- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 (UPI) — Special Operations Forces, the centerpiece of the war in Afghanistan, are getting a budget and personnel boost and will be relieved of some of their more mundane duties, freeing them up for a more active role in the war on terrorism, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

Special Operations Command, based in Tampa, Fla., is also going to be given the power to command battles, rather than just providing forces for regional commanders to direct, according to Pentagon officials.

"The global nature of the war, the nature of the enemy and the need for fast, efficient operations in hunting down and rooting out terrorist networks around the world have all contributed to the need for an expanded role for the Special Operations Forces," Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

It will be ratcheting back its efforts in long-term civil affairs, combat search and rescue, support airlift, counter-drug operations and the training of foreign militaries to focus its efforts on its "core missions:" early operations in war, missions conventional forces are unsuited for, and working with local populations to deliver humanitarian assistance.

"Training (of foreign militaries) is not going away, but it's going to be a more focused thing," a senior Pentagon official told reporters Tuesday.

Special Operations Command currently trains and equips the 47,000 Special Forces operators in each of the services but it is also being designated a "supported command" for certain missions. That means commanders of Special Forces tactical missions will be able to direct Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen as necessary.

The Washington Times reported Monday the command will get $7 billion in new money over the next five years and 4,000 new personnel to support its counter-terror missions.

Among the units expected to receive added personnel is the operations planning staff and pilots in the 160th Aviation Regiment, particular those that fly the MH-47 helicopter, a senior military official said.

Roughly 400 Special Operations Forces were inserted into Afghanistan in the opening weeks of the war, directing the air campaign and advising local forces on land battles, helping to rout the Taliban from control in less than two months.

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