War on Terrorism

Friday, July 24, 2015

Votel Discusses Special Operations Challenges



By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2015 – The “hyper connectivity” of the world today complicates an already complex set of global security issues, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said today at a security forum in Colorado.

Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel told Fox News correspondent Catherine Herridge that the problems of Russia, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and state and non-state actors is made more complex because of the speed and ubiquity of communications.

The general spoke at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado this morning.

The Socom commander said Russia’s use of hybrid warfare in Crimea and eastern Ukraine must be countered. Russia’s use of conventional and non-conventional forces and the use of military and non-military governmental capabilities present problems beyond a simple military solution, the general said.

“They are using information operations, they are using their own military capabilities and they are using ethnic Russian populations in some of these countries as surrogates,” he said.

All this, the general said, helps “perpetrate this idea of coercion and pressure on neighbors along their periphery to meet their particular objectives.”

Russia’s objective, Votel said, is to create a situation where NATO cannot thrive. Russian President Vladimir Putin sees the North Atlantic Alliance as a threat, Votel said, and the Russian leader “is attempting to create these frozen conflicts and situations that are difficult to resolve along their border and in doing that stalemate a lot of things.”

Hybrid warfare is unconventional warfare and that’s in U.S. Special Operations Command’s wheelhouse, the general said. The command is working with NATO allies and partners to develop their capabilities, he said.

Focusing on ISIL

But most of Socom’s resources are focused on the Middle East and Central Asia, the general said, noting that focus now is on ISIL.

ISIL is a terrorist group with ambitions to be the new Caliphate, Votel said. The first Caliphate extended from Spain, through North Africa and across to India.

The group is “looking for opportunities where there is ungoverned spaces and vulnerable populations, and they are taking advantage of that,” he said.

When pressure is applied in one spot, ISIL moves to another, the general said.

“I don’t know if they have a plan, as such,” he said, “but what they are trying to do is re-establish that Caliphate by looking for opportunities they can exploit.”

Votel said the fight against ISIL and groups like it will require a long-term commitment. He cited Colombia and its 50-year fight against terrorism.

“I don’t believe there’s any one strategy that we are going to apply that is immediately going to change this,” the general said. “It’s going to take a long-term approach, understanding what is happening, making smart decisions and continuing to apply pressure -- whether that is military pressure, diplomatic pressure, economic pressure, informational pressure against violent extremists.”

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