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date: 16 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Until September 11, 2001, covert action has long been the province of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center have not only given Washington a new enemy but changed its conception of how to fight the enemy. The change in the conception of fighting the enemy led to the newfound emphasis on Special Operations Forces (SOF). And since 9/11, the SOF's resources have increased dramatically and SOF has become an increasingly important weapon in the U.S. national security arsenal. This article attempts to draw the disparate strands in covert action together while mapping the way forward for future research. It also discusses the nature of SOF and the various sources of confusion in analyzing them. It also discusses the myriad ways in which the SOF's size and authority have expanded since the September 11 attack and considers the different types of risks that are posed by the expansion. The article concludes with a discussion on the future directions that research in the field should take.

Keywords: covert action, Central Intelligence Agency, Special Operations Forces, nature of SOF, expansion, risks

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