The slogan for this year’s SOFEX conference and exhibition, ‘Networking for Global Security’, was very much the point driven home by the key speakers at the 8th Middle East Special Operations Commanders Conference (MESOC), which took place yesterday at the Le Royal Hotel, Amman.
Unlike the situation that prevailed 20 years ago when the first Special Forces exhibition (SOFEX) was hosted, the threats facing the world today have changed almost beyond recognition. The speakers described these threats variously as “irregular” and “hybrid”, being driven largely by state and non-state actors. This has resulted in what could be termed “fourth-generation warfare” in which advanced technologies, cyber attacks and social media are commonly used.
While the sophisticated technology has benefited both sides, it placed an immense burden on soldiers, hence Maj. Gen. (Ret) Mohammed Farghal’s call for exchanges of competencies, forging of partnerships and best practice by all friendly nations. He is the director general of the Centre for Strategic Studies at the King Abdullah II Academy for Defence Studies in Jordan.
Brig. Gen. Adnan Ahmad Al-Abbadi, Commander of Jordanian Special Operations Command, Jordan Armed Forces, echoed this sentiment.
He said the success of a counter to these emerging irregular threats is defined by a long-term involvement and a multidimensional approach.
Three areas were key in this approach, namely training, inter-agency co-operation and education. For Al-Abbadi, one of the truths pertaining to special operations forces is that “humans are better than hardware”. Education through training, workshops, exchanges and conferences plays a vital role in managing complex operations and also in operational security.
Getting to the heart of the problems facing the world today, Gen. Raymond A Thomas III, Commander of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), named the power populations mobilising grievances across state boundaries by means of social media. This enables likeminded groups to operate transregionally, often involving the diaspora, by facilitating fragmentation.
Thomas argued for seamless collaboration, based on the axiom of a “network to defeat a network”. Aggressive information sharing and early reconnaissance to ensure an early win are what is needed, he stated.