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|Joint Special Operations Command|
Emblem of the Joint Special Operations Command
|Active||15 December 1980 – present|
|Country||United States of America|
|Part of||United States Special Operations Command|
|Garrison/HQ||Fort Bragg, North Carolina|
|Engagements||Operation Eagle Claw|
Operation Urgent Fury
Operation Just Cause
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Provide Comfort
Operation Gothic Serpent
Operation Uphold Democracy
Operation Allied Force
War on Terror
|Lt Gen Scott A. Howell|
The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is a component command of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and is charged to study special operations requirements and techniques to ensure interoperability and equipment standardization; to plan and conduct special operations exercises and training; to develop joint special operations tactics; and to execute special operations missions worldwide. It was established in 1980 on recommendation of Colonel Charlie Beckwith, in the aftermath of the failure of Operation Eagle Claw. It is located at Pope Field (Fort Bragg, North Carolina).
The JSOC is the "joint headquarters designed to study special operations requirements and techniques; ensure interoperability and equipment standardization; plan and conduct joint special operations exercises and training; and develop joint special operations tactics". For this task, the Joint Communications Unit is tasked to ensure compatibility of communications systems and standard operating procedures of the different special operations units.
The Joint Special Operations Command also oversees the Special Mission Units of U.S. Special Operations Command. These are elite special operations forces units that perform highly classified activities. So far, only five SMUs have been publicly disclosed:
The Intelligence Support Activity's primary role is as a deep reconnaissance, intelligence-gathering special mission unit, in support of DEVGRU and Delta Force; The Regimental Reconnaissance Company provides a similar role for the 75th Ranger Regiment. Meanwhile, Delta Force and DEVGRU are the military's primary counter-terrorism units, eliminating high-value targets and performing hostage rescues are their main roles, along with special reconnaissance and direct action assignments. The 24th Special Tactics Squadron attaches personnel as enablers to these two units such as Combat Controllers to provide air traffic control and fire support, Pararescuemen to provide combat medicine and combat search and rescue, and Tactical Air Control Party specialists to co-ordinate close air support. The Joint Communications Unit provides communications capabilities. Units from the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment are controlled by JSOC when deployed as part of JSOC Task Forces such as Task Force 121 and Task Force 145.
Advanced Force Operations (AFO) is a term used by the U.S. Department of Defense to describe a task force that encompasses personnel from Delta Force, Regimental Reconnaissance Company (RRC) and SEAL Team Six. Many locations will have a mixture of operators from one of these 3 units working together as a small interoperable team. Although mainly a term in many cases used to describe a particular sub-set of Delta Force operators, the term "AFO" also was later known used to describe mixed Special Mission Unit elements doing long range RECCE/long range target interdiction operations etc. According to Gen. Michael Repass, who conducted it in the Iraq War and was very familiar with its use in Afghanistan, "AFO consists of U.S. Secretary of Defense-approved military operations such as clandestine operations. It is logically part of Operational Preparation of the Battlespace (OPB), which follows the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace, a concept well-known in U.S. and NATO doctrine, OPB is seldom used outside of SOF channels. OPB is defined by the U.S. Special Operations Command as "Non-intelligence activities conducted prior to D-Day, H-Hour, in likely or potential areas of employment, to train and prepare for follow-on military operations".
In the Iraq War, Repass, who first commanded the 10th Special Forces Group, took control of a Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force, which used the 5th and 10th Groups to conduct AFO. AFO units were heavily involved in Operation Anaconda and Operation Viking Hammer.
The Joint Special Operations Package / Rotational Group of the United States Special Operations Command consist of Tier 1 and Tier 2 U.S. Joint Special Operations Command units that train and deploy together. All Tier 1 and Tier 2 units maintain three separate operational groups within their respective units (The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd battalions of the 75th Ranger Regiment as an example). These groups are essentially identical and deploy within their respective JSOC package. The rotational cycle is generally three months. This allows one group to be deployed overseas, another to be on an 18-hour worldwide emergency deployment notice, and the last group to be training, attending military schools, or on "block leave." Tier 1 and Tier 2 units take leave together within their respective JSOC package. This term is called block leave. Given the wartime tasking of JSOC, an additional deployment package is currently being created. This will allow less operational strain on these units.
JSOC has provided support to domestic law enforcement agencies during high-profile or high risk events such as the Olympics, the World Cup, political party conventions and Presidential inaugurations. Although use of the military for law enforcement purposes in the U.S. is generally prohibited by the Posse Comitatus Act, Title 10 of the U.S. Code expressly allows the Secretary of Defense to make military personnel available to train Federal, State, and local civilian law enforcement officials in the operation and maintenance of equipment; and to provide such law enforcement officials with expert advice. Additionally, civilian and military lawyers said provisions in several federal statutes, including the Fiscal Year 2000 Defense Department Authorization Act, Public Law 106-65, permits the secretary of defense to authorize military forces to support civilian agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in the event of a national emergency, especially any involving nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.
In January 2005, a small group of commandos were deployed to support security at the Presidential inauguration. They were allegedly deployed under a secret counter-terrorism program named Power Geyser. The New York Times quoted a senior military official as saying, "They bring unique military and technical capabilities that often are centered around potential WMD events," A civil liberties advocate who was told about the program by a reporter said that he had no objections to the program as described to him because its scope appeared to be limited to supporting the counterterrorism efforts of civilian authorities.
