May 9, 2016 – The 8th Middle East Special Operations Commanders Conference (MESOC 2016), took place today May 9th 2016 at the Le Royal Hotel in Amman, Jordan. Held under the patronage of His Royal Majesty King Abdullah II and supported by the Jordanian Joint Special Operations Forces Command, MESOC 2016 is the official conference of SOFEX taking place in Amman between May 10-13.
MESOC 2016 began with the arrival of HRH Prince Faisal bin Hussein followed by the Jordanian salute. Riad Kahwaji, Chief Executive Officer of SEGMA and the master of ceremony presented opening remarks to the distinguished guests and spoke about the introduction of hybrid and fourth generation warfare into the security paradigm, elements of which will be discussed through presentations and discussions planned for the day. Collaboration and collective efforts, Riad Kah waji said, will be crucial in meeting emerging threats adding that he hope MESOC 2016 will support these requirements by providing a unique platform and networking space for the special operations forces community (SOF). Amer Tabbah, the Director General of SOFEX, provided a welcome note to the guests and cited the Great Arab Revolt 100 years ago this year, which marked a turning point for the region by creating a single, unified state under the leadership of the Sherif of Mecca. Amer Tabbah was hopeful that over the course of the next three days participants would strengthen existing relationships and forge new partnerships.
The Keynote Address was provided by the General Meshaal Al Zeben, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Jordanian Armed Forces. General Al Zeben spoke about the growing terrorist threat and internal strife which has created new challenges in the form of hybrid threats in the Middle East and around the world. Conventional and irr egular tactics, techniques and procedures are being combined with cyber power to posit a new security threat by emerging hybrid threats. Special forces facilitate joint air and land integration, which is critical against emerging threats, and Jordan is proud to demonstrate the competencies of its special forces, share lessons learned at home and develop best practice together with its partners. Communication networks have a vital role to play, and reliable weapons and systems as well as precision strike capabilities are critical to effective and highly targeted direct action against threats.
First Panel Session
Major General (Ret.) Mohammed Farghal, Director General of the Center for Strategic Studies (CSS), introduced Brigadier General Adnan AlAbadi, Commander, Joint Special Forces Command, Jordan, who presented on “Improving Battlefield Performance of Special Forces Operators against Emerging Irr egular Threats.” BG AlAbadi spoke about the growing complexity of war, nature of irregular and hybrid threats, and emphasized how success will be determined by harnessing multidimensional approaches under a continuous, long-term process that supports continuous improvement. Training, education, and inter-agency collaboration were three key areas highlighted by BG AlAbadi in his presentation as being the critical factors which will enable SOF to both achieve the non-SOF assistance that is crucial to their success and to deliver the quality of effects they are tasked with.
The second presentation of the session, “Global Special Operations in the Emerging Environment,” was delivered by General Tony Thomas, Commander of the Special Operations Command, United States. General Thomas spoke about the goal to develop the most capable SOF relevant to current and future threats, and spoke about the navigation of security threats by gover nments around the world harnessing diplomatic, informational, military, and economic tools. However, emerging trans-regional threats have blurred national and regional boundaries and responsibilities, meaning that no single government of military can counter threats entirely on their own – instead, developing partnerships and cooperation is a critical common requirement for all stakeholders. Manufactured perceptions often defy on-the-ground realities, and countering violent extremists such as “Daesh” and its affiliates will require an operational framework that can win battles early. Forward access and trans-regional relationships which can offer opportunities to be leveraged for countering threats and complex challenges before crises are able to take hold to posit strategic risks will be crucial, General Thomas emphasized.
Second Panel Session
The first presentation on the second session, “Effectively Developing and Deploying Capabilities for Information Operations in Special Missions,” was delivered by Brigadier Shane Gabriel, Chief of Staff, Special Operations Command, Australia. Brigadier Gabriel spoke about the need to develop hybrid and counter-hybrid approaches with appropriate command and control structures against enemies not constrained by shared social norms and rules of engagement. The application of information operations and other effects must evolve to meet the challenge in a world of emerging threats.
