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Current and Future Trends in Special Operations Warfare

Interviewee: Michael G. Vickers, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, Low-Intensity Conflict, and Interdependent Capabilities
Interviewer: Greg Bruno, Staff writer
July 24, 2008

Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael G. Vickers was among the key architects behind the paramilitary operation that drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Now, three decades later, he is the top civilian advisor in the Pentagon on the capabilities of Special Operations forces, the fastest growing branch of the U.S. military. That growth is likely to continue. In Iraq, for example, Vickers says he expects Special Operations Forces to "remain at their current levels for a significant period of time" after the majority of conventional U.S. forces leave. He also expects a protracted Special Operations presence in Afghanistan.

Beyond the current war zones, Vickers says the Pentagon is watching "scores" of high-priority countries in the global fight against terror. And while Vickers says the battle against extremism "is fundamentally winnable," victory will take years. "Most irregular wars take time to win. They typically take a decade or more when they involve a single country," he says. "One that takes advantage of globalization and spans continents can be expected to take at least that amount of time, or more."

Among the other questions Vickers answers:

  • Would a drawdown in Iraq mean a drawdown in Special Forces capability in the region?
  • Developments on the Pakistan-Afghani border in the last couple of weeks have heightened tensions between the U.S. and Islamabad. Why has it been so difficult to bring order and stability to that region?
  • Are we any closer to Osama bin Laden? And how important is his apprehension to the overall global war on terror?
  • Is the expansion of the war on terror beyond Afghanistan and Iraq realistically winnable?

This an audio excerpt from CFR.org's interview with Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael G. Vickers. Read the full interview here.

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