As part of the War on Terror, JSOC carries out operations in numerous nations across the globe, particularly in failed and failing states in an attempt to stop jihadists gaining a safe haven, these operations are conducted under the authority of two executive orders—2004's Al Qaeda Network Execute Order: which allowed JSOC to operate in over a dozen countries with which the United States is/was not currently at war in (some of which include: Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Peru and Somalia); and 2009's Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order: which gave JSOC permission to conduct advance force, reconnaissance and human intelligence operations in nations where there may be a need for a US military presence.
During the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, as part of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF) under the overall leadership of General Tommy Franks, Coalition Forces Commander (CENTCOM), a special operations task force known as Task Force Sword was established under the direct command of JSOC. It was a black SOF unit, whose primary objective was of capturing or killing senior leadership and HVT within both al-Qaeda and the Taliban. TF Sword was initially structured around a two-squadron component of operators from Delta Force (Task Force Green) and DEVGRU (Task Force Blue), supported by a Ranger protection force teams (Task Force Red) and ISA signals intercept and surveillance operators (Task Force Orange) and the 160th SOAR (Task Force Brown). The British Special Boat Service was integrated directly into Swords structure; some other coalition special forces were attached to TF Sword to support specific operations.
On 19 October 2001, a Delta Force squadron from TF Sword carried out a mission known as Objective Gecko whose objective was to kill or capture the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, they didn't find the HVT and along with supporting Rangers—engaged in a heavy firefight, killing 30 Taliban fighters whilst suffering a dozen casualties. Operators from M squadron SBS, conducted several missions as part of TF Sword; as the Battle of Tora Bora drew to a close around December 17, across the border, Pakistani Border Scouts, allegedly assisted by members of JSOC and the CIA, captured an upward of 300 foreign fighters. On 17 March 2002, in the final days of Operation Anaconda, DEVGRU operators (including an attached SBS operator) and Rangers from TF 11 (formerly known as TF Sword—changed in January 2002) intercepted a convoy carrying a possible al-Qaeda HVT, they killed and captured 18 al-Qaeda fighters. Later in 2002, CJSOTF became a single integrated command under the broader CJTF-180 that commanded all US forces assigned to Operation Enduring Freedom–Afghanistan. A small JSOC element (formerly Task Force Sword/11), not under direct CJTF-180 command, was embedded within CJSOTF, it was manned by a joint SEAL and Ranger element that rotated command. It was not under direct ISAF command, although it operated in support of NATO operations.
The JSOC task force in the country, Task Force 11—manned by a squadron from DEVGRU, a Ranger company, and supported by a company from the 160th SOAR conducted occasional hostage rescue missions. In September 2005, a British security contractor was kidnapped by Taliban insurgents in Farah province, the JSOC Task Force managed to locate where he was being held—in the mountainous region off Bala Boluk—however, the Taliban murdered the hostage after the JSOC Task Force (rescue attempt carried out by DEVGRU) attempted to rescue him. In 2006, a six-man RRD (Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment) team from the 75th Ranger Regiment attached to the JSOC Task Force inserted into the Hindu Kush mountain range after intelligence indicated an insurgent chief, Haqqani, would be entering Afghanistan from Pakistan. After establishing an OP at a position almost 4,000m above sea level, the RRD team waited and watched for their target, as insurgents arrived into the area, the Ranger team was spotted and fired upon. In response, the RRD's attached JTAC called in an orbiting B-1B strategic bomber to 'pummel' the insurgents, an estimated 100 were killed in the airstrikes but Haqqani was not among them.
In May 2007, an ISA team and JSOC tracked the Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah to a compound near Bahram Chah, Helmand province. The ISA confirmed he was there and a British SBS reconnaissance element carried out reconnaissance of the compound which showed that Dadullah was protected by at least 20 insurgents. On 12 May 2007, with the ISA monitoring the target, C squadron SBS inserted by RAF CH-47D Chinooks attacked the compound, killing Dadullah with shots to the chest and head.
On 9 September 2009, JSOC UAV supported the British SBS and SFSG in rescuing New York Times journalist Stephen Farrell who was captured by the Taliban and held at a Taliban safe house in Char Dara District, Kunduz Province.
In early 2010, Brigadier General Scott Miller deployed to Afghanistan to take command of CJSOTF-Afghanistan, he took the controversial step (with Stanley McChrystal's support) to assign virtually all SOF in the theatre to a new counterinsurgency role known as ALP/VSO Programme (Afghan Local Police/Village Stability Operations). The only units exempt from this were certain partnered training teams working with Afghan forces and the JSOC Task Force (Task Force 11).
In an unclassified SOCOM release in 2013, the role of the JSOC Task Force (Task Force 11) was to "conduct offensive operations in Afghanistan to degrade Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Networks in order to prevent them from establishing operationally significant safe havens to threaten the stability and sovereignty of GIRoA (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) and the United States." For many years, Task Force 11's targets remained al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-related groups, such as the Haqqani Network. Along with cross border operations hunting al-Qaeda targets, the JSOC Task Force was also targeting the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan.
