Magazine article Newsweek

Not-So-Special Forces

Magazine article Newsweek

Not-So-Special Forces

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Hosenball

Some U.S. special forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan may be at higher risk than usual of injury and death because the Pentagon has not equipped their units with enough helicopters to transport them safely around the countries, say six current and former military officials. Two of those officials, all of whom asked for anonymity fearing retaliation by Pentagon brass, tell NEWSWEEK that the roughly 800 Green Berets in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater engaged in what are known as "white" missions--recruiting and training local antiterrorist militias--have only three Chinook heavy-lift helicopters to move them around combat zones infested with snipers and roadside improvised explosive devices. By contrast, Green Berets assigned to "black" ops commando units hunting high-value terrorist targets are much more generously equipped. The white forces, assigned to vital but unglamorous counterinsurgency missions, are the Pentagon's "bastard stepchildren," says one of the officials. The helicopter shortage is so acute, say three of the officials, that requests for helicopters for white Green Beret airlift are rejected 80 percent of the time; some commanders no longer bother asking.

Green Beret officers have worried privately for years about the helicopter shortage, and top military officials have publicly acknowledged that it is a concern. In April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that one of his top priorities was getting "more Special Forces--optimized lift mobility": Pentagon-speak for helicopters. …

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