SOFEX 2014

MESOC: the commanders’ view

05 May 2014

As a prelude to the opening of SOFEX, distinguished guests and special operations commanders from many nations gathered yesterday for the 7th Middle East Special Operations Commanders (MESOC) conference. Under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II and attended by His Royal Highness Prince Feisal Bin Al Hussein, the INEGMA-organised event welcomed speakers from several commands from around the world to present their views on various aspects of the special operations sector.

Following welcome speeches from INEGMA and SOFEX, the keynote speech was delivered by General Mashal Mohammad Al Zaben, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Jordanian Armed Forces. In his speech he underlined the value of international co-operation between allies, and that Special Forces are the backbone of armed forces today. He also emphasised the need for Special Forces to gain the respect of a nation’s people, among neighbours, and in the wider world.

These were themes that recurred throughout subsequent presentations, including that of the Jordanian Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). During the JSOC presentation, the subject of the convergence between organised crime and terrorism was also highlighted, representing a clear challenge for special operations. “Money is the engine that drives terrorist acts,” asserted the JSOC presenter.

“The first step is to stop money being used this way.” Media outlets, including social media, are another key area where special operations must be active to isolate extremists from their support.

Major General Michael K Nagata, commander of US Special Operations Command for the Central Command region, also remarked on the changes that Special Forces have undergone in recent times. No longer was the special operator a “lone actor”, instead requiring a multiagency and even international back-up infrastructure to ensure that they were equipped with the best intelligence and best understanding of the wider situation available before any operation.

Furthermore, Special Forces have to better understand the consequences of such actions. “Fighting well is not the same thing as winning,” he commented. “And dialogue is sometimes better than a firefight.”

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