According to the movie Dirty Wars, by Jeremy Scahill, JSOC was responsible for a number of raids in Afghanistan. One among them took place in Gardez, initially reported by Jerome Starkey but later in other media as well. The then current commander William McRaven visited the affected family, offered them a sheep in restitution and apologized for the incident. In the incident, one US trained Police commander and another man were killed, as were 3 women, 2 of whom were pregnant, while going to the men's aid.
How many other raids there were during this time, and before and since, is difficult to count as JSOC only answers to the White House and not the rest of the military. The secrecy around the number of raids could reasonably be counted in the hundreds since they started but only a mere few have been documented as well as the Gardez incident according to Scahill.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, JSOCs Task Force 20 was formed based on Task Force 11/Sword during the coalition invasion of Afghanistan and were assigned to western Iraq. TF 20 was composed of mainly Black SOF units from JSOC: B squadron Delta Force and all 3 Battalions of the 75th Ranger Regiment; a battalion strength element of the 82nd Airborne Division, serving as a QRF and reinforcements; and a HIMARS; later in the invasion M1A1 Abrams tanks from C Company, 2nd Battalion 70th Armor were attached to TF 20. TF 20 was based at Ar'Ar and was tasked with seizing airfileds deep in Iraq and capturing HVTs along with providing long-range Special Reconnaissance. On the evening of 19 March 2003, ground elements of Task Force 20, Task Force Dagger, Task Force 7 and 64 crossed the border into Iraq from Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, unofficially TF 20 along with TF's 7 and 64 had been in Iraq for several weeks. Before heading to the Haditha Dam to conduct reconnaissance and eventually capture it with 3/75th, TF 20s Delta Force unit assisted Coalition SOF in seizing H-3 Air Base; whilst Rangers from 3/75th parachuted and captured H-1 Air Base, on 26 March, Rangers from B Company 2/75th of Task Force 20 assisted DEVGRU assaulted Objective Beaver—the al Qadisiyah Research Centre suspected chemical and biological weapons stocks, however there was no evidence of chemical weapons. Delta Force also secured Highway 1; TF 20 planned and its units rescued PFC Jessica Lynch on 1 April 2003.
In May 2003, elements of TF 20 remained in Iraq following the invasion and transitioned into hunting down high-value former Ba'athists under direct JSOC command. In July 2003, Task Force 5 (formerly Task Force 11) and Task Force 20 amalgamated to form Task Force 21 that was then renamed Task Force 121. In September 2003, Major General Stanley A. McChrystal was appointed to take over command of JSOC; his task was to gather intelligence about who exactly was behind the rising tide of violence and quelling it in a targeted way by mounting precision special forces raids; JSOC was mostly interested in the links between foreign fighters in Iraq and the al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. JSOC commanded Task Force 121—the command was set up in such a way that TF 121's Delta Force and other elements of JSOC could be switched between Afghanistan and Iraq as required. In the summer of 2003, as part of Operation Paradoxical, the British SAS were 'joined at the hip' with Delta Force and JSOC, however in winter 2003 they were placed under the command of Chief of Joint Operations in Northwood due to skepticism of Whitehall members about the UK mission in Iraq—making it more difficult for the SAS to work with JSOC and McChrystal. In the final weeks of 2003, Colonel Stuart Herrington had been on an inspection of Camp Nama (at the time it was TF 121 main operations centre in Iraq) in particular he inspected the detention and interrogation facilities, as a result he reported to the chief army intelligence officer in Baghdad that Iraqis who had been captured by TF 121 had showed signs of mistreatment. In the following months there was a series of investigations and a total of 29 complaints were investigated in relation to Camp Nama, 5 were upheld resulting in disciplinary action against 34 soldiers. A number of the incidents happened after McChrystals had taken over command of JSOC, however during the early months of running classified operations, he was only intermittently present in Iraq due to JSOCs operations covering CENTCOM's area of operations from North Africa, through the Middle East to South Asia.
