- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

America’s cadre of elite special operations forces remain steadfast in executing their counterterrorism strategy against Islamic State and other extremist organizations, despite the recent shakeup at the National Security Council.

“I think we are staying focused” on the task at hand, said U.S. Special Operations Command chief Gen. Raymond Thomas on Tuesday, when asked whether the surprise resignation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has created any confusion or concern within the command.

However, Gen. Thomas did note that Mr. Flynn’s abrupt departure was symptomatic of the underlying chaos that has engulfed the White House in recent weeks.

“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war,” Gen. Thomas said.

Mr. Flynn, a retired three-star general and former Defense Intelligence Agency chief, stepped down as the head of President Trump’s national security team late Monday.



His resignation came after he admitted to misleading Vice President Mike Pence regarding details of his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. The conversations reportedly included talk about recently levied sanctions against Moscow by the Obama White House, over Russia’s interference in the presidential elections.

Prior to his resignation, Mr. Flynn had been slated to speak at the awards banquet for the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict symposium in Bethesda Monday night.

During that same conference, Gen. Thomas told attendees on Tuesday that his command and the special operations community had received “a resounding message of support” from the Trump White House thus far.

Gen. Thomas said he and the commander in chief had “a very open conversation on what is needed to win … and what winning looks like” against the Islamic State, or ISIS or ISIL, in Iraq and Syria.

Part of that discussion included the president’s willingness to approve adjustments to the current anti-ISIS strategy, consisting of U.S. military advisers working with local forces and small teams of special operations units conducting selective strikes against the terror group.

But Gen. Thomas did note any adjustment to U.S. counterterror strategy would not include an increased American military presence in Iraq, Syria or elsewhere, at least in the near-term.

“With more troops on the ground, I think you begin to own the problem,” he said, noting that the final decision on U.S. troop levels in the region would fall to U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel.

That said, U.S. special operations forces “are being pretty damn prolific right now” in battling ISIS under the current strategy and combat authorities, Gen. Thomas said, adding those units are “committed almost to the max” to the current fight.

“I do not know if that [really] resonates in the United States,” he said, regarding the American public’s grasp of how heavily involved special operations units are engaged, and the veracity of the enemy it is facing.

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