milley Armys top general: train, advise, and assist here to stay

General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, speaks at the National Press Club, July 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

By Matt Saintsing

The US Army has been training, advising, and assisting foreign militaries for years. This mission set has not just become a popular phrase used by senior military leaders, it has quickly become one of the primary ways the US military fights terrorism.

And it’s about to expand in a big way, as the Army’s top officer said the service intends to grow its forces to meet this global demand.

“We are training, advising, and assisting indigenous Armies all over the world,” said Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the US Army, at the Association of the United States Army, on Monday. “And I anticipate and expect that will increase, not decrease, in years to come.”

Put bluntly, “train, advise, and assist” is the newer face of the not-so-new war on terror.

Milley’s comments come in the shadow of the recent attack against an element of the US Army’s 3rd Special Forces Group in Niger that left three Green Berets, plus a fourth soldier, dead. The soldiers were on a train, advise, assist mission with about 40 Nigerian troops when they were ambushed by a force of nearly 50 extremists.

“Our fundamental strategic approach to deal with terrorism and terrorists is to work by, with and through host nations, partner nations, friends and allies — their indigenous security forces — in order to provide for a stable environment for their own country,” said Milley.

The logic goes like this: If the US can build up friendly, host-nation militaries so they can bring the fight to terrorism wherever it pops up, the US won’t have to deploy larger numbers of American troops later down the road.

”It is my assessment that we are likely to be involved in train, advise, assist missions around the world for many years to come,” Milley continued.

One of the ways the Army will conduct these operations is with Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) that will be stood up within the next few years.  The first is already at Fort Benning, Ga., with plans to have five on active duty, and one in the National Guard.

“They will look, act, and in many ways trained similar to Special Forces, but they are not Special Forces,” said Milley.

This is not the first time the US Army has experimented using conventional troops to train foreign militaries, but the difference this time, as Milley points out, “is that those initiatives were temporary in nature.”

The Army is now aiming to institutionalize “train, advise, and assist” as its now viewed as one of the primary ways it fights terror globally.

“We are likely to be involved in train, advise and assist operations across the world for many years to come,” said Milley.

“We think it’s about time we recognize that fact with force structure specifically designed to train, man and equip organizations that can go forward for those operations.”

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