Special forces
Overview
 
Further information: List of special forces units and List of defunct special forces units; Not to be confused with Special Troops Battalion
Special Troops Battalion
A Special Troops Battalion is an organic unit of a modular brigade, Division , corps or higher echelon United States Army organization...



Special forces, or special operations forces are terms used to describe elite military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 tactical
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 teams trained to perform high-risk dangerous missions that conventional units cannot perform.
Encyclopedia
Further information: List of special forces units and List of defunct special forces units; Not to be confused with Special Troops Battalion
Special Troops Battalion
A Special Troops Battalion is an organic unit of a modular brigade, Division , corps or higher echelon United States Army organization...



Special forces, or special operations forces are terms used to describe elite military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 tactical
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 teams trained to perform high-risk dangerous missions that conventional units cannot perform. Special forces soldiers need to be physically and mentally robust and have the confidence, courage, and skill to operate individually or in small teams, often in isolation and in a hostile environment. They are high-value assets commanded at the strategic level, delivering effects disproportionate to their size.

Evolution

Structured military activities have always required the support of specialised assets providing additional capabilities, some of which now come under the umbrella of what are now described as special forces capabilities. The tactics and techniques used by these assets may have remained the preserve of specialist units or be cascaded out to more standard units over time.

Special forces, as they would now be recognised, emerged in the early 20th century, with a significant growth in the field during the Second World War.

Prior to the beginning of the 20th century, the emergence of formed units intended to exploit the opportunities of newer capabilities might be described as Special Forces, such as the superiority of the Baker rifle
Baker rifle
The Baker rifle was a flintlock rifle used by the Rifle regiments of the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars. It was the first standard-issue, British-made rifle accepted by the British armed forces....

 over the musket
Musket
A musket is a muzzle-loaded, smooth bore long gun, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer....

. Similarly some conventional units learned from irregular opponents, such as Boer
Boer
Boer is the Dutch and Afrikaans word for farmer, which came to denote the descendants of the Dutch-speaking settlers of the eastern Cape frontier in Southern Africa during the 18th century, as well as those who left the Cape Colony during the 19th century to settle in the Orange Free State,...

 and developed tactics accordingly.

Capabilities

Special forces capabilities include the following:
  • Reconnaissance
    Reconnaissance
    Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

     in the deep battlespace
    Battlespace
    Battlespace is a term used to signify a unified military strategy to integrate and combine armed forces for the military theatre of operations, including air, information, land, sea, and space to achieve military goals. It includes the environment, factors, and conditions that must be understood...

  • Training and development of other states' military and security assets
  • Offensive action
  • Battlespace preparation
  • Support to counter-insurgency through population engagement and support
  • Support to counter-terrorism operations
  • Disruption of logistic routes in the deep battlespace

History

Special forces have played an important role throughout the history of warfare whenever the aim has been to achieve disruption by "hit and run" and sabotage
Sabotage
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is...

, rather than more traditional conventional army combat using large formations of troops and motorized armor groups. Other significant roles lay in reconnaissance
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

, providing essential intelligence from close to or among the enemy, and increasingly in combating terrorists, their infrastructure and activities.

Chinese strategist Jiang Ziya
Jiang Ziya
Jiang Ziya was a Chinese historical and legendary figure who resided next to the Weishui River about 3,000 years ago. A sage and military strategist, Jiang Ziya was called upon by King Wen of Zhou to serve as prime minister...

, in his Six Secret Teachings
Six Secret Teachings
The Six Secret Teachings , is a treatise on civil and military strategy traditionally attributed to the legendary figure Jiāng Zǐyá, a confederate of King Wen of Zhou, founder of the Zhou Dynasty, at around the eleventh century BC...

, describes recruiting talented and highly-motivated men for serving in specialized elite units with such functions as commanding heights and making rapid long-distance advances. In antiquity, Hamilcar Barca
Hamilcar Barca
Hamilcar Barca or Barcas was a Carthaginian general and statesman, leader of the Barcid family, and father of Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago. He was also father-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair....

 in Sicily had specialized troops trained to launch several offensives per day.The In the late Roman or early Byzantine period, Roman fleets used small, fast camouflaged ships crewed by picked men for scouting and commando missions. Similarly, Muslim forces also had several naval special operations units, including one which used camouflaged ships to gather intelligence and launch raids, and another which consisted of soldiers who could pass for Crusaders who would use ruses to board enemy ships and then capture and destroy them.

