Special Forces units perform seven doctrinal missions: Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, Special Reconnaissance, Direct Action, Combatting Terrorism, Counter-proliferation, and Information Operations. These missions make Special Forces unique in the U.S. military, because they are employed throughout the three stages of the operational continuum: peacetime, conflict and war.
Special Forces Command’s Unconventional Warfare capabilities provide a viable military option for a variety of operational taskings that are inappropriate or infeasible for conventional forces, making it the U.S. military’s premier unconventional warfare force.
Foreign Internal Defense operations, SF’s main peacetime mission, are designed to help friendly developing nations by working with their military and police forces to improve their technical skills, understanding of human rights issues, and to help with humanitarian and civic action projects.
Often SF units are required to perform additional, or collateral, activities outside their primary missions. These collateral activities are coalition warfare/support, combat search and rescue, security assistance, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian de-mining and counter-drug operations.
Coalition warfare/support emerged as a result of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm and continues today in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. This activity ensures the ability of a wide variety of foreign troops to work together effectively in a wide variety of military exercises or operations.