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Joint Special Operations Command

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Joint Special Operations Command

Joint Special Operations Command
— JSOC —
Emblem of the Joint Special Operations Command
Active 15 December 1980 – present
Country  United States of America
Type Special Operations
Size 4,000 (estimate)[1]
Part of United States Special Operations Command
Garrison/HQ Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Nickname(s) JSOC
Engagements Operation Eagle Claw
Operation Urgent Fury
Operation Just Cause
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Provide Comfort
Operation Gothic Serpent
Operation Uphold Democracy
Bosnian War
Operation Allied Force
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Neptune Spear
LTG Raymond A. Thomas III
William H. McRaven
Stanley A. McChrystal
U.S. Joint Special Operations Command

The primary mission of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is ostensibly to identify and eliminate terror cells worldwide.[2] JSOC is a component command of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and is charged to study special operations requirements and techniques to ensure interoperability and equipment standardization, plan and conduct special operations exercises and training, develop joint special operations tactics and execute special operations missions worldwide. It was established in 1980 on recommendation of Col. Charlie Beckwith, in the aftermath of the failure of Operation Eagle Claw.[3] It is located at Pope Field (Fort Bragg) in North Carolina, USA.


  • Overview 1
    • Special Mission Units 1.1
    • Advanced Force Operations 1.2
    • JSO Package / Rotational Group 1.3
  • Security support 2
  • Operational history 3
    • Operations in Pakistan 3.1
    • Operations in Afghanistan 3.2
    • Operations in Iraq 3.3
    • Operations in Somalia 3.4
    • Operations in Yemen 3.5
  • List of JSOC commanders 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


The JSOC is the "joint headquarters designed to study special operations requirements and techniques; ensure interoperability and equipment standardization; plan and conduct joint special operations exercises and training; and develop joint special operations tactics".[4] For this task, the Joint Communications Unit (JCU) is tasked to ensure compatibility of communications systems and standard operating procedures of the different special operations units.

Special Mission Units

The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) also commands and controls the Special Mission Units (SMU) of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). These units perform highly classified activities.[5][6][7] So far, only three SMUs have been publicly disclosed: The Army's 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment—Delta Force, the Navy's Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) – SEAL Team Six, and the Air Force's 24th Special Tactics Squadron.[8] Units from the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment are controlled by JSOC when deployed as part of JSOC Task Forces such as Task Force 121 and Task Force 145.[9][10][11]

The Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) is also under JSOC.[12] The ISA collects specific target intelligence working closely with the NSA, and prior to SMU missions provides signals support, etc. during missions. The army once maintained the ISA, but after the September 11 attacks, the Pentagon shifted direct control to Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, NC.[13]

JSOC has an operational relationship with the CIA's Special Activities Division (SAD).[14] SAD's Special Operations Group often recruits from JSOC.[15]

Advanced Force Operations

Advanced Force Operations (AFO) is a term used by the U.S. Department of Defense to describe a task force that encompasses personnel from 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), DEVGRU and U.S. Army Intelligence Support Activity (USAISA). According to Gen. Michael Repass, who conducted it in the Iraq War and was very familiar with its use in Afghanistan, "AFO consists of U.S. Secretary of Defense-approved military operations such as clandestine operations, source operations, and deployment of enabling forces and capabilities to conduct target-specific preparations prior to the conduct of an actual operation. It is logically part of Operational Preparation of the Battlespace (OPB), which follows the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace, a concept well-known in U.S. and NATO doctrine, OPB is seldom used outside of Special Operations Forces channels. OPB is defined by the U.S. Special Operations Command as "Non-intelligence activities conducted prior to D-Day, H-Hour, in likely or potential areas of employment, to train and prepare for follow-on military operations".[16]

An AFO unit reported to JSOC in the Afghanistan War. In the Iraq War, Respass, who first commanded the 10th Special Forces Group, took control of a Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force, which used the 5th and 10th Groups to conduct AFO. AFO units were heavily involved in Operation Anaconda and Operation Viking Hammer.

