Defense Secretary James Mattis said this week that there is a blurring of lines between special operations forces and conventional forces, and that in the near future the latter may shoulder missions that were once the exclusive purview of the former.
In a meet-and-greet with Pentagon reporters, SECDEF said the 9/11 attacks have changed things. And while changes won’t be formalized in strategy, they will come about as a result of policy and the growth of general purpose forces’ capabilities.
Mattis said he also expects conventional forces to begin shouldering more of the load in Iraq and Syria. “In the Trans-Sahel [region of Africa], many of the force supporting the French effort are general purpose forces,” he said.
While ultimately the Pentagon’s top brass will make the decisions about which forces to send to missions, Mattis nevertheless believes that there will continue to be a melding of capabilities.
As one example, he noted that back in the early 2000s, only special operators piloted drones in combat; now, he said, practically all units — conventional and SPECOP — use them. [source]
(Analyst comment: Mattis, the warrior-academic, obviously sees the Trump Pentagon getting the most it can out of the forces it has available. He noted during his talk that he doesn’t want a force that is highly competent in has-been technology and strategics, but very relevant in today’s advanced technology and tactics. These changes will mean that conventional forces in the near term will begin sharing more of the SPECOP load, giving those troops a much-needed and well-deserved breather.)