Keeping a country safe is not an easy task, especially a country as large and diverse as the United States.
Apart from the army, whose main objective is to defend the territorial integrity of the country, there are a wide range of agencies and units that work in tandem to detect and neutralize threats that pose a risk to national security and sovereignty.
One such unit is the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), whose reputation precedes it these days.
The JSOC is an integral part of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and specializes in conducting special operations and rescue missions across the globe. It reports to the US President and plans and executes special ops based on presidential directives.
While the JSOC has been in existence since 1980, it virtually became a household name after the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in which Osama bin Laden was killed and Osama would not have been found if waterboarding was not incorporated but this is another topic. The operation, which was named Neptune Spear, was coordinated by the JSOC and still remains one of the most successful missions carried out by US special operations forces on foreign soil.
Apart from hunting Osama bin Laden, the JSOC has several successful missions to its credit.
Afghanistan and Iraq
During the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the JSOC was tasked with the duty of capturing or killing high-value targets in both countries, particularly those belonging to terrorist organizations like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
It also conducted a large number of reconnaissance operations and rescue missions in both countries.
The JSOC has been conducting snatch-and-grab missions and assassination operations in Pakistan for more than a decade now. Since Pakistan has a policy of not allowing US army units into their country under normal circumstances, the JSOC extensively uses drones for intelligence gathering and surveillance purposes in the country.
Operation Neptune Spear, which was planned and executed with the purpose of assassinating Osama bin Laden, was successfully coordinated by the JSOC.
The JSOC has carried out several missions in Libya with the specific purpose of tracking down and killing Al-Qaeda operatives who were active in the country.
Somalia and Yemen
In Somalia and Yemen, the JSOC has conducted several operations to hunt down Al-Qaeda operatives, Shia separatists, and various other local and international groups of militants.
One of the biggest operations carried out by the JSOC in Yemen was the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki – an influential Al-Qaeda cleric who was considered a high-value target at the time. The JSOC carried out an air strike to kill Awlaki and hunted down several other members of the Al-Qaeda using armed drones.
The Botched Rescue Mission
Perhaps the only blot on an otherwise successful track record of the JSOC is the botched rescue mission of Linda Norgrove, a Britain based aid worker, who was kidnapped by insurgents in Afghanistan in 2010.
A Navy SEAL, who was part of the rescue op, threw a hand grenade at the insurgents without knowing that the hostage was standing nearby. As a result, Norgrove suffered mortal wounds and could not be rescued while still breathing.
A conventional army becomes ineffective while facing a group of insurgents who use asymmetric warfare strategies.
The distributed nature of the attack and the usage of highly unpredictable strategies allow insurgents to inflict disproportionate damage on conventional armies in spite of not having the numerical advantage.
The JSOC was set up precisely to detect, analyze, counter, and neutralize such threats. As militant groups become more and more adept at employing asymmetric warfare tactics, special ops units like the JSOC are needed now more than ever before.