JSO Package / Rotational Group

The Joint Special Operations Package / Rotational Group of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) consist of Tier 1 and Tier 2 U.S. Joint Special Operations Command units that train and deploy together. All Tier 1 and Tier 2 units maintain three separate operational groups within their respective units (The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions of the 75th Ranger Regiment (United States) as an example).[17] These groups are essentially identical and deploy within their respective JSOC package. The rotational cycle is generally three months. This allows one group to be deployed overseas, another to be on an 18-hour worldwide emergency deployment notice, and the last group to be training, attending military schools, or on "block leave." Tier 1 and Tier 2 units take leave together within their respective JSOC package. This term is called block leave. Given the wartime tasking of JSOC, an additional deployment package is currently being created. This will allow less operational strain on these units.

Security support

JSOC has provided support to domestic law enforcement agencies during high profile or high risk events such as the Olympics, the World Cup, political party conventions and Presidential inaugurations. Although use of the military for law enforcement purposes in the U.S. is generally prohibited by the Posse Comitatus Act, Title 10 of the U.S. Code expressly allows the Secretary of Defense to make military personnel available to train Federal, State, and local civilian law enforcement officials in the operation and maintenance of equipment; and to provide such law enforcement officials with expert advice.[18] Additionally, civilian and uniformed military lawyers said provisions in several federal statutes, including the Fiscal Year 2000 Defense Department Authorization Act, Public Law 106-65, permits the secretary of defense to authorize military forces to support civilian agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in the event of a national emergency, especially any involving nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.[19]

In January 2005, a small group of commandos were deployed to support security at the Presidential inauguration. They were allegedly deployed under a secret counter-terrorism program named Power Geyser. The New York Times quoted a senior military official as saying, "They bring unique military and technical capabilities that often are centered around potential WMD events," A civil liberties advocate who was told about the program by a reporter said that he had no objections to the program as described to him because its scope appeared to be limited to supporting the counterterrorism efforts of civilian authorities.[19]

Operational history

Operations in Pakistan

According to The Washington Post, JSOC's commander Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal operated in 2006 on the understanding with Pakistan that US units will not enter Pakistan except under extreme circumstances, and that Pakistan will deny giving them permission if exposed.[20]

That scenario happened according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), in January 2006, JSOC troops clandestinely entered the village of Saidgai, Pakistan, to hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Pakistan refused entry.[21]

According to a November 2009 report in The Nation, JSOC, in tandem with Blackwater/Xe, has an ongoing drone program, along with snatch/grab/assassination operations, based in Karachi and conducted both in and outside of Pakistan.[22][23]

In an October 2009 leak published on the WikiLeaks website, U.S. embassy communication cables from the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, states the Pakistani Army approved the embedding of U.S. Special Operations Forces, including elements from the Joint Special Operations Command, with the Pakistani military to provide support for operations in the country. This goes beyond the original claims of the U.S. that the only role of the Special Forces was in training the Pakistani miliary. The leak further revealed that JSOC elements involved in intelligence gathering and surveillance and use of drone UAV technology.[24]

JSOC is credited with coordination of Operation Neptune Spear that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden on 1 May 2011.[25][26]

Operations in Afghanistan

According to the movie Dirty Wars, by Jeremy Scahill, JSOC was responsible for a number of raids in Afghanistan. One among them took place in Gardez, initially reported by Jerome Starkey but later in other media as well. The then current commander William Mcraven visited the affected family, offered them a sheep in restitution and apologized for the incident.[26] In the incident,[27] one US trained Police commander and another man were killed, as were 3 women, 2 of whom were pregnant, while going to the men's aid.