By the early months of 2004, JSOC had exploited the best information available to them to round up fugitive Ba'athist, including Saddam Hussein, by early 2004 many of the leading 'deck of cards' figures had been accounted for. By the Spring of 2004, McChrystal was making Iraq his top priority and began dealing with the level of abuse of detainees at Camp Nama. McChrystal—believing that 'you need to build a network to defeat one'—shut down Camp Nama—the special ops facility at Baghdad Airport and established a new base at Balad, there he created a state-of-the-art JOC (Joint Operations Centre) where JSOCs war in Iraq would be run day to day by the commander of Delta Force, the base was up and running by July 2004. Teams from each of the different intelligence agencies were also established at Balad; once information was gathered, McChrystal put it all into JSOCs intranet similar to one he'd created in Afghanistan, which allowed those at the cutting edge of the US counter-terrorism effort to share information worldwide, McChrystal also established a network of liaison offices run by his own people across the Middle East. It took much of 2004 for the counter-terrorist network to take shape. On 27 March 2004, a JSOC surveillance team in Fallujah was compromised and had to shoot its way out of trouble. The British government—in response to the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal and the 2 Pakistani terrorists from the LeT who were captured by the SAS in Operation Aston and were flown out of Iraq for interrogation at the US facility at Bagram Air base (unknown to the British, there were no interrogators in Iraq that had the linguistic skills to screen the detainees)—decided that they could no longer hand over detainees to JSOC if they were going to be flown elsewhere. In summer 2004, following the First Battle of Fallujah, in the interim between the first and second battle of Fallujah, JSOC was prosecuting a target every few days within the city, JSOC used Predator surveillance that was covering Fallujah 24/7 to pinpoint certain properties of places where car bombs that ended up in Baghdad originated and directed the Air Force to drop bombs on these places.Following the Blackwater ambush and the Murder of Nick Berg, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a senior militant Islamist and eventual leader of AQI began to grow in importance in US public pronouncements, his elimination became the prime focus of JSOC's daily operations. JSOCs Task Force 20 conducted numerous operations into Fallujah in the hunt for Zarqawi. JSOC focused all of its attention on Fallujah during the Second Battle of Fallujah, JSOC elements with the 5th SFG, SEALs, Marine Force Recon and Det One were heavily involved in shaping operations prior to the 7 November D-DAY when coalition forces entered the city. The SOF shaping included sophisticated feints to mislead the insurgents as to the direction of the final assault, close target reconnaissance and direct-action missions where a logistics node or IED factory was targeted. Shortly before the battle, MI6 visited JSOCs TSF (Temporary Screening Facility) at Balad to question a suspected Iraqi insurgent, following the visit, concerns were raised about the detention conditions of the cells and the condition of some of the detainees. As a result, the British government told JSOC that British special forces would only turn over its prisoners to JSOC in Iraq if there was an undertaking not to send them to Balad, causing a further degree of tension in US-UK cooperation, detainees captured by British special forces/Task Force Black/Knight were handed over to regular US Army units. During the course of 2004 to early 2005, the technology, people and ideas at the heart of JSOC's war had coalesced. Its centrepiece was a basketball-court-sized control room known as the JOC, three large screens relayed live pictures from different operations as well as other information that was needed for desk officers from operations, intelligence, aviation, medical etc.; a JAG was also there to rule over the legality of proposed operations. People who worked at the JOC often referred to it as the 'Death Star' because 'you could reach out with a finger and eliminate somebody'; the liaison team from the NSA had its own private room for the US eavesdropping operation; TF 121 changed its codename to Task Force 145.
In January 2005, JSOC contributed to the arrest of a master bomber responsible for bombing the Canal Hotel and other vehicle bombings in 2003—aimed at police stations, recruiting offices and markets. On 20 February 2005, JSOC missed a chance to kill al-Zarqawi: acting on intelligence that Zarqawi was travelling by car with bodyguards from Ramadi towards Fallujah, US special operation forces landed by helicopter on a desert road in Anbar province and set up a checkpoint. There are different versions of what followed: one is that the car saw the roadblock and sped through it and the JSOC team did not feel within its rights under their ROE to open fire, and the second is a Predator UAV supporting the JSOC team that was following the car suffered a technical fault and the camera mounted beneath it was gyrating out of control; ultimately Zarqawi escaped. By early 2005, JSOC had a clear focus deriving from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, McChrystal's command had built a regional laydown, which was designed to allow rapid response to intelligence anywhere that Zarqawi or key associates might be found. The Laydown consisted of: DEVRGU at Al Asad Airbase as part of Task Force West/Blue; in Tikrit a select team of Rangers as part of Task Force North/Red and at MSS Fernandez in the Green Zone a Delta squadron as part of Task Force Central/Green. JSOC leaders devoted the best intelligence-gathering individuals and the UKs share of resources to this aim, however the UK opted out owing to its concerns about American actions, the resumption of full cooperation between US and UK was dependent on work to improve the condition of the prison cells at Balad. In April 2005, the Battle of Abu Ghraib took place; on 13 April up to 100 insurgents including 3 vehicle suicide attacks mounted a sustained assault on a Marine base near the Syrian border at al-Husaybah, the attack was beaten off by airstrikes and helicopters, the