French Special Operations What Is Their Role in the Context of Great-Power Competition? Briefings de l'Ifri, January 27, 2022
The year 2022 marks thirty years since the creation of the Commandement des operations spéciales (COS, Special Operations Command). Those three decades have been dominated by missions carried out in volatile environments, most often against irregular adversaries, primarily terrorist groups.
Special operations are distinguished from covert and conventional operations by the specific nature of their mission, more than by the means used to carry it out.
Built according to an indirect approach and under political-military control, French special operations can complement as well as support conventional operations or offer an alternative.
While counter-network operations continue to be an important part of special forces’ activities, the return of major engagement assumptions requires a return to their original practices and the integration of gray zone requirements.
Increasing stealth and developing partnerships and the piloting capabilities of relay-actors are all avenues that will enable French special forces to adapt to the new constraints they face.
This content is also available in French: "Les opérations spéciales françaises : quelle place dans la compétition de puissance ?".