Back to the future: Designing the role of NATO Special Operations Forces in the 21st Century (Atlantica article)

Authored by:
Gabriele Pierini and Lt. Col. Leonardo Doddi
Published on 3/29/2023

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally published on Atlantica, a magazine of the Atlantic Forum, in June 2021. With permission from the authors, JSOU Press is sharing this article as a related reading. For more information, check out the article on the Atlantic Forum’s website: Back to the Future: Designing the role of NATO SOF in the 21st Century.

“The threat picture surrounding Europe and the North Atlantic has evolved significantly in the last decade. By virtue of their nature, special operations forces (SOF) need to be ready to tackle emerging challenges, and in this context, Allied and Partner SOF must evolve at the speed required by each nation. This essay analyses SOF employment in the context of the contemporary strategic environment and identifies how SOF should adapt so that techniques, structures, and operators are fit for purpose to address 21st century threats. Most readers will be familiar with the idea of SOF conducting kinetic operations in conflict and will view this as a natural function of SOF. Non-kinetic activities conducted by SOF during peacetime and crises, however, are less intuitive. Therefore, this article describes how SOF might be employed across the whole spectrum of conflict.”