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the participation of Ghana’s Special Forces (SF) in the country’s 55th Independence anniversary has ignited debate as first whether it was necessary for the Special Forces to be created and second whether or not it was proper for the SF to be showcased to the public and the world the way it was. This article only addresses the first part of the question i.e. whether it was necessary for the Special Forces to be created. It begins by analyzing first what Special Forces are; second what role they play in helping states meet their national security objectives; and third to address the question as to whether or not Ghana needs Special Forces by examining the security threats that Ghana faces. I argue that the emerging security threats in Ghana and West Africa (terrorism, narcotics trafficking, maritime piracy, weapons proliferation, militancy etc.) coupled with the changing nature of modern warfare make the establishment of Special Forces not only necessary but critically important. I What are Special Forces? The development of Special Forces has a long history. Great Empires of history were built with armies that had Special Forces established in them. In the old Testament of the Holy Bible we are told in 1 Chronicle 11:10-15 and 1 Samuel 25:13; 27:2 that within King David’s regular soldiers of 400 to 600 men there were 30 elite men who helped him to establish and consolidate his monarchy. These 30 elite warriors which included Joab, Yashobeam, Eleazar, Shammah and Abishai are known in Israeli military vocabulary as David Heroes (or haggibborim in Hebrew).  Colonel Yasotay, an officer in the army of Genghis Khan, the great Mongolian Emperor, is reported to have told General Khan that “when the hour of crisis comes, remember that 40 selected men can shake the world”. Colonel Yasotay was referring to how during missions of national strategic importance or during military campaign, a small but specially trained elite force could change the dynamics and outcome of a complex and difficult situation far beyond any physical measure of their capability.  Special Forces (SF) are smaller secret military units within a country’s armed forces which perform specific assignments in furtherance of the objectives of the state. According to Alastair Finlan, an expert in Strategic Studies at Aberystwyth University UK, Special Forces 1
represent a different kind of soldier who can operate overtly and covertly, not only on the battlefield and behind enemy lines, but also – when necessary – undercover within civil society. Sergio Miller, a researcher at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) notes that Special Forces are silent warriors who combine minimum manpower demands with maximum possibilities of surprise to achieve the impossibilities.  Anna Simons and David Tucker, both defence experts at the Department of Defence Analysis of the US Naval Postgraduate School, observe that Special Forces comprise of specific units with a range of different, but sometimes overlapping capabilities. They are strategic assets to their militaries helping regular and irregular forces to achieve overwhelming advantage over the enemy.  Many modern armed forces have Special Forces that carry out special and daring missions on behalf of the nation. However, since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in U.S. and the successes of Special Forces during the Afghan and Iraq wars, there have been renewed interest and substantial growth in the number of Special Forces worldwide. It is estimated that there are now more than 70 countries worldwide with their own Special Forces. Since 1948 the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has relied on three well known Special Forces including Sayeret, Shayetet 13, and Shaldag. In the British Armed Forces, Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) are very popular units which carry covert and special operations around the world on behalf of the British government. In the United States Special Forces units fall under the command of U.S. Special Operational Command (USSOCOM) and include US Navy SEALs; US Army Special Forces units (popularly called the Green Berets), US Army Rangers, Special Mission Units, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Civil Affairs (CA), Psychological Operation forces (PSYOP); US Air Force special tactics teams and fixed wing and rotary wing air assets. In the U.S. for example Mathew Johnson of Missouri State University, notes that Special Forces have transitioned from a marginalised force structure to a prominent and vital part of the strategy of the U.S. military . Jennifer D. Kibbe, Olin Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, notes that Special Forces have become an increasingly important weapon not only in the U.S. military but also in the broader U.S. national security arsenal.  Matthew Johnson points out that the growing importance of Special Forces has made them the force of choice to confront a broad spectrum of irregular threats that dominate the current security environment.  According to Steven Lambakis, an analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy in Fairfax, U.S.A., Special Forces have become the force of choice 2
