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This report has been professionally converted for accurate flowing-text e-book format reproduction. The relevance and best utilization of traditional SOF Infiltration methods are depicted for the battlefield of 2035. Through an analysis of trends in demographics, technology, diffusion of social media, and adversary capabilities, the study focuses on civilian population density and connectivity, and their relation to a SOF unit's ability to conduct time-sensitive, direct action operations. This study first outlines a typology for describing an operational environment, past or future, using the variables of population density and connectivity. Next, using the established typology, the study analyzes historical case studies of both military and non-military infiltration in environments that share characteristics with the proposed future environment, recognizing that no historical environments exist that simultaneously exhibit both the population density and connectivity of the future. The study then identifies among the case studies the characteristics that historically resulted in successful infiltration, with the goal of developing a heuristic approach to the problem of infiltration in a future environment. Finally, this thesis offers recommendations for the direction in which SOF capabilities (tactical, platform-based, and a planning mindset) should advance to conduct successful infiltration on the battlefields of 2035 and beyond.
This compilation includes a reproduction of the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community.
The special operations community has grown accustomed to having a technological and tactical advantage over its enemies. The majority of special operations missions take place in areas that are either sparsely populated, technologically undeveloped, or both. Remote villages of Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places lacking urban infrastructure and reliable communications capability comprise the majority of locations where special operations missions take place. Correspondingly, tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) leverage superior firepower and speed to overcome the effects of detection during the infiltration stage of operations. As a result, the special operations community is ill-prepared to plan and execute operations in areas where dense populations and high levels of connectivity significantly increase the likelihood and consequences of detection. Recent compromises of special operations missions through ordinary citizens' reports on social media offer a glimpse into what could become the norm. One example includes the unsuccessful top-secret mission to rescue ISIS-held American hostages in 2014 after details leaked out on Syrian social media accounts. During the mission to capture Osama bin Laden, a neighbor tweeted that he observed helicopters and explosions in his neighborhood, creating a large signature around an operation that may have been undetected otherwise. The situation is not likely to improve in favor of special operations forces (SOF). As population density increases and the internet becomes globally accessible within 15 years, these informal detection networks will become pervasive.