U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background And Issues for Congress

The PDF can be downloaded at the link below.  The report provides an overview of each component (as it usually does when this report is issues every so often).
 
It is the potential issues for Congress that is of interest as the focus is on SOF in Syria and Iraq.  The issues and questions have been asked in various ways (or in some cases the same ways) since 2001.
 
U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress 
Andrew Feickert Specialist in Military Ground Forces November 19, 2015
Potential Issue for Congress 
The Administration’s Decision to Deploy SOF to Syria 
On October 30, 2015, the White House announced that the President had decided to send “fewer than 50” U.S. special operations troops to northern Syria, where they will work with local forces in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)23 forces.24 It was further noted:
The deployment is one part of a five-part plan aimed at changing the direction of operations in Iraq and Syria, as the war against the Islamic State, often known as ISIL or ISIS, enters its second year. It will be accompanied by an increase in the number of airstrikes from both the U.S. and coalition allies.
The five-point strategy outlined by the official focuses on:
* Assisting the government of Iraq to take back Ramadi, the Baiji oil refinery and setting the conditions for a takeback of Mosul;
* In Syria, enabling new and additional local forces to pressure, take and ultimately hold ISIL’s declared stronghold of Raqqa;
* Securing the border between Syria and Turkey to reduce the flow of fighters, materiel and money;
* Degrading ISIL’s lines of communication and supply in both Iraq and Syria; and
* Reinforcing Jordan and Lebanon to prevent ISIL from gaining a foothold in those two nations.25
In response to this announcement, the Department of Defense noted to CRS on November 11, 2015:
* The SOF units participating in this effort have not yet been identified.
* These SOF train, advise, and assist teams will not directly take part in counter terrorism operations in Syria.
* We have consulted with the Government of Iraq and our coalition partners regarding our plans.
* The legal basis for these actions:
* As a matter of domestic law, we are relying on the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).
* As a matter of international law, we are using force against ISIL in the collective self-defense of Iraq and U.S. national self-defense. In Iraq, our forces are operating at the invitation of the Iraqi government, and in Syria, the Syrian regime cannot and will not address the threat posed by ISIL.26
While the deployment of U.S. SOF units to Northern Syria appears to be in the early phases of planning and execution, there are a number of potential issues for congressional consideration, including the following:
 Which component of U.S. SOF (Army Special Forces, SEALs, MARSOC, or AFSOC) will comprise this “less than 50 man” element, or will it be a joint force?
 What is the rank of the individual who will command this component on the ground?
 Who will command and control this force-U.S. Central Command, a Joint task Force (JTF), or some other higher headquarters?
 What are the geographical limitations for the employment of this force?
 What are the rules of engagement (ROE) for this SOF component?
 What is the lowest tactical level where these SOF forces will provide advisory support and will they accompany local forces into battle?
 What are the provisions to provide medical evacuation support to this deployed SOF component?
 Is there a means to rapidly extract these forces if the situation on the ground deteriorates to the point it endangers the mission and the SOF units?
 Are other allies conducting similar efforts with their general purpose and/or SOF units? If so, is U.S. SOF coordinating its efforts with these forces?
 Will these SOF forces be working with other U.S. agencies or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Northern Syria?
 What are DOD’s “measures of success” to determine if these SOF units are having a positive impact on the security situation in Syria?

 

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