worldwide because they have the ability to perform at different levels of conflict, independently and in conjunction with larger operations.  Sergio Miller points out that Special Forces “succeed because they do the undoable. . . Special forces, quite simply, are an army's joker hand”.  Why are Special Forces established? Special Forces are established for specific reasons. According to Alastair Finlan the imbalance between the British and German Air Forces during World War II forced Britain to establish the Special Air Service (SAS) which went ahead to use unconventional methods and techniques to alter the strategic situation in favour of the British forces. He adds that the SAS was formed “because it appeared to offer a cost- effective means of redressing the balance using men armed with high explosives dropped off near their targets by lorry or jeep”.  Special Forces are also established to respond to unexpected situations such as unexpected attacks by enemy forces, kidnapping and hostage taking by terrorists, pirates and militant groups. Anna Simons and David Tucker quoted above observe that the US Army Rangers for example specialises in seizing airfields while Special Mission Units train specifically for hostage rescue and anti terrorism missions. Stanislaw Kulczynski, a Lieutenant Colonel at the Polish National Defence Academy, notes that the functions and roles play by Special Forces around the world include but not limited to the following: 1 Conducting intelligence and reconnaissance missions including obtaining the enemy's latest equipment, armaments, military plans, and taking prisoners, and conducting surveillance, reconnaissance, patrol and other similar operations. 2 Engaging in missions to assist the combat operations of conventional forces; 3 Developing and conducting guerrilla warfare (training of a guerrilla force; organization, command, control and supervision of a guerrilla force); 4 Developing and conducting counter guerrilla operations; 5 Conducting diversion and sabotage including disruption of the enemy's chain of command and of their supply lines; destruction of communication systems and impeding transport of enemy troops and materiel; 6 Conducting psychological operations including misinformation; creating an atmosphere of defeat, spreading chaos, panic and terror; 7 Conducting rescue operations including organizing escapes from captivity, rescuing hostages and prisoners of war; 8 Conducting anti-terrorist actions; and 9 Training allied units.  3
From the various functions and roles performed by Special Forces it is relatively fair to say that Special Forces engage in two distinctively different but complementary kinds of combat mission: those involving direct action, and those in support of unconventional warfare including sabotage, penetrating into enemy territories to gather intelligence, working behind enemy lines and securing strategic infrastructures on behalf of the country during hostilities. Some of the operations that Special Forces are known to have been involved in include antiterrorist operations, rescue operations, intelligence and reconnaissance, diversion and sabotage, counter guerrilla operations, training allied units, interdictions operations and psychological operations. Exploits of Special Forces The following accounts give examples of some of the achievements of Special Forces and explain why they are valued around the world. People who have been following the news in Nigeria from Thursday (March 8, 2012) would notice that the UK Special Boat Service (SBS) was involved in the failed bid to free two men (Chris McManus 28 and Franco Lamolinara) who had been taken hostage by members of the Boko Haram in Nigeria. In May 2011 the US Navy SEALs successfully killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan and removed the threat posed by the Al Qaeda leader. In January 2012 members of the Navy SEALs, with support from regular armed forces, freed two hostages (Jessica Buchanan, 32, an American and Poul Hagen Thisted, 60, a Dane) in Somalia after killing about nine of the hostage takers. During World War II German Special Forces were credited for the surprise taking of the impregnable Belgian fortress at Eben Emael. In Operation Thunderball which took place on July 4, 1976, a 7 member team drawn from the Israeli Special Forces flew 2500 miles from Israel to Uganda and successfully rescued 105 hostages, killing 7 terrorists and 120 Ugandan soldiers in what has become known as the Entebbe raid. Timothy Garden author of “Iraq: The Military Campaign” notes that during the Iraq war “Special Forces were deployed to secure key targets, provide intelligence and reconnaissance to optimize air strikes, and for traditional disruption tasks”. He adds that Western Iraq was secured mainly by Special Forces. In the same Iraq war, Prof. Garden notes that the 4
Australian military had 500 Special Forces operating in western and north-western Iraq. Their work helped to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction which Saddam was launching towards Israel. They also helped to secure Al Isad, the second largest airfield in Iraq. The British Special Air Service (SAS) also helped to secure Basra and the oil fields in the south of Iraq. In Afghanistan Special Forces played strategic role not only in toppling the Taliban but also in disorganizing the Al Qaeda terrorist network which saw its leaders fleeing to Pakistan for cover.  Alastair Finlan quoted above notes that the UK SAS played a key role in the Falklands war between Argentina and Britain in 1982. He adds that within fifteen months of its formation in 1941 the SAS destroyed between 250–400 enemy aircrafts on the ground in addition to other targets of opportunity. The Special Forces demonstrated the viability of conducting operations behind enemy lines through parachute deployments which by 1944 included the means to drop all-important vehicles such as jeeps to preserve the vital mobility element that had proved so successful in North Africa and Italy. One SAS officer is reported to have said that “It was not our numbers but our ideas which made a big difference”.  