Networks of Special Forces worldwide

By Nigel Chamberlain, NATO Watch

May 2012 - NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF) led an airborne, televised mock-assault on a village compound in Tampa, Florida. Their objective, before an appreciative audience, was to rescue the Mayor of Tampa who said it had been “pretty cool” to fire a .50 caliber weapon, the “ultimate Boy Toy”.

The vision, as stated during the filming of the mock-assault, is a network of Special Forces worldwide to combat international terrorism, piracy and trafficking.  Closer working partnerships will encourage development of the recurring NATO themes of improved burden sharing and interoperability.

The International Special Operation Forces (ISOF) 2012 Conference was held in Florida from 21-25 May and provided a platform for Adm. William H. McRaven, Commander of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to unveil his international engagement strategy of ‘Building the Global SOF Partnership’. USSOCOM HQ is at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
The conference objective will be that US and International SOF leaders recognize USSOCOM as a Global Command and gain a better understanding on how to become active partners in that network. This conference (ISOF) occurs simultaneously with the SOF Industrial Conference (SOFIC) which SORDAC in conjunction with National Defense Industry Association sponsor.
US Special Forces have led the way in teaching and training at NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ) which is located at SHAPE near Mons, Belgium and envisage building networks of similar cooperative activity worldwide. 
The NSHQ is the centrepiece of the NATO SOF Transformation Initiative (NSTI). It provides focused Special Operations advice to the SACEUR and the NATO Chain of Command and provides on a collaborative, inter-dependent platform to enhance the Alliance SOF network.
Its main advantage, says Colonel Fritz Urbach,“is to bring all SOF nations from NATO and from partners together to sit around the table and to promote and improve the national SOF capabilities and to assure interoperability”. He added that NSHQ creates a network of Special Forces people who build a trusting relationship which is essential for multinational operations. 
The NATO Special Operations School had almost 1,000 graduates in 2011, and with a total of 2,500 graduates to date, NATO’s Special Operations Network is steadily growing.
A masked Australian Special Forces soldier was interviewed during the Tampa mock-assault and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, “I see particular scope for closer cooperation between our Special Forces” during his recent trip Down Under.
In a visit to the USSOCOM HQ on May 23, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton extolled the newly forged ties between diplomats and commandos. “We need Special Operations forces who are as comfortable drinking tea with tribal leaders as raiding a terrorist compound,” she said. “We also need diplomats and development experts who understand modern warfare and are up to the job of being your partners”.