Special forces talk resilience and regional competition

Special forces talk resilience and regional competition

FORUM Staff

Special operations forces (SOF) personnel, policymakers and academics gathered February 4-6, 2020, in Monterey, California, to discuss challenges associated with countering revisionist states and a renewed great power competition.

With a heavy focus on power competition with the People’s Republic of China and Russia, nearly 150 participants examined challenges and shared best practices from the Indo-Pacific and European theaters on developing resilience strategies.

“Special operations forces must continue to focus on high end counterterrorism operations, which have been raised to a high art form. However, SOF must also focus on the modern SOF trinity of irregular warfare, unconventional warfare and support to political warfare,” David Maxwell, a retired U.S. Army special forces colonel and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said during his opening day keynote address. “Advanced CT [counterterrorism] and other high-end SOF capabilities combined with the new SOF trinity is where SOF must invest in organization, manning, equipping, training and education. Not only must we outfight our enemies, we have to outthink them.”

SOF practitioners and academics delved deeper into those topics during working groups, pictured, where U.S., Indo-Pacific and European representatives posed real-life and hypothetical scenarios on sovereignty and security challenges. Questions such as how to measure influence proved harder to answer; while others, such as developing strategies that focused more on competition than conflict, generated greater debate.

In addition to the United States, other invited and participating countries at the Transregional Resistance Working Group conference included representatives from Australia, Canada, Estonia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Sweden, South Korea, Thailand and the United Kingdom. U.S. Special Operations Command and the Naval Post Graduate School (NPS) co-hosted the event, which also included participation by NPS students.

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