Sayeret, Shayetet 13, and Shaldag of Israel played key role in helping Israel win the three wars she fought with her Arab neighbours including the independence war in 1948, the Six Day war in1967 and the Yom Kupur War in1973. By whatever margin Special Forces have indeed become the weapon of choice, an indispensable arsenal not only to wrought havoc within the camp of the enemy but also to remove any threat such enemies might pose. Ohad Leslau of Israel’s Haifa University argues that Special Forces have the potential to play a distinct role, but can also complement the primary military effort. Leslau adds that Special Forces can be a decisive force, and “should therefore be considered a central element in strategic planning”.  II Does Ghana Need Special Forces? West Africa where Ghana is situated now occupies a strategically important position as a major energy supplier to the global energy market. Unfortunately the region is fast gaining notoriety and as a hub of militancy, terrorism, piracy, arm smuggling and drug trafficking. 5
The growing threat from these sources demands a clear cut response to deal with them so as to redeem the region from its impacts. Ghana as ECOWAS state is not immune from such threats. There is enough evidence to suggest that drug cartels in Latin America have taken advantage of the poorly patrolled shorelines of West Africa using large mother ships to carry tonnes of cocaine and then station them on high seas. Afterwards they would use smaller boats to break them up for distribution to West African countries for onward shipment to Europe and America. Part of the evidence indicates that the cartels are moving major components of their operations to Ghana and other West African countries. This increasingly use of Ghana and West Africa by South American drug cartels poses serious existential threat to the peace and stability of the country and also to the entire sub region. Observers of the West African criminal network have noted that the drug cartels are becoming bolder and sophisticated in their operations emboldened by large the profits they are making from the drug trade part of which has been used to acquire sophisticated weapons to protect their illegal activities. In 2007 the UN published a report titled “Cocaine trafficking in West Africa: The threat to stability and development”. The report reiterated the need for serious human and material resources to be mobilised to confront the cartels and their operations and free Ghana and West Africa from the menace of the drug problem.  Writing in the African Security journal in 2009 on the threat narco-trafficking poses to Ghana and West Africa subregion, Kwesi Aning, security expert at Kofi Annan Peace Keeping Centre in Ghana noted that: “This [narco-trafficking] is the new frontier of war and an attack on West Africa’s fragile states. A threat that is more insidious and dangerous than the conflicts that engulfed West Africa in the 1990s and early twenty-first century. This is because the increasing flow of drugs through West African States is beginning to undermine the state, through weakening its institutions, its local communities, and its social fabric. Narco-incomes are replacing the legitimate incomes, and in some instances are providing services previously the responsibility of the states. Incomes from narcotics are basically distorting and undermining economies. The drug trade now forms a major part of transnational criminal activities taking place in West Africa. A whole sub6
region now serves as a major transit point for illicit drugs coming mainly from South and Central America and Southeast and Southwest Asia to final destinations in South Africa, Europe, and North America. Critical transit points in Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mali, and Niger are witnessing an onslaught of drugs passing through their airports, harbors, and porous borders”.  Dr. Aning emphasised that the “narcotics poses a serious and veritable threat to West African states and threatens to undo all of the hesitant but positive steps that have occurred in the past decade”.  Examples worldwide including Mexico and Columbia indicate that regular armies are not capable of defeating the often sophisticated, well-funded and heavily armed drug cartels. The critical question is whether Ghana’s regular armed forces can defeat the cartels using Ghana as a base. The evidence is that it is unlikely. The sophisticated manner in which the cartels are operating demands that a specialised unit within the Ghana Navy, Army and Air Force be established and equipped with the capabilities and assets to confront the cartels. Terrorism is a global problem and many armed forces are reforming themselves to respond to the challenge. West Africa and the Sahel region are also increasingly becoming a hot bed for terrorism. There are reports that AQIM or Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has plans to export terrorism to Sub Sahara Africa. Nigeria has become the latest casualty. Already the governments of Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria have met to address the threat posed by terrorists. In January 2012 a similar meeting was held in Nouakchott by Algeria, Burkina Faso Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Nigeria. In Nigeria Boko Haram caught the Nigeria security forces unaware and it is fair to say that the armed forces and other security services struggled to mount a proper response to the Boko Haram challenge. The Federal government headed by Goodluck Jonathan came under serious criticism both home and abroad for not being able to deal with the Boko Haram threat. Part of the reason is that Nigeria armed forces appear not to have the specialised elite forces needed to deal with terrorism. Documents we have seen indicate that Al Qaeda and its affiliates have big plans for the entire Sub Sahara Africa region including Ghana. Given the fact that no country is immune from terrorism a wait and see approach to the terror threat may not help Ghana in the long run. It will therefore be in order if Ghana gets itself prepared now to establish Special Forces within the Ghana Armed Forces for the purpose of confronting the global problem of terrorism. 7
