Votel Pledges Support for Special Operations Forces
Votel Pledges Support for Special Operations
By Jim Garamone, DoD News,
Defense Media Activity.
Washington D.C. – (DOD
News) – July 10, 2014 – Army Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Votel said he understands
why some people believe special operations forces are feeling pressure from
extended wartime service, adding that if he’s confirmed as the commander of U.S.
Special Operations Command he’ll work to mitigate such issues.
Votel, who testified at his nomination hearing before the
Senate Armed Services Committee today, has been selected by President Barack
Obama to succeed Navy Adm. William H. McRaven as Socom’s chief. Votel currently
serves as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command.
“I firmly believe that special operation forces perform a vital function within
the Department of Defense supporting our geographic combatant commanders and
providing our leadership with unique solutions to challenging problems,” Votel
told the Senate committee.
Special operations forces have been operationally very active
and remain very effective, Votel said.
“Key to this, I think … has been Admiral McRaven’s focus on
ensuring that we do address pressure on our force and families and provide them
the mechanisms that allow them to continue to serve their country, but also take
care of the needs that are generated by years of combat and years of service
overseas,” he said.
Wartime pressures have been felt across the military, the
general said. “I do think there are some things that we ask our special
operators to do, manners in which they operate, the secrecy with which they
operate that do not allow them the normal opportunities to talk about things
afterwards,” Votel said. “So I think we do have to address that aspect of it
when it comes to our special operations forces and families, and making sure
that we provide those appropriate outlets for them.”
The senators expressed concern that the NATO base contraction
that is happening in Afghanistan leaves the special operations counterterrorism
mission exposed. Votel said he has been following the planning closely, and
assessed that “we have adequate locations at this time to continue to do the
operations -- counterterrorism -- and partnership operations we need to continue
to apply pressure against the networks that we are dealing with.”
Going forward, a significant number of special operations
personnel will remain in Afghanistan post-2014. Plans for the follow-on
Afghanistan mission Operation Resolute Support, call for a total of 9,800 U.S.
troops, provided the incoming Afghan government signs a security agreement with
the United States.
“Approximately 2,000 of those are special operations forces,”
Votel said. “Of those 2,000, about half of that, just around 980 or so, are
anticipated to be forces that would be directly supporting the [counterterrorism]
These efforts, he added, will involve continuing to do
unilateral operations to keep heavy pressure on Al Qaida networks and those
“Importantly, it will allow us to maintain the relationships
with our Afghan partners that we have worked for many years and which we are
seeing now come to full fruition,” Votel said.
The general said training the Afghan special operations
capability is going well. “We are moving very quickly and effectively to make
them partners on the battlefield -- not only their ability to execute operations,
but the ability of their leaders to direct operations and properly supervise
those,” he said.
Votel said he’s impressed by the Afghan special operations kandaks, or
battalions, and he believes their trajectory is on the right path.
Turning to the danger posed by foreign fighters operating in
Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, Votel noted that such men undergo combat and then
go back to their own countries where they are dangers to their governments and
people. Africa is a prime example.
To help address that, Votel said the special operations
community needs to continue to work with local forces to build relationships.
The U.S. military, he added, needs to foster capabilities and look to share
information and intelligence wherever possible “to better enable them to deal
with the challenges of returning fighters to their countries.
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Army Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Votel
Navy Adm. William H. McRaven
U.S. Special Operations Command