Somewhere on this planet an American commando is carrying out a mission. Now, say that seventy times and you’re done… for the day. Without the knowledge of the American public, a secret force within the US military is undertaking operations in a majority of the world’s countries. This new Pentagon power elite is waging a global war whose size and scope has never been revealed, until now.
After a US Navy SEAL put a bullet in Osama bin Laden’s chest and another in his head, one of the most secretive black-ops units in the American military suddenly found its mission in the public spotlight.
It was atypical. While it’s well known that US Special Operations forces are deployed in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s increasingly apparent that such units operate in murkier conflict zones like Yemen and Somalia, the full extent of their worldwide war has remained deeply in the shadows.
Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that US Special Operations forces were deployed in seventy-five countries, up from sixty at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year, US Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. “We do a lot of traveling—a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said recently. This global presence—in about 60 percent of the world’s nations and far larger than previously acknowledged—provides striking new evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.
Born of a failed 1980 raid to rescue American hostages in Iran, in which eight US service members died, US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in 1987. Having spent the post-Vietnam years distrusted and starved for money by the regular military, special operations forces suddenly had a single home, a stable budget and a four-star commander as their advocate.