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Home > UNS > 150130-01



Special Ops assuming greater NATO responsibilities

by Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON (USASOC News Service, Jan.30, 2015) – NATO is incorporating special operations into all aspects of its operations and training, the commander of NATO Special Operations Headquarters said Jan. 28.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Marshall B. Webb told the National Defense Industries Association’s Special Operations/Low-intensity Conflict Symposium that the organization is perfectly placed to capitalize on the multinational, multi-network response to threats.

“It’s all about information sharing, it’s about comprehensive collaboration and it’s about partner and allied trust,” the general said.

NATO Special Operations

NATO Special Operations Headquarters, formed in 2009, is the primary point of development, coordination and direction for all NATO Special Operations-related activities, in order to optimize employment of special operations forces, according to Webb’s Air Force biography. Webb, the biography continued, is responsible for providing an operational command capability when directed by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

The special operations experience in Afghanistan drove the headquarters, and NATO special operators are still working to capture the lessons learned from that “under fire” experience, Webb said.

Troubling Developments

NATO is concerned about several developments, including Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its continuing actions in eastern Ukraine, he said.

At the same time “the south is on fire,” Webb said. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant poses serious problems for all NATO allies, but especially for Turkey, which shares a border with Syria. Foreign fighters have flocked to ISIL’s standards in Iraq and Syria and many come from Europe. The attacks in Paris and arrests in Belgium and other European countries point to the serious nature of the threat, Webb said.

“SOF is uniquely placed to address this,” Webb said. “As SOF, we tend to take an indirect approach. We can engage without being escalatory or aggressive. We tend to view things from an oblique angle, and we absolutely acknowledge that trust, information-sharing and interagency collaboration is crucial.”

The headquarters trains special operators from around the alliance to work together, Webb said. Alliance personnel understand how each nation conducts operations and the idea is that all special operators can fall in on an understood framework. Webb said this is already paying dividends with special operations forces working not only in Europe, but Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Improving Responsiveness

Going forward the organization must demonstrate improved responsiveness and readiness for NATO forces to be able to respond to any threat, he said.

NATO special operators are active in reassuring NATO allies that border Russia, Webb said. “It needs to be preventative and it needs to be persistent,” he added.

The headquarters also is involved in increasing NATO responsiveness, Webb said. The alliance, he said, must respond in days or weeks, not weeks and months.

“Viewing the aggressive actions we see along the Eastern front,” he said, “you need a force that is in place that can receive and marshal forces … going forward.”

NATO special operations forces need to be in front “to be able to look at this asymmetric, hybrid challenge that we’re up against, and be in place in case we’re ever called for to provide situational awareness that would be used for any NATO response,” Webb said.