After the end of the first US occupation of Iraq, the Pentagon made a concerted shift to use special forces more heavily in the future, allowing more flexible overseas operations with smaller numbers.
Defense Secretary James Mattis suggested this is likely to change in 2018, as continued escalations in myriad countries have already pushed US special forces to their limit, and continued escalations are going to rely on using conventional ground troops in the operations.
Though Mattis suggested this would have them in “special operations roles,” in many cases this will mean embedding conventional troops into operations, or deploying them in smaller US military operations across Africa, in places where small special forces deployments were kept out of the public eye.
With conventional deployments, the numbers will likely have to rise to have a similar impact in those countries, raising the possibility of more casualties, and making the escalations a lot more controversial in the long run.
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