Militancy in West Africa especially in oil producing countries is a major problem. Almost all the countries in Africa where oil is being produced have seen some kind of instabilities and warfare: from Angola to Congo, to Ivory Coast to Libya, to Nigeria and Sudan the examples are many. Ghana being an emerging oil producing country, the threats of few disgruntled individuals taking up arms and causing upset in the country cannot be ruled out in the long term. Already there is clear indication that weapon proliferation in Ghana (which could make instability in the oil producing part of Ghana possible) is growing and will give the country enormous challenge if it is not dealt with. Writing in the Journal of Contemporary African Studies Kwesi Aning of the Kofi Annan Centre noted in 2008 that: “While Ghana is generally perceived as a stable state, there are enough small arms in circulation to be worrying. In addition, there is increasing anxiety that the instability that has engulfed the West African region can impact negatively on Ghana if concerted endeavours are not undertaken to understand and map its proliferation of small arms. Critical indicators of the proliferation of small arms in Ghana are the daily reports of firearms-related criminal activities in all parts of the country, and the widespread availability and misuse of small arms, particularly pump action guns, shotguns, pistols and AK47s.”  Now when these weapons are sent to Takoradi, and given to few disgruntled people in the region it could produce major problems similar to the petrodollar-insurgency in Nigeria. In short the availability of these weapons coupled with other factors has the potential to affect the security of oil and gas production, transportation and supply in the country. Research conducted in Takoradi and its environs indicate that the ingredients that have fueled the petrodollar-insurgency in the Niger Delta also exist in Western Region. In Nigeria the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and other ethnic militias has been behind many of the attacks on oil and gas pipelines and other installations in the country. These attacks have sometimes affected gas supply from Nigeria to Ghana. The problem is that Nigeria’s regular forces have not been able to defeat the militants, which forced the government to finally declare amnesty for the militants which reduced attacks on oil and gas facilities. But signs have appeared that the militants have resumed their activities. 8
As Ghana’s oil production surges the threat of attacks on oil and gas installations must be taken serious. The threats by the youth in Jomoro that they will cause mayhem if the gas plant is not established in their district should not be taken lightly. Hostage taking of oil and gas workers is a major appetite for criminal syndicates seeking to profit illegally from the oil and gas sectors. In many parts of the world it has been the duty of Special Forces to eliminate the threats posed by hostage takers and kidnappers. Unlike Nigeria, Ghana today has not gotten to the situation where oil and gas workers are kidnapped on the daily bases, but to prepare for that day will not be a wrong thing to do. From what is known in Nigeria about the failure of the regular forces to deal decisively with the militants the best team that can adequately response to threats against oil and gas infrastructures may be a specially trained elite force. Another potential threat to Ghana’s oil and gas production ambitions comes from Ivory Coast which has declared its intention to contest oil and gas resources at the Ghana-Ivorian border. While the Ivorian claims can be settled peacefully through negotiation, arbitration or cooperation, military confrontation cannot be ruled out when dialogue fails. The role of Special Forces in any modern war is of so strategic value that it cannot be reduced to party politics. In other words oil and gas production and supply come with it security challenges that cannot be ignored by any serious energy producing country. Another threat Ghana must prepare to deal with is the activities of pirates. The number of pirates’ activities off the coast of the Gulf of Guinea including Ghana and West Africa is growing. Major oil tankers and cargo ships carrying oil and raw materials from the Gulf of Guinea to U.S. and Europe have come under serious attacks from pirates. According to reports the pirates usually come with fast speed boats with sophisticated weapons, hijack ships, demand money and cart away its goods. The International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Live Piracy map and Live Piracy Report indicate that Gulf of Guinea in West Africa is one of the key zones where ships are increasingly under threat of being hijacked by pirates. The activities of pirates are increasingly threatening shipping routes, and trade in West Africa including Ghana. The pirates’ activities not only threaten the lives of crew but also put business and trade (the lifeblood of the resource export economies in West Africa including Ghana) under threat. 9
