- In January, US Particular Operations Command Europe mentioned it might arrange a brand new headquarters in Albania.
- The command mentioned it selected Albania due to its proximity to main transport hubs within the Balkans, thus lowering journey instances.
- The announcement comes as ongoing disputes with Russia add to rigidity in an already tense nook of Europe.
Towards the backdrop of Russia’s truculence in Japanese Europe, US particular operators have established a brand new forward-operating base in one other tense nook of Europe.
In early January, US Particular Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) introduced its determination to arrange a special-operations headquarters in Albania.
The brand new headquarters will assist in SOCEUR’s mission to “provoke our relationship with Allies and companions to counter malign affect, construct interoperability, quickly reply to rising threats and if mandatory, defeat aggression,” the command mentioned.
Entry and comfort
SOCEUR mentioned the headquarters will probably be based mostly in Albania on a rotational foundation, suggesting that it’s going to solely be used throughout specific months of the yr or throughout instances of want.
The variety of particular operators within the new headquarters will probably be small — about 10 to fifteen — Maj. Gen. David Tabor, SOCEUR’s commanding officer, informed an area media outlet.
The command, which oversees special-operations actions in Europe, additionally mentioned it selected Albania due to its proximity to main transportation hubs within the Balkans, thus lowering journey instances for particular operators and standard items.
“The power to quickly transfer and practice inside the Balkans, in shut coordination with different allied and accomplice forces, made Albania the most effective location for this effort. Albania stays an necessary NATO ally and a valued safety accomplice, each regionally and globally,” Tabor mentioned in a press launch.
“The Balkans have all the time been a spot of curiosity for us relationship again to the Chilly Warfare. You will notice tenth [Special Forces Group] guys in Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria, [and] Greece on a regular basis,” a retired Army Special Forces operator informed Insider.
The area has lengthy been risky as a result of the numerous completely different ethnicities, nationalities, and religions in shut proximity there, which has in flip made it “fertile floor for battle and atrocities, as we sadly noticed with the genocides in Bosnia in the course of the battle,” the operator mentioned, talking anonymously as a result of he nonetheless works with the US army.
Particular-operations forces “are all about entry,” whether or not it is a forward-operations base or a standing partnership with a overseas army, and “the extra entry we’ve, the higher positioned we’re to function,” the retired Inexperienced Beret mentioned. “We are able to then use this entry to our benefit ought to we [be] tasked to function.”
However past entry and comfort, the brand new special-operations headquarters will assist counter malign Russian affect within the area.
Countering Russian malign affect
Albania has been a NATO member since 2009. It despatched troops to assist NATO and the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, and the alliance has helped Albania enhance its army capabilities.
Nonetheless, a number of nations within the area, together with Bosnia, Serbia, and Bulgaria, aren’t precisely within the US’s sphere of affect. These nations had been aligned with the Soviet Union in the course of the Chilly Warfare and a few preserve shut ties to Russia.
As tensions with Russia improve, Moscow may attempt to use such connections to fire up hassle. It has already accomplished so within the latest previous — in 2016, Russian intelligence officers tried to set up a coup d’etat to overthrow the Montenegrin authorities. Moscow additionally criticized North Macedonia’s accession to NATO in 2020.
Actions carried out by US special-operations forces on the new headquarters will doubtless deal with overseas inside protection, civil affairs, and psychological operations, the retired Inexperienced Beret mentioned.
“Albania is not subsequent to Russia, so you aren’t getting that bodily proximity to an adversary. However the Balkans are necessary, and Russia nonetheless has a variety of sway there,” he added. “Backside line, Russians are Slav[ic] and so is a lot of the Balkans, with only a few exceptions, like Greece, and Russia has all the time performed that card to govern and management the state of affairs there.”
Turkey can also be an element within the area. Turkey has invested closely in Albania and each are NATO members in addition to majority-Muslim nations, however beneath President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has steadily moved away from the transatlantic alliance, elevating issues about NATO’s entry and operations in an necessary a part of the world.
SOCEUR’s determination to base the brand new special-operations headquarters in Albania could be a tactful try to protect a few of that entry or to maintain Turkey from pulling different NATO nations away with it. Albania’s willingness to host the headquarters undoubtedly performed an element, as different governments may need confronted home opposition.
For now, the brand new headquarters is extra symbolic than operationally vital, however particular operators are all the time on the hunt for entry and can profit from having this base. The choice to place it in Albania means that the Balkans are as soon as extra a area of significance for the US army.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a protection journalist specializing in particular operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (nationwide service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins College graduate.