During the Napoleonic wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

, rifle and sapper
Sapper
A sapper, pioneer or combat engineer is a combatant soldier who performs a wide variety of combat engineering duties, typically including, but not limited to, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences, general construction and building, as well as road and airfield...

 units existed who were not committed to the formal lines that made up most battles of the day. They instead held more specialised roles in reconnaissance and skirmishing.

For the British Army, it was during the Second Boer War
Second Boer War
The Second Boer War was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State...

 (1899–1902) that the need for more specialised units became most apparent. Scouting units such as Lovat Scouts
Lovat Scouts
The Lovat Scouts were a British Army unit. The unit was first formed during the Second Boer War as a Scottish Highland yeomanry regiment of the British Army and is the first known military unit to wear a ghillie suit...

, a Scottish Highland regiment made up of phenomenal woodsmen outfitted in ghillie suit
Ghillie suit
A ghillie suit, wookie suit, yowie suit, or camo tent is a type of camouflage clothing designed to resemble heavy foliage. Typically, it is a net or cloth garment covered in loose strips of cloth or twine, sometimes made to look like leaves and twigs, and optionally augmented with scraps of foliage...

s and well practised in the arts of marksmanship, field craft, and military tactics
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

, best filled this role. This unit was formed in 1900 by Lord Lovat
Simon Fraser, 14th Lord Lovat
Brigadier-General Simon Joseph Fraser, 14th Lord Lovat and 3rd Baron Lovat KT, GCVO, KCMG, CB, DSO , was a leading Roman Catholic aristocrat, landowner, soldier, politician and the 23rd Chief of Clan Fraser. He was the son of Simon Fraser, 13th Lord Lovat, and Alice Mary Weld-Blundell...

 and early on reported to an American, Major Frederick Russell Burnham
Frederick Russell Burnham
Frederick Russell Burnham, DSO was an American scout and world traveling adventurer known for his service to the British Army in colonial Africa and for teaching woodcraft to Robert Baden-Powell, thus becoming one of the inspirations for the founding of the international Scouting Movement.Burnham...

, the Chief of Scouts under Lord Roberts
Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts
Field Marshal Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, Bt, VC, KG, KP, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, KStJ, PC was a distinguished Indian born British soldier who regarded himself as Anglo-Irish and one of the most successful British commanders of the 19th century.-Early life:Born at Cawnpore, India, on...

. After the war, Lovat's Scouts went on to formally become the British Army's first sniper unit. Additionally, the formation of the Bushveldt Carbineers
Bushveldt Carbineers
The Bushveldt Carbineers were a short-lived, multinational mounted infantry regiment of the British Army, raised in South Africa during the Second Boer War. The BVC is recognized as the world's first modern Special forces for the use of counter insurgency tactics.The 320-strong regiment was...

 in 1901 may be seen as an early manifestation of a unit for unconventional warfare.

Australia

The Z Special Unit
Z Special Unit
Z Special Unit was a joint Allied special forces unit formed during the Second World War to operate behind Japanese lines in South East Asia...

 was an Australian Commando
Australian commandos
The name commando has been applied to a variety of Australian special forces and light infantry units that have been formed since 1941–42. The first Australian "commando" units were formed during the Second World War, where they mainly performed reconnaissance and long-range patrol roles during...

 unit which sank several Japanese ships in Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 Harbour as part of Operation Jaywick
Operation Jaywick
Operation Jaywick was a special operation undertaken in World War II. In September 1943, 14 commandos and sailors from the Z Special Unit raided Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbour, sinking seven ships.- Background :...

.

Germany

The German army had the Brandenburger Regiment, which was originally founded as a special forces unit used by the Abwehr
Abwehr
The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

 for infiltration and long distance reconnaissance in Fall Weiss of 1939 and the Fall Gelb and Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 campaigns of 1940 and 1941. Later during the war the 502nd SS Jäger Battalion, commanded by Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny was an SS-Obersturmbannführer in the German Waffen-SS during World War II. After fighting on the Eastern Front, he was chosen as the field commander to carry out the rescue mission that freed the deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from captivity...

, also conducted many special operations. On October 21, 1944 Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 — inspired by an American subterfuge which had put three captured German tanks flying German colours to devastating use at Aachen
Battle of Aachen
The Battle of Aachen was a battle in Aachen, Germany, which occurred between 2–21 October 1944. By September 1944, the Wehrmacht had been pushed into Germany proper, after being defeated in France by the Western Allies...

 — summoned Skorzeny to Berlin and assigned him to lead a Panzer
Panzer
A Panzer is a German language word that, when used as a noun, means "tank". When it is used as an adjective, it means either tank or "armoured" .- Etymology :...

 brigade. As planned by Skorzeny in Operation Greif
Operation Greif
Operation Greif was a special false flag operation commanded by Waffen-SS commando Otto Skorzeny during the Battle of the Bulge. The operation was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler, and its purpose was to capture one or more of the bridges over the Meuse river before they could be destroyed...

