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An Australian doctrinal concept for Special Warfare: Lessons and Considerations

Army Insights Papers produced by the War Research Centre, as part of the Army Research Papers series, comprise topics of special or immediate interest to the Australian Army and international military community. These are vehicles for offering lessons learned, and providing insights on military strategy, future land operating environments and complex military modernisation. Insights Papers are intended to provide an opportunity for debate, further research and organisational change.

Recent operational experience, operating ‘through, by and with’ security partners in Afghanistan and Iraq, has yet to be codified into Australian doctrine. To develop such doctrine, the Australian Army requires a conversation, drawing on analysis of best practice, personal observation and lessons captured from over a decade of recent deployments.

The clear conclusion from the Australian (and Western) experience is that special warfare — the conduct of operations with local partners — is difficult, time-consuming and must be tailored to the subtle nuances of the cultural environment. The relevant literature presents a strong argument that specific training, development opportunities, selection criteria and career streaming should be utilised to build a mature Australian special warfare capability. This is contrary to the way in which Australia has deployed forces during recent operations, and therefore requires detailed analysis before it can be considered.

This paper launches this conversation by offering ‘best practice’ recommendations for the conduct of special warfare, and providing an initial reference for those assigned to mentor Iraqi forces or undertake international engagement activities with like-minded security partners.

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