It is a self-evident truisim [that the] end of the Cold War and its reciprocal nuclear blackmail has not resulted in an era of universal peace. Rather, we have witnessed the resurgence of a multitude of regional/local or even tribal conflicts, most of which can be classified as Low Intensity Conflicts (LICs).
Earlier and optimistic assumptions of Low Intensity Conflicts involving nothing more than police-style operations, or in the worst case a simplified, lower-risk variant of the conventional battlefield tasks of infantry units have been quickly proved wrong, and in some case dramatically so (e.g. the bloody failure of the peace-keeping mission in Somalia). This has led to a renewed, generalised interest towards highly-trained and well-equipped Special Forces units as the instrument of choice for LICs as well as Operations-other-than-War (OOTWs).
Before proceeding any further, a working definition is necessary at this point to grasp what is meant by special operations and, thus, Special Forces (NATO designation) or Special Forces (US designation). The US Special Operarations Command (USSOCOM) defines special operations as “operations conducted by specially trained, equipped and organised forces against strategic, or tactical targets in pursuit of military, political, economic or psychological objectives. These operations may be conducted during periods of peace or hostilities.”
SF are units formed, trained and equipped primarily to carry out special operations, and are thus intended to provide a tailored solution to a number of specific operational problems in the framework of low-, medium- and high-intensit combinations of specialised personnel, equipment, training, and tactics that go beyond the routine capabilities of conventional military force.”