, about two dozen German soldiers, most of them in captured American army Jeeps and disguised as American Military Police
Military police
Military police are police organisations connected with, or part of, the military of a state. The word can have different meanings in different countries, and may refer to:...

 officers, penetrated American lines in the early hours of the Battle of the Bulge
Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge was a major German offensive , launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium, hence its French name , and France and...

 and sowed disorder behind the Allied lines by mis-directing convoys away from the front lines. A handful of his men were captured by the Americans and spread a rumour that Skorzeny was leading a raid on Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 to kill or capture General Dwight Eisenhower. Although this was untrue, Eisenhower was confined to his headquarters for weeks and Skorzeny was labelled "the most dangerous man in Europe".

Italy

In Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, the Decima Flottiglia MAS
Decima Flottiglia MAS
The Decima Flottiglia MAS was an Italian commando frogman unit of the Regia Marina created during the Fascist regime.The acronym MAS also refers to various light torpedo boats used by the Regia Marina during World...

 were responsible for the sinking and damage of considerable Allied tonnage in the Mediterranean. After the division of Italy in 1943, those fighting with Germany retained the original name and those fighting with the Allies retitled as the Mariassalto. Also there were other Italian special forces like A.D.R.A. (Arditi Distruttori Regia Aeronautica). This regiment was used in raids on Allied airbases and railways in North Africa in 1943. In one mission they destroyed 25 B-17s.

United Kingdom

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, in 1940, the British Commandos
British Commandos
The British Commandos were formed during the Second World War in June 1940, following a request from the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, for a force that could carry out raids against German-occupied Europe...

 were formed following Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

's call for "specially trained troops of the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast." The Commandos were selected from volunteers among existing servicemen and went on to spawn a number of other specialist units including the Parachute Regiment, the Special Air Service
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

 and the Special Boat Service
Special Boat Service
The Special Boat Service is the special forces unit of the British Royal Navy. Together with the Special Air Service, Special Reconnaissance Regiment and the Special Forces Support Group they form the United Kingdom Special Forces and come under joint control of the same Director Special...

. Another multi-national unit was formed around the same time the Long Range Desert Group
Long Range Desert Group
The Long Range Desert Group was a reconnaissance and raiding unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The commander of the German Afrika Corps, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, admitted that the LRDG "caused us more damage than any other British unit of equal strength".Originally called...

 for service in the western desert.
In the Burma Campaign
Burma Campaign
The Burma Campaign in the South-East Asian Theatre of World War II was fought primarily between British Commonwealth, Chinese and United States forces against the forces of the Empire of Japan, Thailand, and the Indian National Army. British Commonwealth land forces were drawn primarily from...

, the Chindits
Chindits
The Chindits were a British India "Special Force" that served in Burma and India in 1943 and 1944 during the Burma Campaign in World War II. They were formed into long range penetration groups trained to operate deep behind Japanese lines...

, whose long range penetration groups were trained to operate from bases deep behind Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese lines, contained commandos (King's Regiment (Liverpool), 142 Commando Company) and Gurkhas. Their jungle expertise, which would play an important part in many British special forces operations post war, was learnt at a great cost in lives in the jungles of Burma fighting the Japanese.

The British No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando
No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando
No. 10 Commando was a commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The first No. 10 Commando was proposed in August 1940, using volunteers from Northern Command, however there was such a poor response that No...

 was formed with complete troops of men from France, Belgium, Norway, The Netherlands and Poland. Most of these troops formed the foundation for their own countries special forces after the war.

United States and Canada

The United States formed the Office of Strategic Services
Office of Strategic Services
The Office of Strategic Services was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency...

 (OSS) during WWII under the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 recipient William J. Donovan. This organization was the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 (CIA) and was responsible for both intelligence and special forces missions. The CIA's elite Special Activities Division
Special Activities Division
The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...

 is the direct descendant of the OSS. In mid-1942, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 formed the Rangers
United States Army Rangers
United States Army Rangers are elite members of the United States Army. Rangers have served in recognized U.S. Army Ranger units or have graduated from the U.S. Army's Ranger School...

. The United States and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 also formed a sabotage ski brigade
Ski warfare
Ski warfare, the use of ski-equipped troops in war, is first recorded by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus in the 13th century. The speed and distance that ski troops are able to cover is comparable to that of light cavalry.-History:...

 for operations in Norway who became known as the Devil's Brigade
Devil's Brigade
The Devil's Brigade , was a joint World War II American-Canadian commando unit organized in 1942 and trained at Fort William Henry Harrison near Helena, Montana in the United States...