How many other raids there were during this time, and before and since, is difficult to count as JSOC only answers to the White House and not the rest of the military. The secrecy around the number of raids could reasonably be counted in the hundreds since they started but only a mere few have been documented as well as the Gardez incident according to Scahill.[28][29]

Operations in Iraq

On 11 January 2007, President Bush pledged in a major speech to "seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."[30] The next day, in a meeting of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Chairman Senator Joseph Biden (Delaware), informed U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the Bush Administration did not have the authority to send U.S. troops on cross-border raids. Biden said, "I believe the present authorization granted the president to use force in Iraq does not cover that, and he does need congressional authority to do that. I just want to set that marker."[31]

Sometime in 2007, JSOC started conducting cross-border operations into Iran from southern Iraq with the CIA. These operations included seizing members of Al-Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, as well as the pursuit, capture or killing of high-value targets in the war on terror. The Bush administration allegedly combined the CIA's intelligence operations and covert action with JSOC clandestine military operations so that Congress would only partially see how the money was spent.[32]

Operations in Somalia

On 28 October 2013 a drone strike by JSOC on a vehicle near the town of Jilib in Lower Shabelle killed two senior Somali members of Al-Shabaab. Preliminary evidence suggested that one of them was Ibrahim Ali (also known as Anta), an explosives specialist known for his skill in building and using homemade bombs and suicide vests.[33][34] The US administration has been reluctant to use drone strikes in Somalia. The reluctance partly centered on questions of whether Al-Shabaab—which has not tried to carry out an attack on American soil—could legally be the target of lethal operations by the military or the CIA. In May 2013, the White House announced that it would carry out targeted killing operations only against those who posed a "continuing and imminent threat to the American people." The strike on 28 Oct. was the first known American operation resulting in a death since that policy was announced and is considered evidence by some observers that views have changed in Washington and that the Obama administration has decided to escalate operations against Al-Shabaab in the aftermath of the group's Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, that took place from 21–24 September 2013 and which left some 70 people dead.

Operations in Yemen

Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American U.S. citizen, was killed on 30 September 2011, by an air attack carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command. After several days of surveillance of Awlaki by the Central Intelligence Agency, armed drones took off from a new, secret American base in the Arabian Peninsula, crossed into northern Yemen and unleashed a barrage of Hellfire missiles at al-Awlaki's vehicle. Samir Khan, a Pakistani-American al-Qaeda member and editor of the jihadist Inspire magazine, also reportedly died in the attack. The combined CIA/JSOC drone strike was the first in Yemen since 2002—there have been others by the military's Special Operations forces—and was part of an effort by the spy agency to duplicate in Yemen the covert war which has been running in Afghanistan and Pakistan.[35][36]

According to The New York Times the Yemen government banned military drone operations after a series of botched drone strikes by JSOC, the last of which was a December 2013 drone strike that killed numerous civilians at a wedding ceremony. Despite a ban on military drone operations the Yemen government allowed CIA drone operations to continue.[37]

List of JSOC commanders

Rank and Name Start of Term End of Term
MG Richard Scholtes December 1980 August 1984
MG Carl Stiner August 1984 January 1987
MG Gary E. Luck January 1987 December 1989
MG Wayne A. Downing December 1989 August 1991
MG William F. Garrison 1992 July 1994
MG Peter J. Schoomaker July 1994 August 1996
MG Michael Canavan 1 August 1996 1 August 1998
LTG Bryan D. Brown 1998 2000[38]
LTG Dell L. Dailey 2001 March 2003
LTG Stanley McChrystal September 2003[20] June 2008
VADM William H. McRaven June 2008[39][40] June 2011
LTG Joseph Votel June 2011[41] 29 July 2014
LTG Raymond A. Thomas III 29 July 2014[42] Present

