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WASHINGTON – The elite troops of U.S. special operations forces are showing signs of fraying after nearly 10 years at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, their commander said Tuesday.
Olson said the demand for the specialized units in Afghanistan is insatiable, forcing troops to deploy to war at a rate that is off the charts. And he said he does not see that demand declining in the next several years.
As an example, he noted that while 100,000 regular forces have been pulled out of Iraq, leaving about 47,000 there, just 500 or so special operators were part of that withdrawal, which was just a fraction of the elite force there.
Altogether, about 12,000 special operations forces are deployed, and those not in Iraq and Afghanistan are scattered in other hotspots around the globe, such as Yemen.
The challenge, said Olson, is to stem the loss of the mid-grade troops, so that over the next 20 or 30 years the U.S. will still have a high-quality special operations force.