Vietnam) when JFK published NSAM No 182, which was policy guidance to the interagency on how the U.S. would support partners with their internal defense. It was focused on countering communist insurgencies. We do that less now, and instead conduct FID principally to counter narcoterrorists, terrorists, and Islamic extremism. In the future we’ll probably help nations counter different internal threats. However, the basis of the FID doctrine still seems relative sound to me.

Some interesting reading at this link (short read) about NSAM No 182 at this link:

To a large degree the following four excerpts are still true:

Quote “The U.S. role should run the gamut from “Immunization of vulnerable societies not yet seriously threatened by communist subversion or insurgency” through defeat of “subversive insurgency in countries actively threatened by assisting the government under attack with military as well as non-military means.”
“U.S. strategy should not “assume a stance against revolution, per se, as an historical means of change.” Therefore non-Communist insurgency should be “examined on its merits in the light of U.S. interests.”
U.S. forces in counterinsurgency, military assistance, preparation of military sections of country defense plans, and the support of civilian and military counterinsurgency programs in affected countries with the assistance of AID and CIA.
Annex A requires the Department of Defense to “support the CIA in clandestine operations assigned to that agency” and to be “prepared to execute assigned paramilitary operations, wholly or partly covert, which require significant numbers of militarily trained personnel, amounts of military equipment, or military experience of a kind and level peculiar to the Armed Services.” End Quote

Addressing Matt’s arguments:

Matt wrote FID is facing serious challenges and lists Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq. My counter argument is these are not really FID in the truest since. In each of these of these countries we overthrew, or helped to overthrow, the existing regime, and then supported a proxy government that doesn’t have legitimacy. The success of FID depends largely upon the success of the host nation government to govern, and if they refuse to govern effectively to address the problems that are driving the divide between the opposition and the government. No matter how many DoD FID experts you bring into the fray we won’t overcome this policy shortfall with FID. If the matter is important enough to us, we can assist the government conduct a conventional war like strategy to crush the opposition, but that isn’t FID policy or doctrine, then we’re doing something else.

I think Matt’s use of Iraq’s 8th Army Division missed the mark widely. That wasn’t a FID failure, it was an Iraqi government failure to sustain the organization. The government also removed many effective senior officers and replaced them with proxy Shia thugs who were largely corrupt and incompetent, but they weren’t a potential threat to the regime.
Matt argues the U.S. has a poor record predicting the next crisis that will require U.S. support. Maybe, or maybe not, I have been surprised by some, but not too many events based on my reading of government assessments. As one former CIA director said, we’re good at strategic warning, but bad at tactical warning. I was in Tunisia a few years prior to Arab Spring, and those who paid attention to these things in the U.S. Embassy across the board said it was only a matter of time before the country exploded if the government didn’t reform. When you walked the streets you could sense the tension, and in the night markets some weren’t shy to tell you how much they hated the government. That was strategic warning, then it imploded and we were surprised by the event (tactical warning), not that it happened. I think in other areas, based on government assessments, we may have actually made a difference left of bang, but we can never know that with certainty. Globalization and information technology have certainly changed the paradigm, and I agree it is more complex, and more often than not it seems we can’t address security problems within the bounds of one nation, so is it time to revamp our FID doctrine to address this?

Matt recommended a SOF FID Officer who has local experience and relationships will be invaluable to the information environment of the SOF decision makers and planners during the onset of deteriorating stability. I agree this could be valuable, but what we really need to make this effective is a FID Czar that coordinates FID across the country team and ideally a higher element that addresses FID regionally. That person needs to be a civilian, whether it is a special appointee, or someone within the State Department that is knowledgeable on this type of conflict and what is required to counter it.

I think the most important point that Matt made, and you won’t see it in Title 10, is that USSOF members are uniquely qualified to be “warrior-diplomats,” he needs to include PSYOP and Civil Affairs in this mix. Quoting from his article, developing a “warrior diplomat is a nontrivial process involving far more than just learning a language and a few behavioral do’s and don’ts.” This is, or what should separate, SOF from conventional forces in the conduct of FID/UW or any other operation. Experts in the human domain, not just dominating one of the physical domains. Unfortunately it is non-tangible, it can’t be measured, and it is hard to specify this capability when you’re requesting forces, but it is a capability or trait, that can be decisive.

