American Green Berets, SEALS and other commandos will continue to meet their commitments around the world, as the Pentagon imposes budget cuts, the commander of U.S. Special Operations said Tuesday.
One of the top priorities will be helping regular combat forces withdraw from Afghanistan, where the U.S. will draw down its conventional troop numbers down to 68,000 by October, Adm. Bill McRaven told a Washington audience.
The Pentagon will rely more heavily on its special operation forces there to stabilize the region before the total U.S. withdrawal by 2014, he said.
"I have no doubt that [special operation forces] will be probably the last folks to leave Afghanistan," he said.
"We're helping to develop the Afghan national security forces, Afghan commandos, Afghan local police, and where necessary, we use the more direct approach to deny insurgents safe havens from which they can conduct operations against the people of Afghanistan."
He said the special operations command would establish a headquarters in Afghanistan that will bring together three separate special operation "tribes" in Afghanistan.
Adm. McRaven told The Washington Times that special operations forces will not trade off commitments in other areas of the world for its responsibilities in Afghanistan.
"We're an enabler to the general-purpose force for a lot of those efforts, and we'll continue to do that, and when the [combat commanders] come to me and ask for additional support, if we can make that happen, we absolutely will," he said.
Adm. McRaven also noted that the 66,000 members of the special forces and their families say they want more predictability about overseas deployment.
"They want to know whether they're going to be around for their son's birthday or their anniversary," he said. "That's something that we're actively pursuing."
He added that the special operations leadership is also trying to tackle the stigma of combat stress and other mental health issues.
"This is not easy ... They are hard, tough men and women, and now you want them to come forward and expose ... their fears to you. That's not easy to do," he said.
Adm. McRaven also addressed the media popularity of the elite forces, admitting that the 1968 movie, "The Green Berets," inspired him to join the special operation forces, even though he eventually became a Navy SEAL commando.
"The fact of the matter is, there have always been portrayals of SOF out in the mainstream media," he said. "We are in the environment today where we can't get away from it. It is not something that we actively pursue."
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