, officially known as the First Special Service Force, during their eventual service in Italy. Merrill's Marauders
Merrill's Marauders
Merrill’s Marauders or Unit Galahad, officially named the 5307th Composite Unit , was a United States Army long range penetration special operations unit in the South-East Asian Theater of World War II which fought in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations, or CBI...

 were modelled on the Chindits and took part in similar operations in Burma. In late November 1943, the Alamo Scouts
Alamo scouts
The Alamo Scouts was a reconnaissance unit of the Sixth United States Army in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II...

 were formed to conduct reconnaissance and raider work in the Southwest Pacific Theater under the personal command of then Lt. General Walter Krueger, Commanding General, Sixth U.S. Army. Krueger envisioned that the Alamo Scouts, consisting of small teams of highly trained volunteers, would operate deep behind enemy lines to provide intelligence-gathering and tactical reconnaissance in advance of Sixth U.S. Army landing operations. In 1988, the Alamo Scouts were individually awarded the Special Forces Tab
Special Forces Tab
The Special Forces Tab is a service school qualification tab of the United States Army, awarded to any soldier completing either the Special Forces Qualification Course, or the Special Forces Detachment Officer Qualification Course , at the U.S. Army John F...

for their services in World War II and included in the lineage of today's U.S. Army Special Forces.

Late 20th and early 21st century

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st century, special forces have come to higher prominence, as governments have found objectives can sometimes be better achieved by a small team of anonymous specialists than a larger and much more politically controversial conventional deployment. In both Kosovo
Kosovo
Kosovo is a region in southeastern Europe. Part of the Ottoman Empire for more than five centuries, later the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija within Serbia...

 and Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, special forces were used to co-ordinate activities between local guerrilla
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 fighters and air power. Typically, guerrilla
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 fighters would engage enemy soldiers and tanks causing them to move, where they could be seen and attacked from the air.

The US-led invasion of Afghanistan
War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, as the armed forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Afghan United Front launched Operation Enduring Freedom...

 involved coalition special forces from several nations, who played a major role in removing the Taliban from power in 2001–2002. Coalition special forces have continued to play a role in combating the Taliban in subsequent operations. Special forces involved in these operations, occasionally working together, included:
  • UK Special Forces
  • Australian Special Air Service Regiment
    Australian Special Air Service Regiment
    The Special Air Service Regiment, officially abbreviated SASR but commonly known as the SAS, is a special forces unit of the Australian Army...

  • New Zealand Special Air Service
    Special Air Service of New Zealand
    The New Zealand Special Air Service was formed on 7 July 1955 and is a special forces unit of the New Zealand Army modelled on the British Special Air Service . The New Zealand Government states that NZ SAS is the "premier combat unit of the New Zealand Defence Force". Its key roles are to...

  • US Special Operations Forces
  • The Italian 9th Parachutist Assault Regiment Peak Moschin
    9th Parachute Assault Regiment
    The 9º Reggimento d'Assalto Paracadutisti ' is the or proudest Special Forces unit of the current Italian Army — in part due to its distinguished history, but also due to the arduous training which members must undertake...

  • The French Commandement des Opérations Spéciales
    Commandement des Opérations Spéciales
    The Commandement des Opérations Spéciales is the organisation which coordinates the use of the French special forces of all military branches . The COS was created on 24 June 1992, following the Gulf War...

  • Joint Task Force 2
    Joint Task Force 2
    Joint Task Force 2 is an elite Special Operations Force of the Canadian Armed Forces primarily tasked with counter-terrorism operations...

  • The Danish Jægerkorpset
    Jægerkorpset
    The Jaeger Corps is the special forces unit of the Royal Danish Army stationed at Aalborg Air Base.-Insignia and status :Jægerkorpset wears the maroon beret with a brass emblem depicting a hunter's bugle on a black felt liner. The beret is issued after completion of an 16 week selection...

  • The Polish GROM
    GROM
    GROM is one of five special forces units of the Polish Armed Forces. It was officially activated on July 8, 1990...

  • The German KSK
    Kommando Spezialkräfte
    The KSK Kommando Spezialkräfte is an elite military unit composed of Special Operations soldiers from the ranks of Germany’s Bundeswehr and organized as such under the Division Spezielle Operationen . The unit has received many decorations and awards from both NATO and its affiliates...

