Even as tensions rise across the world, 2022 will find the Army’s top troops at work in Eastern Europe and Asia.
Much of their work in the Pacific is centered around preparing partner forces for potential conflict with China.
The world learned in October that small numbers of Special Forces troops have been training Taiwan’s security forces for more than a decade, in addition to their other work across the region. The Army’s 1st Special Forces Group also maintains a forward-deployed battalion on Okinawa, which is just over 400 miles away from Taiwan.
“Our allies and partners here in the [Pacific] are in this conflict space [with China] right now,” said Lt. Col. Erik Davis, the battalion’s former commander, in a podcast. “They’re having to assert their sovereignty and reassert their sovereignty as China pushes everywhere it can in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.”
Special operations planners in the Pacific are also looking at whether they can implement portions of the Resistance Operating Concept in 2022 and beyond. The ROC is a framework for building up the capacity of friendly countries to mount an effective civil and military resistance if they were to face invasion and occupation from a hostile great power. It incorporates Special Forces, psychological operations and civil affairs.
The ROC is already driving a lot of Army SOF’s training and planning in Europe, though, where 2021 saw numerous exercises aimed at building the resistance capabilities of countries like Georgia — which, though located in the Caucasus region of Asia, falls under U.S. European Command’s responsibility. EUCOM also has a forward-deployed Special Forces unit — 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group — in Germany.
Exercises on the calendar for 2022 in Europe will include ARSOF elements, according to fiscal 2022 European Deterrence Initiative budgeting docs submitted to Congress.
Partner forces in Eastern Europe have had their unconventional warfare and hybrid warfare skills put to the test recently, too.
Western nations condemned Belarus, an Eastern European dictatorship closely aligned with Russia, for weaponizing migrants at its borders with European Union and NATO countries and trying to overwhelm border forces.
And although a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine is unlikely to trigger a direct military response from the U.S. or NATO, retaliatory sanctions against Russia and Belarus could further inflame tensions in the region.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard's border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.