They were supposed to fight terrorists but all those troops haven’t necessarily made the world safer.
For America 2016 may have been the year of the commando.
In one conflict zone after another across the northern tier of Africa and the Greater Middle East, U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) waged their particular brand of low-profile warfare.
SOCOM’s shadow wars against terror groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (also known as ISIL) may ironically be its most visible operations.
Shrouded in even more secrecy are its activities — from counterinsurgency and counterdrug efforts to seemingly endless training and advising missions — outside acknowledged conflict zones across the globe.
These are conducted with little fanfare – press coverage or oversight in scores of nations every single day.
From Albania to Uruguay – Algeria to Uzbekistan – America’s most elite forces — Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets among them — were deployed to 138 countries in 2016 – according to figures supplied to TomDispatch by U.S. Special Operations Command.
This total – one of the highest of Barack Obama’s presidency – typifies what has become the golden age of in SOF-speak – the ‘gray zone’ — a phrase used to describe the murky twilight between war and peace.