See also


  1. ^ Jim Frederick (2013). "Time: Special Ops".  
  2. ^ Feickert, Andrew (17 April 2006). U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress
  3. ^  
  4. ^ "Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)". Retrieved 14 March 2009. 
  5. ^ Emerson, Steven (13 November 1988). "Stymied Warriors".  
  6. ^  
  7. ^ Risen, James (20 September 1998). "'"The World: Passing the Laugh Test; Pentagon Planners Give New Meaning to 'Over the Top.  
  8. ^ North, Oliver (2010). American Heroes in Special Operations. B&H Publishing Group.  
  9. ^ Naylor, Sean D. (3 Sep 2010). "JSOC task force battles Haqqani militants". Army Times. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  10. ^ Naylor, Sean D. (1 March 2011). "McRaven Tapped to lead SOCOM". Army Times. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  11. ^ Priest, Dana, and William M. Arkin, "‘Top Secret America’: A look at the military’s Joint Special Operations Command", Washington Post, 4 September 2011.
  12. ^ John Pike. "Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)". 
  13. ^ Rowan Scarborough (15 March 2004). "Agencies unite to find bin Laden".  
  14. ^ Woodward, Bob (18 November 2001). "Secret CIA Units Playing A Central Combat Role".  
  15. ^ Waller, Douglas (3 February 2003). "The CIA's Secret Army".  
  16. ^ Repass, Michael S. (7 April 2003), Combating Terrorism with Preparation of the Battlespace (PDF),  
  17. ^ "75th Ranger Regiment". Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  18. ^ "U.S. Code Title 10, § 373. Training and advising civilian law enforcement officials".  
  19. ^ a b Schmitt, Eric (23 January 2005). "Commandos Get Duty on U.S. Soil". New York Times. Retrieved 16 March 2009. 
  20. ^ a b Priest, Dana and Tyson, Ann Scott (10 September 2006). "'"Bin Laden Trail 'Stone Cold. The Washington Post. Retrieved 15 March 2009. 
  21. ^ "Special U.S. unit can enter Pakistan at will to hunt Osama". 11 September 2006. Retrieved 15 March 2009. 
  22. ^ Jeremy Scahill (23 November 2009). "Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan". The Nation. Retrieved 27 November 2009d. 
  23. ^ James Risen, Mark Mazzeti (20 August 2009). "C.I.A. Said to Use Outsiders to Put Bombs on Drones". The New York Times. 
  24. ^ Jeremy Scahill (1 December 2010). "The (Not So) Secret (Anymore) US War in Pakistan". The Nation. 
  25. ^  
  26. ^ a b Jeremy Scahill (2 May 2011). "JSOC: The Black Ops Force That Took Down Bin Laden". The Nation. 
  27. ^ ISAF Public Affairs Office (4 April 2010). "Gardez Investigation Concludes". Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  28. ^ Scahill, Jeremy (22 November 2010). "America's Failed War of Attrition in Afghanistan". Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  29. ^ Scahill, Jeremy (18 January 2013). "Dirty Wars". Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  30. ^ "Full Transcript Of Bush's Iraq Speech".  
  31. ^ "Senators fear Iraq war may spill to Iran, Syria". Reuters. 11 January 2007. Retrieved 15 March 2009. 
  32. ^ Reid, Marsha (7 July 2008). "Covert ops in Iran". Geopolitical Monitor. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  33. ^ "Pentagon Says Shabab Bomb Specialist Is Killed in Missile Strike in Somalia". New York Times. 28 October 2013. 
  34. ^ "Drone kills two in Somalia: witnesses: Eyewitnesses say missile came from a drone amid reports dead men are senior members of the al-Shabab armed group". Al Jazeera. 28 October 2013. 
  35. ^ "Same US military unit that got Osama bin laden killed Anwar al-Awlaki". 30 September 2011. 
  36. ^ (30 September 2011)New York TimesMark Mazzetti, Eric Schmitt and Robert F. Worth, "Two-Year Manhunt Led to Killing of Awlaki in Yemen",
  37. ^
  38. ^ [1], Flight Sciences Corporation
  39. ^ "Vice Admiral Named JSOC Head". /  
  40. ^ "Former JSOC Commander McRaven nominated to lead US Special Ops Command". 6 January 2010. 
  41. ^ "Votel nominated to head up Joint Special Operations Command". Stars and Stripes. 17 February 2011. 
  42. ^ "New commander takes over Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg". The Fayetteville Observer. 29 July 2014. 

Further reading

  • Daugherty, William J. (2 June 2006). Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency. University Press of Kentucky.  
  • Steven, Graeme C. S. and Gunaratna, Rohan (14 September 2004). Counterterrorism: A Reference Handbook. Contemporary World Issues.  

External links

  • Special Ops say lives were on line in Lynch's rescue, by The Washington Times
  • US special operations come of age, by Global Defence Review
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