attack was attributed to al-Qaeda; and on 29 April, al-Qaeda staged 14 car bomb attacks in a single day (most of them in Baghdad). These events disturbed General George Casey due to the capabilities shown in these attacks that he formally upgraded AQI to be the Coalition's principal enemy in Iraq. The JSOC task force operating from Balad, successfully obtained a large proportion of the ISR (Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) platforms in the hunt for Zarqawi, this meant not only control of Predator UAVs, but other technical means such as satellites and aircraft used to intercept and locate mobile telephones, this huge taking of resources caused tension with Casey and with commanders of regular battalions and brigades that were still taking a large number of casualties. Casey and other commanders increased pressure on JSOC for results, McChrystal began to shift emphasis of his operations in Iraq, now that AQI was the target of the whole coalition force, he needed to do more to take on the local militant networks that were killing and wounding many US troops. McChrystal exploited the growing information flow from drones and cell phones to target the entire al-Qaeda network from top to bottom with particular focus on middle. JSOCs commander codenamed this effort Operation Snake Eyes: it involved synchronising raids by DEVGRU or Delta Force to those of the ground-holding Army and Marine units in the Euphrates Valley. By the first half of 2005, JSOCs commander put forward three tactical concepts that were central to Operation Snake Eyes, they advocated: the Unblinking Eye—24/7 surveillance or certain critical targets; black operations were to increase sharply in tempo or frequency; and the operations carried out in 'F3EA'—find-fix-finish-exploit-analyse. From May to October 2005, regular US ground forces fought a series of at least 14 major operations, each involving more than a thousand troops, the battlefield ranged from remote farms to the suburbs, which ranged from close to the Syrian border in al-Qaim down through Haditha and Hīt, through Ramadi and Fallujah to Abu Ghraib. The US characterised these places as stopovers on the infiltration routed of foreign fighters from Jordan or Syria to the capital; in many of these communities, regular troops came up against well-organised paramilitary groups armed with everything from small arms to mortars or surface-to-air missiles. As these operations went ahead during the summer of 2005, JSOC mounted dozens of takedowns against suspected local militants and middle managers in the guerrilla organisation—exposing McChrystals men to determined heavily armed opposition that stood and fought rather than retreating in classic guerrilla fashion. After Delta Force took casualties in the summer of 2005, McChrystal asked the then UK Director Special Forces for assistance, however he refused, citing the treatment of detainees and the conditions of JSOC detention facility at Balad and other operational issues such as rules of engagement, so a second Delta Force squadron flown in and Delta pressed on with its operations. This worsened relations between the DSF and the newly appointed commander of the 22nd SAS Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Williams—who was a strong advocate of supporting JSOC, especially against AQI, at the time due to previous tensions between US and UK relations, Task Force Black operated in semi-detached way from JSOC and were given targets that were former Ba'athist party regime elements, rather than AQI. Due to the extremely high tempo and hazardous nature of their operations, JSOC's Task Force generally served three-month rotations. On 23 July 2005, JSOC developed intelligence that showed a multiple suicide bombing was about to be launched from a house in southern Baghdad, the information was urgent, so JSOC gave the mission to Task Force Black's, M Squadron SBS, supported by members of G squadron SAS and a detachment of US Army Rangers from Task Force Red, carried out Operation Marlborough. McChrystal met the UKs DSF in Washington and explained what he was trying to achieve by ratcheting the tempo of operations, but the DSF continued to strain relations, instead McChrystal consulted with the commander of 22 SAS, he and Williams had good relations and they worked together on how they could get the SAS integrate more into JSOC, as a result, the JSOC TSF at Balad was improved to meet British-approved standards; despite tensions with the DSF, JSOC was still ready to support the SAS. During the Basra prison incident, the Colonel who was the-then Delta Force commander that ran JSOCs operation in Iraq, offered the services of a Delta squadron and scrambled a Predator from Baghdad to assist, the incident was eventually resolved by British forces. In November 2005 to early 2006, following the change of the UK's DSF—the period marked the fulfilment of Task Force Black/Knights integration into JSOC (TF Black changed its name to TF Knight following the release of its name to the press in the wake of the Basra Prison incident); the closer integration meant JSOC flows of intelligence increased. During late 2005 and early 2006, the change of allegiance of tribes and small towns on the outskirts of Baghdad added militants to the Jihadists groups faster than JSOC could take it down.
In mid-January 2006, the British SAS began Operation Traction: its full secret upgrade/integration into JSOC, they deployed TGHG (Task Group Headquarters Group): this included senior officers and other senior members of 22 SAS—to JSOCs base at Balad. This upgrade now meant that the SAS were "joined at the hip" with JSOC and it gave the SAS a pivotal role against Sunni militant groups, particularly AQI. By coincidence, 6 Sunni insurgent groups formed the Mujahedeen Shura Council, they were cells that embraced the Salafist ideology of AQI—wanting to declare an oppressive Sunni caliphate in the western Iraq believing it would require increased violence against the Shia, the Coalition and even Sunnis. In response to this, JSOC launched Operation Dahir: JSOC would broaden its takedowns against the AQI leadership, carrying out more missions against mid-level terrorists pinpointed by ground-hold units, giving US Army and Marine units greater access to precious assets such as drones. JSOC added a fifth task