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The September 11th Sourcebooks

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 63
December 21, 2001
The September 11th Sourcebooks - Index
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The latest phase of military operations in Afghanistan has shifted the emphasis from heavy bombing to more of a “boots on the ground” approach involving hundreds of U.S. special forces units with missions ranging from engaging Al-Qaeda fighters, to interrogating prisoners, guarding sensitive positions and, soon, possibly searching the Tora Bora caves. 

    Special forces have played a part in American military operations for more than 200 years.  They place a premium on specialized skills, training and tactics in order to accomplish missions with “speed, stealth, audacity [and] deception” -- in ways that conventional forces are not suited for.  They are particularly popular with political leaders because they generally cut a lower profile and run less risk of sustaining heavy casualties in politically sensitive circumstances.  Recent situations involving special forces include Operations Just Cause (Panama), Desert Shield/Desert Storm (Iraq and Kuwait), and Joint Endeavor (Bosnia). 

    Although U.S. special forces have enjoyed significant successes, they have also suffered terrible catastrophes – as in the Iran hostage rescue attempt of 1980 and the disaster in Somalia in 1993.  Nonetheless, they remain a key element in U.S. military strategy whose importance is likely to grow 

    Given the current focus of the campaign in Afghanistan, the National Security Archive is posting a selection of materials from a variety of sources that give background on the structure, activities and experiences of U.S. special forces.  The materials include a history of the inter-service Joint Special Operations Command, a recent posture statement on U.S. special operations forces, a joint Army-Air Force field manual describing guidelines for military operations in “low-intensity conflict,” a critique of the Army Ranger engagement in Somalia, and other documents describing particular missions and tools relevant to the ongoing deployment in Afghanistan.

Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.
Document 1
“United States Special Operations Forces: Posture Statement 2000,” U.S. Department of Defense (ASD/SOLIC & U.S. Special Operations Command), c. 2000.  (114 pages)
Source: Department of Defense (http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/sof/index.html)
This lengthy document, while meant for a public audience, offers a useful overview of the organization and mission of special forces today.  Basic background on each major Special Operations Forces (SOF) component is provided along with other helpful information such as organization charts and a glossary of terms.
Document 2
“10th Anniversary History,” United States Special Operations Command, April 16, 1997.  (63 pages)
Source: United States Special Operations Command
This public, but primarily internal document looks back over the first decade of the existence of the joint U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the unified command created in 1987 to develop doctrine for, and monitor the activities of, U.S. special forces.  Although painted in broad strokes, it gives a useful introduction to the background and elements of the military’s SOF structure, including a survey of SOCOM’s major operations over the decade.
Document 3
“Doctrine for Joint Special Operations,” Joint Pub 3-05, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, April 17, 1998.   (71 pages)
Source: Defense Technical Information Center (http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/new_pubs/jp3_05.pdf)
Because of the importance and value attached to special operations, SOF units exist in each of the four branches of the military.  This not only gives commanders greater flexibility in responding to various military situations, but it also adds to the historical problem of coordinating the activities of each branch.  This lengthy guidance document from the Joint Chiefs of Staff gives general instructions on planning and executing joint special operations, from carrying out psychological warfare to ensuring an adequate legal foundation for SOF activities.
Document 4
“Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflict,” Field Manual No. 100-20/Air Force Pamphlet No. 3-20, Headquarters, Departments of the Army and the Air Force, December 5, 1990.  (155 pages)
Source: U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (http://www.adtdl.army.mil/cgi-bin/atdl.dll/fm/100-20/toc.htm)
The concept of low-intensity conflict (LIC) has emerged steadily in recent years as an important area of U.S. military planning.  LIC encompasses a wide range of conflict below the level of conventional warfare, including insurgency/counterinsurgency, subversion, terrorism and limited armed engagements.  U.S. strategists have spent years devising strategies and tactics for dealing with LIC contingencies, typically foreseen as taking place in the Third World.  They are particularly relevant to current U.S. military activities in Afghanistan. 
Document 5
“UAV Annual Report, FY 1996,” U.S. Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office, November 11, 1996 (excerpt).  (9 pages)
Source: Freedom of Information Act request
SOF operations often involve the use of high-tech intelligence and weapons.  This is certainly the case in Afghanistan where, among other devices, “unmanned aerial vehicles” (UAVs) such as the Predator have reportedly been used widely for photo reconnaissance and tracking the movements of Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces.  This annual report on UAVs includes a description of the Predator’s activities in Bosnia and elsewhere.  In Afghanistan, the aircraft has also been fitted with Hellfire missiles, giving it a dramatic new mission in addition to intelligence gathering.
Document 6
“CIA Support to the U.S. Military during the Persian Gulf War,” Director of Central Intelligence, June 16, 1997.  (8 pages)
Source: CIA Public Affairs
The death of CIA operative Mike Spann – the first American casualty in the Afghanistan operation – brought the agency he worked for unexpectedly into the spotlight.  Typically, the CIA keeps the identity of its agents (even after they have died), as well as their activities, a closely held secret.  But this unabashed public document breaks the pattern, at least to a degree, by outlining in broad terms the range of CIA contributions to the military during the Gulf War.  The role of intelligence support in the current fight against terrorism – including the hunt for Bin Laden – is of course a critical one as well.

