Warfare by other means: Special forces, terrorism and grand strategy

Alastair Finlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (SciVal)


This contribution looks at the role of Special Forces in anti-terrorist operations with particular emphasis on the British Special Air Service. It argues that Special Forces have played a pivotal role in such operations since the era of Palestinian terrorism in the early 1970s. The essay looks at the operations in Afghanistan leading to the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 and shows that the seven Special Forces involved there proved crucial to the success of the limited ground forces. In particular they served a valuable force multiplier by acting as a nexus between the regional warlords and the use of air power as well as mobile strike units against fortified Al Qaeda and Taliban positions. In the latter instance their success was mixed, involving attacks on difficult cave hideouts, though overall it can be concluded that Special Forces have demonstrated their capacity in fighting unconventional warfare against mobile and transnational terrorist groupings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-108
JournalSmall Wars and Insurgencies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2003


Dive into the research topics of 'Warfare by other means: Special forces, terrorism and grand strategy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this