force, Task Force East to its command and JSOC received extra supporting units such as a National Guard squadron equipped with Black Hawk helicopters to shuttle growing numbers of prisoners, eventually JSOC had more than 5,000 people across the region controlled by CENTCOM. After resolving the Christian Peacemaker hostage crisis, the SAS squadron in the country began targeting AQI; both the Colonel then-in-charge of Delta Force and McChrystal at JSOC gave both the SAS and Delta Force squadrons permission to develop their own plans for targeting AQI 'from the bottom up' backing them with the resources of the JOC. In nigh-time raids on 8 April and on 13 April 2006, in a town near Yusufiyah, operators from B squadron SAS and B squadron Delta Force killed 7 insurgents (5 on 8 April and 2 on 13 April 2006) who the intelligence agencies claimed were foreign jihadists, the intelligence gathered in these raids gave JSOC a clear intelligence picture of a group of Al-Qaeda cells around Baghdad, suggesting that their tactics had evolved. As a result of this development, B squadron SAS, supported by US forces, carried out Operation Larchwood 4, the intelligence collected was analysed by JSOC and NSA experts was invaluable, in particular on 20 May, a senior AQI member who was captured in the raid revealed to his JSOC interrogators that he was close to al-Zarqawi's religious adviser whom he named as Sheikh Raham. U.S. Major General Rick Lynch claimed that JSOC units launched about five operations in the receding weeks before Larchwood 4, killing 31 foreign fighters (90% of them were suicide bombers), which degraded AQI's capability to mount retaliatory attacks in the months following the operation. Operation Larchwood 4 was part of an intense series of operations in the Triangle of Death, most of which were carried out by Delta Force and other US forces, with each mission the intelligence picture on the AQI networks was becoming clearer. On 13 May 2006, JSOC raided four houses used by AQI's Abu Mustafa network in Latifiya killing 15 suspected AQI terrorists as well as Abu Mustafa after exploiting intelligence from the raid, they planned to target 3 more locations. On 14 May, Black Hawk helicopters from 160th SOAR who part of JSOCs Task Force Brown inserted operators from B squadron Delta Force, with an SAS liaison officer (they were back up by other JSOC units) not far from Yusufiyah against another or Abu Mustafa AQI network. The mission took place in broad daylight because the Delta Force squadron commander "allowed aggression to get the best of him", a fierce firefight ensued, 5 Americans were wounded and 2 were killed when their AH-6 little bird was shot down, whilst more than 25 terrorists were killed and 4 captured, a number of civilians were also wounded; B squadron's commander was relieved of his command. On 7 June 2006, following up intelligence from Operation Larchwood 4, American and British JSOC operators marked Sheikh Raham car as a MQ-1 Predator surveilled him in Baghdad, watching from the JOC they followed his car to a farmhouse outside the village of Hibhib outside Baquba and greeted Zarqawi. JOC called in two F-16Cs that dropped 500lbs bombs on the farmhouse, US troops from a regular unit nearby recovered Zarqawi, who was severely wounded from the ruins, he soon succumbed to his wounds; President George Bush told reported that he called McChrystal and congratulated him—marking the first official acknowledgement that JSOC was engaged in Iraq. That night 14 high-priority targets were added to the already-scheduled raids—each target that had been uncovered as part of Zarqawi's and al Raham's network Operations continued throughout summer 2006, with the aim of dismantling al-Qaeda faster than it could regenerate, which meant sacrificing some target development in the interest of getting raids themselves to produce intelligence and were also willing to launch raids on a single 'trigger' or piece of intelligence. The Coalition mounted 450 raids in little more than a week—operations on a scale that was beyond the resources of JSOC and its Task Forces.
In November 2006, a new secret directive sanctioned by President Bush had allowed US forces in Iraq to kill or capture Iranian nationals if they were engaged in targeting Coalition forces due to Hezbollah success in the 2006 Lebanon War and Iran's defiance on its nuclear issue; the new mission was known by its acronym CII (Counter Iranian Influence). Since 2004, there had been growing human intelligence about the training of Iraqi insurgents in Iran as well as financial backing for attacks on Coalition forces; finds of mortars rounds or rockets with recent Iranian markings had multiplied. It was essential to maintain the pressure of nightly raids on al-Qaeda, The Pentagon's solution was to keep Delta Force's commander working through the JOC against Sunni extremists (changing its name from TF 145 to Task Force 16); whilst a new command based around the headquarters of an Army Special Forces group was formed, codenamed: Task Force 17, they were given the CII missions. TF 17 early operations netted an intelligence treasure trove, analysts used the same networking mapping and phone record techniques that they were employing against the jihadists; in December 2006 a Quds Force officer had been found in the compound of the leader of SCIRI whom it was long believed that they and its armed militia, the Badr Brigade were agents of Iranian influence. Just after 11:30am on 11 January 2007, Delta Force supported by helicopters from JSOCs Task Force Brown raided the Iranian Liaison Office in Irbil, to find compelling evidence of Iranian involvement in the insurgency, in particular, looking for the head of Iran's SNSC and head of intelligence in the IRGC that human intelligence suggested were there. As they cleared the building they found its staff trying to destroy records and change their appearance, the 6 men that were captured had fake ID cards and one would test positive for handling explosives, they didn't find the two men they were looking for. Analysis of papers and phones from the raid and the arrest of the Quds Force officer by TF 17 revealed that the Iranians were assisting a much wider variety of insurgent groups including evidence of connections with Ansar al-Sunna as well as elements within the Mahdi Army.