Document 7
“Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Improved Application of Intelligence to the Battlefield,” Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, May-July 1996.  (68 pages)
Source: Department of Defense
Picking up the theme of the previous document, but written primarily for an internal audience, this dense report was part of an ongoing evaluation of the coalition campaign in Bosnia and the role of intelligence in that action.  This 1996 installment specifically looks at how effectively intelligence (grouped under the acronym C4ISR – command, control, communications, computers, and Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) was gathered and conveyed to ground forces in Bosnia, an issue of obvious relevance to Afghanistan today.
Document 8
“The Holloway Report,” Joint Chiefs of Staff, August 23, 1980.  (78 pages)
Source: Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Washington Post and National Security Archive
The aborted Iran hostage rescue operation of April 1980 was supposed to be an opportunity for U.S. special ops forces to do what they had been training to do for years.  Instead, 90 members of Delta Force never got the chance.  After mechanical problems developed with three out of eight helicopters to be used on the mission, local commanders called off the operation, at which point two aircraft preparing to leave the secret rendezvous point in the Iranian desert collided and eight U.S. servicemen died.  It was a demoralizing blow for President Jimmy Carter and the American people.  In its wake, the Joint Chiefs of Staff created a review panel, headed by Adm. James L. Holloway, which strongly recommended reassessing and strengthening all U.S. SOF capabilities.  Those recommendations were followed (see Document 2) and the vastly upgraded forces now operating in Afghanistan are a result.  Interestingly for today’s circumstances, the Holloway report reached a number of more technical conclusions about the conduct of the rescue mission that may be relevant to Afghanistan since Iran’s terrain and climate are so similar.
Document 9
“Conduct of the Persian Gulf Conflict: An Interim Report to Congress,” U.S. Department of Defense, July 1991 (excerpt).  (8 pages)
Source: Freedom of Information Act release to Jeffrey Richelson/National Security Archive 
The Gulf War, as this report from then-Defense Secretary Richard Cheney says, involved “the largest deployment of Special Operations Forces (SOF) in history.”  The report breaks down the general categories of SOF activity during the war and, while perhaps naturally taking a mostly up-beat slant on SOF contributions, notes the “difficult tradeoffs between the potential political risk that often accompanies the conduct of special operations and the military advantage they can generate.”  Among the report’s concluding operations, it notes that SOF language skills and numbers of trained personnel were “insufficient” – a shortcoming that seems even more likely to come into play in Afghanistan where Pashto, Dari and other esoteric languages are spoken.
Document 10
“Critical Analysis on the Defeat of Task Force Ranger,” research paper by Maj. Clifford E. Day for the Research Department, Air Command and Staff College, March 1997.  (46 pages)
Source: Federation of American Scientists (http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/ops/docs/97-0364.htm)
This research paper analyzes the devastating events of October 3-4, 1993, in Somalia in which 18 Army Rangers died in an extended firefight while on a mission to capture two aides to a local Somali warlord.  Although the circumstances in urban Mogadishu may not be identical with the search for Bin Laden and his lieutenants in and around Tora Bora, the missions of those SOF units in 1993 and the forces operating today are strikingly similar.  The author makes a number of observations and criticisms, including remarking on the unwillingness of U.S. political and military leaders to give appropriate backing for the operation, and a lack of coordination among the various groups involved on the ground.
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