Growing in Shadows: The Evolution of Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan

Jeffrey W. Brown


Special Operations Forces have become a de facto force of choice since the fall of the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001. Little more than a month later SOF began a long and complex mission in Afghanistan, a mission which would see the evolution of SOF capability. This paper attempts to answer how and why SOF evolved over the course of its 14-year participation in the conflict to become the highly demanded tool of national will it is today. This is completed through a comparative qualitative analysis of secondary sources and bolstered through primary source accounts of conditions at the time. Both former and current doctrine is analysed and the resultant changes examined through the lens of former special operations commanders and team leaders. The subsequent analysis concludes there were four significant areas of SOF development: the Global SOF Network, Irregular Warfare, the nature of precision, and unity of effort. All of these areas have seen significant improvement over the course of the conflict in Afghanistan and have become pivotal elements of the SOF approach in modern times.


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