On 11 January 2007, President Bush pledged in a major speech to "seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq." The next day, in a meeting of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Chairman Senator Joseph Biden (Delaware), informed U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Bush Administration did not have the authority to send U.S. troops on cross-border raids. Biden said, "I believe the present authorization granted the president to use force in Iraq does not cover that, and he does need congressional authority to do that. I just want to set that marker." Following the Karbala attack, TF 17 were infused with a stronger sense of purpose, the competition for resources between TF 16 and 17, creating an uncomfortable relationship between the two, McChrystal replaced the Green Beret Colonel with a Lieutenant colonel; TF 17 occasionally supported TF 16 fight against al-Qaeda and its associates. On 20 March 2007, G squadron SAS captured Qais Khazali, a senior Shia militant and Iranian proxy in Basra and his brother, Laith al-Khazali and his Ali Mussa Daqduq a Hezbollah adviser. They also found critical documents: one was a report on the Karbala raid which identified Azhar al-Dulaimi as being responsible for it, he was eventually killed by US forces; the Karbala memo also indicated that Iran's Quds Force was approved the attack. There were Memos to about attacks on British forces in Basra and large financial payments based on performance against the Coalition, Daqduq revealed that he had been brought into Iraq by Quds Force leadership to be a sort-of insurgent management consultant. He also revealed that the Shia Special Groups gave reports of IED attacks and indirect fire to the Iranians as well as said Iraqi's for training in Iran. The mission made a strategic impact, Task Force 17 stepped up its raids against Iranian targets. During the 2007 Iranian seizure of Royal Navy personnel, JSOC responded by scrambling a Predator UAV to assist the British. By early 2007 JSOC estimated that it had killed 2,000 members of the Sunni jihadist groups as well as detaining many more; TF 16 was mounting 6 raids per night. Over 2 years JSOCs intelligence database had grown with each terrorist network it eliminated, agent networks within the al-Qaeda cells were providing good information, millions of Iraqi's had mobile phones that JSOC could monitor and a steady increase in number of drones available for surveillance increased the operational. In summer and fall of 2007 JSOC continued to eliminate insurgent groups against the 'anvil' of conventional forces; the CII missions succeeded in forcing Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army, to flee to Iran, where in August he declared a ceasefire with the coalition. Sometime in 2007, JSOC started conducting cross-border operations into Iran from southern Iraq with the CIA. These operations included seizing members of Al-Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, as well as the pursuit, capture or killing of high-value targets in the war on terror. The Bush administration allegedly combined the CIA's intelligence operations and covert action with JSOC clandestine military operations so that Congress would only partially see how the money was spent.
By March 2008, the climate for mounting aggressive special force operations was changing due to the Sunni insurgency waning rapidly, a hundred thousand defectors from Sunni militants were enrolled in the Sons of Iraq. With the commencement of Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in January 2009, JSOC operations were further curtailed, with Iraqi judicial permission now having to be required for each mission. By May 2009, of around 11,000 to 12,000 insurgents that JSOC removed, around 3,000 had been killed, JSOC had captured or killed al-Qaeda members faster than they could recruit new ones—breaking al-Qaeda and its associates in Iraq. The covert offensive against both al-Qaeda and Iranian influence had played an important role in bringing the country back from the brink of anarchy. Although the wider JSOC and CII campaign against Shia militants demonstrated that Iran could be deterred from further escalation of its covert activities and the militias checked. But since Iran was Iraq's neighbouring country and the Shia would form a majority of Iraq's population, these efforts could only achieve containment rather than the 'knockdown punch' JSOC inflicted on al-Qaeda.
According to The Washington Post, JSOC's commander Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal operated in 2006 on the understanding with Pakistan that US units will not enter Pakistan except under extreme circumstances, and that Pakistan will deny giving them permission if exposed.
That scenario happened according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), in January 2006, JSOC troops clandestinely entered the village of Saidgai, Pakistan, to hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Pakistan refused entry.
According to a November 2009 report in The Nation, JSOC, in tandem with Blackwater/Xe, has an ongoing drone program, along with snatch/grab/assassination operations, based in Karachi and conducted both in and outside of Pakistan.
In an October 2009 leak published on the WikiLeaks website, U.S. embassy communication cables from the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, states the Pakistani Army approved the embedding of U.S. Special Operations Forces, including elements from the Joint Special Operations Command, with the Pakistani military to provide support for operations in the country. This goes beyond the original claims of the U.S. that the only role of the Special Forces was in training the Pakistani military. The leak further revealed that JSOC elements involved in intelligence gathering and surveillance and use of drone UAV technology.
Special operations carried out in North Africa are under the codename: Operation Juniper Shield.
At the time of the 2012 Benghazi attack, small teams from CIA Special Activities Division and JSOC were both conducting operations in Libya—most probably advance work on the later 'snatch' missions conducted by Delta Force. In 2014, southern Libya remained a 'melting pot' of armed militias and jihadists. To counter the influence of AQIM, JSOC teams, US Army Special Forces, French COS and Algerian special forces have deployed to the region to hunt down AQIM elements.
In a separate compound in Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti—a US Naval Expionary Base assigned to CJTF-HOA that became the hub for black and white SOF operations into nations such as Somalia and Yemen—there are an estimated 300 JSOC personnel: special operators, intelligence and imagery analysts and a dedicated UAV cell. The UAV cell is commanded by a JSOC Major and tasks a flight of 8 MQ-1 Predators conducting operations over Somalia, Mali and Yemen, the Predators have been carrying out strikes and surveillance missions from Camp Lemmonnier since late 2010. Prior to that, both CIA and JSOC had used the base as a temporary forward location for Predator and Reaper sorties into the region. Special operations carried out in Somalia are conducted under the codename: Operation Octave Dune and in Yemen they are known as Operation Copper Dune.
The 2006 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia provided JSOC and the CIA with the opportunity to conduct covert offensive actions against al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab targets, alongside Ethiopian troops, JSOC operators disguised as civilians called in airstrikes from AC-130 gunships.
In Yemen, a joint CIA and JSOC team, including a signals intelligence element from ISA, had been allowed to operate in Yemen as the country battled both Shia separatists and an influx of foreign fighters from al-Qaeda.
