Naval special operations forces unit added to AFRICOM

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 10, 2011

STUTTGART, Germany − A special forces unit, newly commissioned at U.S. Africa Command, has expertise in African security matters and will be available for crisis response missions and counter-terrorism operations on the continent, where insurgent groups in Somalia and North Africa threaten regional stability.

Naval Special Warfare Unit-10, with its focus on Africa, “will ensure our national interests are protected, violent extremists organizations are placed in check and key partner nations start controlling their own security posture,” said Cmdr. Joseph Geary, the unit’s leader, during a recent commissioning ceremony at Panzer Kaserne in Stuttgart.

The unit is the only force Special Operations Command Africa “can use to quickly respond to crises or contingencies on the continent,” Geary said.

The primary focus of the command is to support training missions with African militaries, according to SOCAFRICA, according to a command news release issued on the unit’s commissioning last month. However, Naval Special Warfare forces, which include SEALS, also are experts in reconnaissance. The forces are capable of conducting a range of security and counterterrorism operations and can launch assaults from forward-deployed Navy ships, submarines and aircraft.

Among groups that threaten regional security are the al-Qaida-inspired al-Shabab, which has been waging war for several years against a weak, Western-backed government in Somalia and has claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks beyond that country’s borders. In northern Africa, the group known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb could have jihadist ambitions beyond the remote desert terrain where it now operates, according to some terrorism experts.

Whether conducting counterterrorism operations or traditional military-to-military training, Special Forces units are best suited for work in places such as Africa, where the U.S. wants to maintain a light footprint, according to Jim Gavrilis, a security consultant and former U.S. Army Special Forces officer.

“There is no question, Special Forces are an economy of force,” Gavrilis said. “You create better battlefield effects from these smaller units. I think the potential for Special Forces to get deeper into Africa is high.”

After AFRICOM was established in 2008, Rear Adm. Edward G. Winters III, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, “considered it logical to establish NSWU-10 since he believed Africa would require greater attention from U.S. Special Operations Command,” according to SOCAFRICA.

The process of commissioning NSWU-10 began in the spring of 2009 and required coordination between the secretary of defense, two combatant commands, the host nation government and garrison officials, according to SOCAFRICA.