In sum, I agree with his proposal, but disagree with much of his logic leading to his proposal.

Dave Maxwell

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 4:40pm

In reply to by J Harlan

J Harlen,

I think have a very narrow view and I think you probably think SFA is the superior activity.

I am not and never have advocated that SOF be the main force in large scale FID. It is one component. Note the definition of FID says civilian and military agencies - it does not say SOF. Part of the confusion is of course that FID is a designated SOF activity per section 167 of Title 10. But all the activities are designated as SOF activities insofar as they pertain to special operations - meaning when SOF (forces designated by the SECDEF) execute them they are SOF activities. The intent of Congress was not to make these activities SOF exclusive. FID in particular (but also civil affairs and humanitarian assistance - yes humanitarian assistance is a Title 10 SOF activity, as is theater search and rescue and counterterrorism, should be accepted beyond SOF. Regular forces have had no trouble adopting and conducting humanitarian assistance and counterterrorism. Why could the Regular Forces not adopt FID?

When the initial develop of SFA was ongoing an SFA fundamentals document was published and below is a chart to compare FID and SFA. Later SFA doctrine came to focus only on the military component up to and including assisting building institutional level forces (which of course the US military (and contractors) had already been doing in the Balkans in the 1990's without SFA doctrine). We tried to argue that rather than developing new SFA doctrine existing FID doctrine could be expanded and tweaked to meet the needs of the entire force. But I think the mindset that FID was a SOF exclusive activity persisted and continues to persist (as in minds like the authors below).

Of course the real problem with FID is that it is a military construct with the military playing a less that dominant role but with no other agency buying into it and no one responsible for orchestrating the strategy that integrates the economic and governance pieces.

We should also remember why FID exists. Post-Vietnam with the purge of COIN from the Army, some enterprising doctrine writers developed it to save COIN without calling it COIN as well as constructing it in such a way that would try to ensure (or force) a holistic approach to the problem of insurgency (and lawless, subversion and later we added terrorism to the definition) with the critical participation by civilian agencies. (Kind of like the belief our establishment of the AVF and putting significant force structure in the reserves so that a call-up would be required thus forcing buy-in by the American people). While SOF adopted FID the rest of the military was at best lukewarm to it or was happy to leave it to those SOF guys and the civilian agencies of the USG never bought into it (of course there is no forcing function to make the other agencies buy into it). It might have been good in theory but without the buy-in (or direction from leadership at the top) FID is a figment of our imagination (though I remain a true believer in its utility and think we need to continue to beat the drum and that it should be adopted by more than SOF).

Bill M.

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 3:22pm

In reply to by J Harlan

J. Harlan,

Having spent the majority of my adult in life in Special Forces, you may find it surprising that I agree with you up to a point. That point is that Special Forces often enable partner nations with exceptional tactical skills relevant to the FID mission. They don't own the FID mission, and in fact they never have, so where I disagree is that our nation's failures are due to SOF handling FID. We don't handle FID, we support it.

Title 10 states the following:

"(j) Special Operations Activities. - For purposes of this section, special operations activities include each of the following insofar as it relates to special operations" Then it lists our core activities, one of which is FID. What many seem to gloss over, is for all activities, whether it is FID, UW, CT, etc., it is as it relates to special operations!

The implication is obvious, other components of DoD also conduct these missions (or should), and normally interagency partners are in the lead. There were several errors in the article, but take away the SOF bias and I think the author is pointing to a gap in our current structure and approach to FID. This is an important topic, I'll try to revisit it later today.

J Harlan

Sat, 08/27/2016 - 9:57am

FID has largely failed for two reasons.

1) It's been handled by SF. SF build rifle companies not armies. It trains junior people to handle weapons and minor tactics. That's not an army. The vital framework of an army- personnel, logistics, communications, medicine, maintenance- is usually ignored or given short shift. That stuff isn't glamorous but it's far more important than another day on the range practicing transitions.