On February 9th, 2012 at 04am local time four robbers armed with long knives boarded an offshore tug berthing at the Takoradi Port, in Ghana and stole goods from the ship’s stores. The robbers threatened the watchmen who were on duty with long knives and escaped in a canoe with their stolen goods. Although the crew was safe and no casualties were reported, the attack itself speaks volume of the threat that oil and cargo ships operating in Ghana ports and coastal waters face. What worries many experts and industry leaders is that the pirates are attacking ships further and further away from the coast leaving ships, their cargo and their crews very much vulnerable. There are reports that shipping insurers are beginning to increase insurance premium for ships operating in West African coastal waters including Ghana. Other reports also speak of oil and shipping companies asking NATO and Western governments to provide them with security to eliminate the pirates’ threat in West Africa and the Horn of Africa. If the activities of the pirates are allowed to go unchecked it will endanger business and trade activities not only in Ghana but also in the entire subregion. What is important so far as Ghana is concerned is its national security, economic security, political stability, international trade, protection of human life. The growing threat from drug cartels, arms traffickers pirates, militants, and terrorists to the security of Ghana and its neighbours shows that it will be difficult for Ghana to confront these threats without adequately developing its own special forces to deal decisively with them. The key problem in Ghana is for the ruling government not to politicise the establishment of such elite forces and issuing threats to the effect that such forces will be used to deal with the opposition parties. For as soon as such threats are issued it degrades the importance of such a strategic national asset and weakens its standing in the eyes of the public. Therefore it is crucial that the generals and admirals in the Ghana Armed Forces adhere to the concept of military honour which stipulates that the professional soldier must be above politics meaning that, in domestic politics, generals and admirals should do well not to attach themselves to political parties or overtly display partisanship. Therefore as noted by Sam C. Sarkesian the doctrine of an impartial, nonpartisan, objective career service, loyally serving whatever administration or party that is in power must be religiously respected by the Armed Forces to avert a situation where one political party will be inclined to dissolve the Special Forces when they come to power as happened to the 64 Battalion when the Kuffour government came into power.  10
firstname.lastname@example.org 10/03/2012 Reference  Mazar, B. (1963) “The Military Élite of King David” Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 13, pp. 310 Lambakis, S. (1994) ““Forty selected men can shake the world”: The contributions of special operations to victory”, Comparative Strategy, 13:2, 211-221  Finlan, A. (2009) ‘The (Arrested) Development of UK Special Forces and the Global War on Terror’ Review of International Studies (2009), 35, 971–982  Miller, S. (1993) “Special forces—a future?” The RUSI Journal, 138:4, 70-74  Simons, A. and Tucker, D. (2010) “United States special operations forces and the war on terrorism” Small Wars & Insurgencies, 14:1, 77-91 [6 Johnson, M. (2006) “The Growing Relevance of Special Operations Forces in U.S. Military Strategy” Comparative Strategy, 25:4, 273-296  Kibbe, J. D. (2007) “Covert Action and the Pentagon,” Intelligence and National Security, 22/1 pp. 57-74  Johnson, M. (2006) “The Growing Relevance of Special Operations Forces in U.S. Military Strategy” Comparative Strategy, 25:4, 273-296  Lambakis, S. (1994) ““Forty selected men can shake the world”: The contributions of special operations to victory”, Comparative Strategy, 13:2, 211-221  Miller, S. (1993) “Special forces—a future?” The RUSI Journal, 138:4, 70-74  Finlan, A. (2009) ‘The (Arrested) Development of UK Special Forces and the Global War on Terror’ Review of International Studies (2009), 35, 971–982  Kulczynski, S. (1994) “Missions of modern special forces” The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 7:2, 264-269 Garden, T. (2003) “Iraq: The Military Campaign” International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944), Vol. 79, No. 4 pp. 701-718  Miller, S. (1993) “Special forces—a future?” The RUSI Journal, 138:4, 70-74  Leslau, O. (2010): “Worth the Bother? Israeli Experience and the Utility of Special Operations Forces”, Contemporary Security Policy, 31:3, 509-530  UN (2007) “Cocaine trafficking in West Africa: The threat to stability and development”.  Aning, K. (2009) “Perspectives on President Barack Obama's Africa Foreign Policy” African Security, 2:1, 66-67  Aning, K. (2009) “Perspectives on President Barack Obama's Africa Foreign Policy” African Security, 2:1, 66-67  Aning, K. (2008) “From ‘voluntary’ to a ‘binding’ process: towards the securitisation of small arms” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 26:2, 169-181 11
 Sarkesian, S. C. (1972) “Political Soldiers: Perspectives on Professionalism in the U. S. Military” Midwest Journal of Political Science, Vol. 16, No. 2 (May, 1972), pp. 239-258
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