Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan

In a few days it will be 7 years since the launch of “Operation Enduring Freedom” designed to liberate Afghanistan from the clutches of the Taleban and wipe out the al-Qa’ihda infrastructure of terrorist base camps, headquarters and supply depots.

The 2001 liberation of Afghanistan has been described as the first special forces war in history – as the ground campaign that crippled the al-Qa’ihda infrastructure and toppled the Taleban regime was conducted almost entirely by special operations forces and their indigenous allies. 

However, good books with detailed, reliable information about the units involved, their operations and their uniforms and equipment have been a bit thin on the ground.  Up until now, there has really only been Eric Micheletti’s “Special Forces: War Against Terrorism in Afghanistan” book with its many excellent photographs recreating the uniforms and individual equipment of the various coalition units involved.  

This recent book from Osprey is an excellent addition to the available literature on the subject, and provides more detail about the operations of the units involved.

Some of the highlights of this book for me were:

  • The photo of the summit of Takur Ghar on page 22 will certainly be of interest to anyone who’s read the book “Roberts’ Ridge” and it also clearly shows why there’s a “C” in CQB.
  • There is a fantastic amount of insightful first-hand information in this book – including interesting accounts of “sensitive site exploitation” and weapons cache raids.
  • The accounts of the early operations in Afghanistan also show how the combat parachute jump is still very much alive as a legitimate force-projection tactic when used appropriately – the narrative includes an account of the first ever combat HALO jump by UK forces
  • There is a quite informative rundown of personal equipment and weapons – including details of the Special Operations Peculiar Modification (SOPMOD) kit for the M4 family – and also includes a rundown on the most rifles/carbines, DM and sniper rifles, SMGs, pistols, shotguns and support weapons.
  • There’s also a good short summary of the various most commonly-used vehicles – but it makes you think that there’s enough out there on that topic to fill an entire book!
  • And finally, for all the “wannabe’s” out there, the author clarifies the situation around SF operators wearing civilian clothes and beards.

There were a a couple of little niggles though:

  • The Italian “Col Moschin” unit is mistaken labelled as “Colonel Moschin”.  This is a common mistake among English-speaking authors who don’t stop to question why the Italians would use an American rank abbreviation as the name for one of their units.  In fact, Col Moschin means Moschin Hill (pronounced ‘Moskin’) and refers to a battle fought between the Italians and Austrians in the First World War.
  • Plate C3 – German KSK operative – in the illustration section features a G36 with an M4 style magazine (but no info about a magwell adapter) and confuses the “Tropentarn” and “Wuestentarn” camouflage patterns.  They are not the same.

About the book
Intelligence specialist Leigh Neville identifies, describes and illustrates the Special Operations Forces (SOF) of the British, American and other Coalition forces committed to the ‘Global War on Terror’ in Afghanistan since 2001, providing a fascinating insight into specific operations detailing weapons, equipment and experiences in combat.

With a surprising amount of recently declassified material from government departments that are yet to be published in the mass media, this is a ground-breaking analysis of the largest mobilization of Special Forces in recent history.

With extensive first-hand accounts providing an eyewitness perspective of the fighting on the ground and including information on the British SAS, the US Delta Force, Australian and Canadian special forces as well as MI6 and CIA operational units, this book provides a crucial study of their skills and successes amidst the Afghan mountains.


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