The second presentation, “Employment of Special Forces in Sub-Conventional Conflict in Complex Environments and Challenging Topographies,” was delivered by Major General Tahir Masood, Commander, Special Services Group (SSG), Pakistan. Major General Masood spoke about the role of detailed planning, optimal utilization of available force multipliers and information operations to support military operations, emphasizing how high-tempo, aggressive, and bold operations that can maintain relentless pressure against threats while avoiding collateral damage is so crucial. Major General Masood explained how the Pakistan Army has effectively eliminated militant sanctuaries on its soil to a significant extent but the threat is far from over considering the emerging strategic environment as well as the nature and history of such threats. Sustained capacity-building of the army and security forces must continue alongside policies to address root causes of violent extremism.
The third presentation, “The Lebanese Army Special Operations Experience in Combating Terrorism,” was delivered by Colonel Fadi Kfoury, Strike Operations Forces Commander, Lebanon. Colonel Kfoury spoke about the various operations conducted by his unit in the battle of Arsal and the consecutive phases of these operations. He stressed on the threat of terrorism in Lebanon and t he number of soldiers that were taken captive or killed and the few that were eventually freed. Their last raid in April 2016 was successful and resulted in the killing and arrest of ISIS terrorists. He stressed on the importance of cooperation and coordination with other countries in the fight against terrorism.
The first presentation in the third session, “Soldier Modernization for Special Operations Forces – Assessing Achievements and the Outlook to 2020,” was delivered by Colonel Andre Harivongs, Chief, Special Operations Capacities Development Division, Special Operations Command, France. Colonel Harivongs spoke about the role of hybrid threats and the growth of transnational non-state actors in the emerging environment and how they are reducing the technological advantage of conventional armed forces. SOF warfighters and operators today need to be better protected, able to see farthe r and better (detect, identify and discriminate) at day and at night, better informed (connected in real time), be able to react and decide quicker, and to engage the enemy from farther, more accurately and with greater firepower. Colonel Harivongs, like many presenters before him, also spoke about how warfighters and operators are more important than hardware they use, and in that perspective focusing on the need to improve their physical and cognitive capacities.
The second presentation, “Agility and Mobility versus Protection and Firepower – Achieving a Flexible Force Posture for Special Operations Forces” was delivered by Lieutenant Colonel Michal Cymbalista, Poland. He stated that agility, mobility, protection and firepower are all key tools for commanders, and as such there is no clear answer to achieving an ideally flexible force posture with these capabilities to win wars. Instead, the focus is, and must remain, on how to synergize and how to conduct joint operations as SOF are joint by nature – equipment, such as vehicles, and other elements may change over time however the operator and the warfighter does not change. Training and preparation of SOF warfighters, and equipping them with their specific needs holds the key to ensuring effective operations within acceptable limits of risks.
The final presentation of the session and of the conference, “Identifying Strategic Enablers of Rapid Response and Situational Adaptation for Special Operations Missions,” was delivered by Major General Dag Baehr, Commander, Special Operations Command KSK, Germany. Major General Baehr identified three main strategic enablers including time – which incorporates elements such as speed, agility, adaptability, and direct planning. Information – which includes intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance. Terrain/space – includes outreach capabi lities and sustainability and the projection of forces. He discussed the importance and relevance of hybrid warfare today, however he pointed out that it was not a new concept in the field of special operations and has been present for some time. He stated that hybrid warfare requires a new approach of campaigning that is more comprehensive in nature.
Riad Kahwaji offered concluding remarks before closing the conference, thanked the distinguished speaker panel and other participants, to KADDB, Gold Sponsor, and media partners Nation Shield, Defense News, Al Defaiya, Special Operations International, Al Jundi, Defence 21 and SDArabia for their support to MESOC 2016.
MESOC is organized by SEGMA – a specialist event organizer and management firm based in Dubai, UAE, which has taken over all events and events-related activities previously owned, managed, and run by INEGMA.