  • The Netherlands Korps Commandotroepen
    Korps Commandotroepen
    The Korps Commandotroepen are the elite special forces of the Royal Netherlands Army. It is one of the two principal units tasked with special operations in the Netherlands , and it is deployable anywhere in the world under any circumstance, conducting all conceivable missions from...

  • The Norwegian Forsvarets Spesialkommando (FSK) and Marinejegerkommandoen
    Marinejegerkommandoen
    Marinejegerkommandoen is a Norwegian maritime special forces unit. It was formally established in 1951. It is located in Ramsund in the northern part of Norway and at Haakonsvern Naval Base in Bergen...



Special forces from other nations have supported the parallel NATO mission in Afghanistan
International Security Assistance Force
The International Security Assistance Force is a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan established by the United Nations Security Council on 20 December 2001 by Resolution 1386 as envisaged by the Bonn Agreement...

.

Special forces have been used in both wartime and peacetime military operations such as the 1971 Indo-Pak War, Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, Portuguese Colonial War
Portuguese Colonial War
The Portuguese Colonial War , also known in Portugal as the Overseas War or in the former colonies as the War of liberation , was fought between Portugal's military and the emerging nationalist movements in Portugal's African colonies between 1961 and 1974, when the Portuguese regime was...

, Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

, The Troubles
The Troubles
The Troubles was a period of ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe. The duration of the Troubles is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and considered by many to have ended with the Belfast...

 in Northern Ireland, the first
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 and second
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

 Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, Kosovo
Kosovo
Kosovo is a region in southeastern Europe. Part of the Ottoman Empire for more than five centuries, later the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija within Serbia...

, Bosnia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina , sometimes called Bosnia-Herzegovina or simply Bosnia, is a country in Southern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. Bordered by Croatia to the north, west and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost landlocked, except for the...

, first Chechen War
First Chechen War
The First Chechen War, also known as the War in Chechnya, was a conflict between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, fought from December 1994 to August 1996...

 and second Chechen War
Second Chechen War
The Second Chechen War, in a later phase better known as the War in the North Caucasus, was launched by the Russian Federation starting 26 August 1999, in response to the Invasion of Dagestan by the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade ....

, the Iranian Embassy siege
Iranian Embassy Siege
The Iranian Embassy siege took place from 30 April to 5 May 1980, after a group of six armed men stormed the Iranian embassy in South Kensington, London. The gunmen took 26 people hostage—mostly embassy staff, but several visitors and a police officer, who had been guarding the embassy, were also...

 (London), the Air France Flight 8969
Air France Flight 8969
Air France Flight 8969 was an Air France flight that was hijacked on 24 December 1994 by the Armed Islamic Group at Algiers, where they killed three passengers, with the intention to crash it on the Eiffel tower in Paris. When the aircraft reached Marseille, the GIGN, an intervention group of the...

 ( Marseille
Marseille
Marseille , known in antiquity as Massalia , is the second largest city in France, after Paris, with a population of 852,395 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Marseille extends beyond the city limits with a population of over 1,420,000 on an area of...

), Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield
Operation Defensive Shield was a large-scale military operation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces in 2002, during the course of the Second Intifada. It was the largest military operation in the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War. The operation was an attempt by the Israeli army to stop the...

, Operation Khukri
Operation Khukri
Operation Khukri was a daring rescue mission conducted by the Para Commandos special forces in Sierra Leone,June 2000. The kukri is a curved Nepali Gurkha knife which can be used as a tool as well as a close combat mêlée weapon.The mission was a total success which resulted in safe rescue of all...

, Moscow theater hostage crisis
Moscow theater hostage crisis
The Moscow theater hostage crisis, also known as the 2002 Nord-Ost siege, was the seizure of the crowded Dubrovka Theater on 23 October 2002 by some 40 to 50 armed Chechens who claimed allegiance to the Islamist militant separatist movement in Chechnya. They took 850 hostages and demanded the...

, Operation Orchard
Operation Orchard
Operation Orchard was an Israeli airstrike on a nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria carried out just after midnight on September 6, 2007. The White House and Central Intelligence Agency later confirmed that American intelligence had also indicated the site was a nuclear facility...

, 2006 Lebanon War, Japanese Embassy hostage crisis
Japanese embassy hostage crisis
The Japanese embassy hostage crisis began on 17 December 1996 in Lima, Peru, when 14 members of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement took hostage hundreds of high-level diplomats, government and military officials and business executives who were attending a party at the official residence of...

 (Lima
Lima
Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central part of the country, on a desert coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Together with the seaport of Callao, it forms a contiguous urban area known as the Lima...

) in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 against the LTTE, and the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.
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