2) SF doesn't provide the long term intensive training for mid level officers (think Soviet high level academies they sent Afghans to by the thousands)that builds armies. This is vastly more important than training privates to shoot.

From the author's concluding paragraph above:


"The simple fact is our long term efforts to promote global stability are not working. In the late 1990’s, al-Qai’da amounted to a few hundred radical Islamists renting land from the Taliban government. Today, groups that have embraced al-Qai’da’s radical Islamist ideology physically control territory in at least seven countries. The challenges of the 21st century FID efforts have made it evident that FID requires and deserves an independent professional SOF work force to counter present and future vehicles of instability, including al-Qai’da and a multitude of other current and potential threats."


The goal and mission of those seeking to promote and achieve the transformation of the other states and societies of the world -- this, more along these "expansionist" nations' often alien and profane political, economic and social lines (think the Soviets/the communists back-in-the-day; think the U.S./the West today) -- the goal and mission of these such nations, obviously, IS NOT -- first and foremost -- to "promote global stability."

Rather these entities (the Soviets/the communists back then; the U.S./the West today) clearly understand, appreciate and accept (or they should) that:

a. In order to achieve their such worldwide "transformational" goals and objectives, re: other states and societies, then

b. "Global stability" will need to be sacrificed.

It is in this context (to wit: that we clearly understand, appreciate and knowingly accept that "global stability" must be sacrificed in order to achieve the political, economic and social changes in other states and societies that we require) that one must come to understand, today, such things as how:

"In the late 1990’s, al-Qai’da amounted to a few hundred radical Islamists renting land from the Taliban government. Today, groups that have embraced al-Qai’da’s radical Islamist ideology physically control territory in at least seven countries."

In the Old Cold War of yesterday, when the Soviets/the communists sought to promote the world-wide "transformation" of the other states and societies more along communist political, economic and social lines; the U.S./the West, back then, (correctly?) saw the massive deterioration of "global stability" through the lens of such Soviet/communist "expansionist" efforts and designs. (FID, and SOF support for same,thus, often being applied to achieve "containment," and "roll back," of communism back then?)

Thus, not to see the current massive deterioration of "global stability" -- that we are witnessing today -- through a similar lens (in this case, as per U.S./Western contemporary "expansionist" efforts and designs); this would seem to be dishonest, illogical and dangerous.

Why? Because such an error would seem to prevent us from understanding, for example, exactly what the mission of FID, and SOF in support of same, would seem to be today, to wit:

a. To help friendly local governments ACHIEVE the world-wide "transformation" of their, and other, states and societies of the world; this, more along modern western political, economic and social lines. And to:

b. Help these such friendly local governments DEAL WITH the massive resistance -- and the massive instability (both locally and globally; just look at our world today) that routinely comes with a great nation's/a great power's pursuit of such massively objectionable (and thus massively disruptive?) objectives.

Bottom Line Thought:

If "promoting global stability" (via the transformation of outlying states and societies of the world more along modern western political, economic and social lines) is what we are doing in the New/Reverse Cold War of today,

Then "promoting global stability" -- by transforming the outlying states and societies of the world more along communist political, economic and social lines -- this would seem to be what the Soviets/the communists were doing back in the Old Cold War of yesterday.

Neither such entity, thus, seeing themselves as being responsible for the massive global instability, chaos, suffering, etc., that occurs on their, respective, "expansionist" watches?

Dave Maxwell

Thu, 08/25/2016 - 6:21am

Have we really executed a strategy that employs FID as one of the ways in the last 15 years? Sure we have in few places such as Colombia and the Philippines. But has we been executing FID in Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Iraq, and Afghanistan, among other places? Why did we create Security Force Assistance? Building Partner Capacity? Train, Advise, and Assist? We have spent years talking around FID. Have we had an interagency approach to FID? (Note the definition in the very beginning of the essay, i.e., civilian and military agencies) Why are we "blaming" FID? FID sensitivities aside the author does offer some very interesting ideas. Obviously I believe we need to invest in FID capabilities. However, note that the only time "strategy" is in this essay is in a footnote in reference to an IDAD strategy. I think the author misses the real problem we have and that is our lack of a strategy with balance and coherency among ends, ways, and means.