Sunday, December 3, 2023

Pentagon planning major cuts to US special forces in pivot away from Middle East: Report

The US Department of Defense is planning to make large cuts to the country's special operation forces, as it shifts its “focus from counterterrorism in the Middle East to threats from China”, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

The US Army is going to cut around 3,000 troops of its special forces, about 10 percent, which could include its famed Green Beret commando units which have been mobilised over the past several decades, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The final documents have yet to be signed by Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, officials told the newspaper, but the army is planning to brief Congress in the coming days. The majority of the cuts include supporting roles like psychological warfare, intelligence operators, communications troops, and logistics roles.

US special forces have been a pillar of the country’s post-9/11 wars in the Middle East.

Since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, United States Special Operations Command, which includes special forces in the Navy, Marines, and Air Force, has grown from 45,000 to 75,000, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Special forces have been glorified by Hollywood in a number of films and television series, and some critics have dismissed many of the films as propaganda for the military industrial complex, citing the Pentagon’s influence on the film industry.

However, after two decades of surging US military presence in the region, Washington began to withdraw from the Middle East and other countries that were a target in the US “War on Terror”.

In August 2021, the Joe Biden administration oversaw the completion of the American military withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending the country’s two-decade military presence in the country.

The reported cut to special forces would need to be approved by Congress. However, if it goes through, then it would mark another direction away from using such forces in prolonged counterterrorism operations in the Middle East.

It would also turn the Pentagon’s focus to a potential larger-scale conflict with China amid a new great power competition era, which officials told the Wall Street Journal would require a larger conventional military force.

The planned cuts also come as the US Army is facing recruitment struggles. So far this year, the military missed a recruiting goal by 15,000 people, according to the newspaper.

The US military’s recruiting struggle has been an issue for the country for the past several years, as many in the American public have become opposed to military intervention after witnessing the “forever wars” fought in the Middle East.

For example, a majority of US veterans have said that the Iraq war was not worth fighting, according to a poll conducted by Pew Research Center in 2019.

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