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Scoping exercise: Special forces

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Budget cuts, overstretched ground forces and a range of ever-evolving security challenges are quickly making special operations forces (SOF) and ‘light footprint’ military interventions a central strategy for many Western countries.

In March 2013, an Open Briefing consultancy team carried out a scoping exercise on behalf of the Remote Control Project (a pilot project of the Network for Social Change that is hosted by Oxford Research Group). The team collected and analysed information on NGOs undertaking advocacy/policy work related to the use of SOF and compiled a bibliography of recent relevant publications and recommended sources to follow.

Several recurring themes were identified during this research, including:

  • The blurring lines between the military, SOF and intelligence/covert action.
  • The (over)extension of the SOF role and their overuse in general.
  • The dominance of SOF within civilian policymakers’ and defence planners’ thinking.
  • The dangers of using SOF in covert actions outside the usual military chain of command.

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