MADRID — The Spanish Army will strengthen its specialized units against jihadism with the creation of a fourth Special Operations Force, Grupo de Operaciones Especiales (GOE). These military groups, framed in the Special Operations Command, Mando de Operaciones Especiales (MOE), have been deployed in multinational training missions in Mali and Iraq during the last three years. They also carried out the opening mission in the Central African Republic in 2012.
"The foundation of the new GOE is an aftermath of the current operating scenario where special operations forces are developing an essential role. The new unit will enable us to expand our deployment capability in missions abroad," a Spanish Army source told Defense News.
The welcoming ceremony for the new GOE unit, Granada II, took place on Jan. 15 at the headquarters in Alicante. This new unit will join Valencia III, Tercio de Ampurdán IV and Legionario Maderal Oleaga XIX. The estimated number of troops for these four elite Army groups is around 600.
Training in Iraq
This number will not increase in the short term, but the fourth GOE lays the groundwork for developing a structure that could boost troop levels.
"The special operations units cannot grow overnight. The Special Operations Command is making a significant effort of recruitment and training that cannot be carried out in large quantities and quickly. Initially we will not have a significant increase of troops but we hope to grow gradually in a medium-term horizon," the same source said.
Known as the "green berets" in the Spanish Army, the MOE is now deployed in Iraq where it is training the Iraqi Army and special forces in the cities of Baghdad and Taji in counter-terrorism and emergency response. One of those Iraqi units took part in the battle of Ramadi against ISIS.
Moreover, the restructuring of special operations in the Spanish Army will lead to an organization of "a group of troops of other existing units in the Army to support special forces operations. These units will follow a specific training program to enable them to operate in optimal conditions with special operations groups.
"Among those units we will have NBC [nuclear, biological and chemical protection], EOD [explosive ordnance disposal] , electronic warfare, dogs, civil affairs, drones, advanced recognition companies and, of course, a helicopter unit trained to work with special operations units." the source said.
What kind of new materials will this new organization require from the Spanish Defense Ministry?
"Particularly critical is everything related to intelligence-gathering, night vision and communications."
Spanish Concern in Sahel
The MOE is also deployed in the European Union mission to train the Mali Army against al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
Alongside with French armed forces, Spanish interests are also very focused on the destabilized scenario of the Sahel, with Mali as its main mission along with other operations to enhance military capabilities in Mauritania and Niger.
"Libya is our growing concern abroad," a Defense Ministry source said.
In 2014, the Spanish MoD created the Joint Special Operations Command to coordinate the activities of Army special operations forces with the other units from the Navy (Naval Special Warfare Force) and Air Force (Parachute Combat Engineer/Sapper Squadron). This Joint Command expects to achieve full operational capability this year.