The United States Army is set to begin conducting irregular two-week-long special forces exercises on January 23rd which will practice tackling a “numerically superior enemy” using guerrilla tactics. Known as Robin Sage, the drills will take place in North Carolina simulating insertion of special forces into a “politically unstable” country to bringing about the overthrow of an “illegitimate government.” They would train to operate alongside local U.S.-backed guerrilla forces, carry out reconnaissance missions, conduct raids, and organise ambushes. The nature of these exercises is not entirely fictitious, with the U.S. having frequently deployed special forces to support insurgencies against governments Washington perceives to be illegitimate such as Iraq in the 1990s and early 2000s, Indonesia in the 1960s and China in the 1950s among many other examples.
The best known contemporary example is northern Syria, where U.S. forces operate alongside indigenous anti-government militias and oversee the mass appropriation of Syrian oil for sale abroad, both denying the Syrian government revenues and funding operations against Damascus. Governments perceived as illegitimate by the United States have consistently been in the minority of countries without U.S. military facilities on their territory, with their U.S.-supported overthrows consistently leading to an expansion of the American military presence in their regions. Notable examples include Iraq, Libya, Indonesia, Sudan and others, while rhetoric from U.S. officials in recent years has implied the perceived ‘illegitimacy’ of Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, Iran, Russia, Myanmar and Nicaragua. Under the Donald Trump administration China was described with similar rhetoric particularly after Mike Pompeo took over leadership of the State Department. Although support for irregular operations against countries outside the U.S. sphere of influence have been common for decades, Robin Sage exercises training U.S. special forces to conduct them have become increasingly transparent following incidents at prior drills that saw personnel killed.