In 2009, CIA and JSOC planners presented four plans for Operation Celestial Balance: a Tomahawk cruise missile strike, an airstrike, an attack by Little Bird helicopter gunships or attempt to capture the target by a helicopter assault force of SEALs. The President chose the second option, but as the USMC AV-8B Harrier approached its release point it reported a malfunction in its targeting system, so 8 helicopters flown by members of the 160th SOAR launched from a US Navy ship carrying a team of DEVGRU operators and took down the target. In Yemen, Admiral McRaven at JSOC argued for an "Iraq-style Task Force" to be deployed to hunt al-Qaeda cells in the country, but his requests was denied by both the Pentagon and the Yemenis, instead airstrikes were the preferred option. However JSOC and the CIA were permitted to establish a small command centre in the capital.
By September 2011 in Yemen, with a secret CIA Predator base built in Saudi Arabia becoming operational, the CIA and JSOC negotiated their way back into Yemen, covert UAV and conventional airstrikes (by the F-15Es at Camp Lemonnier) would be permitted under the guise of them being conducted by the Yemenis in an exercise of plausible deniability for the Yemeni people. A priority target was al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American U.S. citizen, was killed on 30 September 2011, by an air attack carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command. After several days of surveillance of Awlaki by the Central Intelligence Agency, armed drones took off from a new, secret American base in the Arabian Peninsula, crossed into northern Yemen and unleashed a barrage of Hellfire missiles at al-Awlaki's vehicle. Samir Khan, a Pakistani-American al-Qaeda member and or of the jihadist Inspire magazine, also reportedly died in the attack. The combined CIA/JSOC drone strike was the first in Yemen since 2002—there have been others by the military's Special Operations forces—and was part of an effort by the spy agency to duplicate in Yemen the covert war which has been running in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In October 2011, a squadron of USAF F-15E was deployed to Camp Lemonnier and have flown numerous combat missions into Yemen in support of both Yemeni government forces and unilateral strikes directed by JSOC and the CIA targeting cells. In Yemen, before a pair of CIA Predators killed al-Awlaki, a JSOC strike involving both Predators and F-15E's had narrowly missed killing him. Weeks later, al-Awlaki son, also American born, was mistakenly killed by a JSOC Predator strike as they targeted other AQAP leaders.
In 2013, the UAV's operating out of the base were moved to a remote desert airstrip—which increased operational security and allayed local fears after a UAV and its Hellfire missile crashed in a Djibouti suburb; JSOCs predators supported the French during the Bulo Marer hostage rescue attempt. On 28 October 2013 a drone strike by JSOC on a vehicle near the town of Jilib in Lower Shabelle killed two senior Somali members of Al-Shabaab. Preliminary evidence suggested that one of them was Ibrahim Ali (also known as Anta), an explosives specialist known for his skill in building and using homemade bombs and suicide vests. The US administration has been reluctant to use drone strikes in Somalia. The reluctance partly centered on questions of whether Al-Shabaab—which has not tried to carry out an attack on American soil—could legally be the target of lethal operations by the military or the CIA. In May 2013, the White House announced that it would carry out targeted killing operations only against those who posed a "continuing and imminent threat to the American people." The strike on 28 Oct. was the first known American operation resulting in a death since that policy was announced and is considered evidence by some observers that views have changed in Washington and that the Obama administration has decided to escalate operations against Al-Shabaab in the aftermath of the group's Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, that took place from 21–24 September 2013 and which left some 70 people dead. According to The New York Times the Yemen government banned military drone operations after a series of botched drone strikes by JSOC, the last of which was a December 2013 drone strike that killed numerous civilians at a wedding ceremony. Despite a ban on military drone operations the Yemen government allowed CIA drone operations to continue.
In April 2014, a JSOC Lieutenant Colonel and a senior CIA SAD officer were off-duty and having a haircut in the expatriate area of Sanaa, when a group of gunmen attempted to kidnap them, the two officers responded with their sidearms, shooting dead two of their attackers and sending others fleeing. During the 2014 hostage rescue operations in Yemen, a JSOC medical unit inserted with the DEVGRU assault team and went to work stabilising the wounded hostages while the assault team secured the site to allow them to be extracted.
|Rank and Name||Start of Term||End of Term|
|MG Richard Scholtes||December 1980||August 1984|
|MG Carl Stiner||August 1984||January 1987|
|MG Gary E. Luck||January 1987||December 1989|
|MG Wayne A. Downing||December 1989||August 1991|
|MG William F. Garrison||1992||July 1994|
|MG Peter J. Schoomaker||July 1994||August 1996|
|MG Michael Canavan||1 August 1996||1 August 1998|
|LTG Bryan D. Brown||1998||2000|
|LTG Dell L. Dailey||2001||March 2003|
|LTG Stanley McChrystal||September 2003||June 2008|
|VADM William H. McRaven||June 2008||June 2011|
|LTG Joseph Votel||June 2011||29 July 2014|
|LTG Raymond A. Thomas III||29 July 2014||30 March 2016|
|LTG Austin S. Miller||30 March 2016||2 September 2018|
|Lt Gen Scott A. Howell||2 September 2018||Incumbent|
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