Special Operations Task Force Operating To Direct Flow of Weapons in Ukraine – The United States is heading up a 20-nation task force of Special Operations Forces consisting of troops and paramilitary CIA personnel to ensure that the long-range weapons that Ukraine needs are reaching the right people. And, thus far, it seems to be working.
There are widespread reports that US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems are already hitting Russian targets in occupied areas of Ukraine, the Chief of the General Staff has said.
“Artillerymen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine skilfully hit certain targets – military targets of the enemy on our, Ukrainian, territory,” Chief of Ukraine’s General Staff, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, wrote on the Telegram channel app.
About 150 mostly US Special Operations personnel were pulled from Ukraine prior to the war starting in late February. They were there to train Ukrainian troops at a base in western Ukraine. Now they’re conducting training at bases inside Britain, France, and Germany. Some CIA personnel have remained inside of Ukraine, mostly in Kyiv, and are disseminating the intelligence that the US is sharing with Ukraine.
However, other NATO SOF troops, British, French, Canadians, and Lithuanians have remained inside of Ukraine and are conducting training as well as advising the Ukrainian military on the packages of aid that they are receiving from the West.
Earlier on Saturday, the Russians claimed to have killed 80 Polish “mercenaries” in a precision airstrike on the Megatex zinc factory in Konstantinovka located in the eastern Donetsk region.
“Up to 80 Polish mercenaries, 20 armored fighting vehicles, and eight Grad, multiple rocket launchers were destroyed in high-precision weapons strikes” in the Donetsk region, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a released statement.
In a piece by the New York Times, the US 10th Special Forces Group, which had been inside of Ukraine training Kyiv’s SOF personnel, moved its operations to Germany and set up a coalition planning cell to coordinate the training and equipping of Ukraine’s troops. That planning cell has grown to include participants from 20 nations.
From 2015 until early this year when they were withdrawn by the White House, American Green Berets and National Guard instructors trained more than 27,000 Ukrainian soldiers at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center in western Ukraine outside of the city of Lviv.
The years of training together have vastly improved the Ukrainian SOF fighting capabilities.
“What is an untold story is the international partnership with the special operations forces of a multitude of different countries,” LTG Jonathan P. Braga, the commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, told a group of Senators a few months ago in describing the planning cell. “They have absolutely banded together in a much-outsized impact” to support Ukraine’s military and special forces.
The US Air Force and Air National Guard have set up their own task force which is code-named the “Grey Wolf Team” which is advising the Ukrainian Air Force in defending the skies above their country against Russian aggression.
Members of the team spoke with the media from Coffee or Die magazine and explained how the task force is set up and works. “We exist because there’s a bunch of motivated people who want to help out. There’s not another team like this in the Air Force that’s doing the same thing,” said an unnamed Air Force fighter pilot that is part of the task force.
“Knowing their pilots, knowing their aircraft … we decide what we can reasonably ‘onboard’ and execute in order to create effects on the battlefield,” the pilot added.
The US to Send an Additional $450 million in Defense Aid:
Washington has agreed to end another $450 million in military aid to Ukraine Pentagon officials said on Thursday. Just last week the US agreed to send another $1 billion military aid package, which will include additional HIMARS medium-range missile systems.
Kyiv has been consistently asking for more advanced weaponry with longer ranges since the war began. The HIMARS will allow Ukrainian troops to hit the Russians at ranges that they are currently being targeted and puts them on somewhat equal footing although the Russians maintain a huge numerical advantage.
The US has provided more than $6 billion in military aid to Ukraine. The Ukrainians attended 3 weeks of training on the weapons that have been delivered
Riverine Patrol Boats Included in Aid Package:
The US Navy will provide Ukraine with 18 patrol boats as part of additional aid that was announced on Thursday. These patrol boats are used to protect rivers and inland waterways.
An unnamed Defense Department official said that the US was sending two small unit riverine boats that are 35 feet long, six maritime combat boats that are 40 feet long, and 10 medium force protection patrol boats that are 34 feet long.
These have limited ocean-going ability but the Ukrainians were issued vehicle-mounted Harpoon anti-ship missiles to defend their coastline. Just last week, the Ukrainians claimed to have hit and sunk a Russian tugboat using a Harpoon missile that was resupplying Snake Island.
“During the full-scale war in the Black Sea, (anti-ship missiles) were used twice, first the (Ukrainian-made) Neptune, and today, June 17, the Harpoon. Both uses were successful. At the same time, the air defense of Russian ships proved to be entirely ineffective,” the Ukrainian military said in a statement.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 10 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.