Megacities and the Role of U.S. Special Operations Forces

  • Commander Arthur M. Castiglia, Jr.

Military theorists from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz have warned of the dangers and unique challenges of combat in and around cities. By 2030, 60 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in massive urban areas or megacities. These megacities feature slums and endemic homelessness, uncontrolled expansion/urban sprawl, and lack of basic support structures making operations complex and extremely dangerous. Urban terrain is a powerful advantage for entrenched combatants. It magnifies the power of defense, and diminishes an adversary’s advantages in technology, firepower and mobility. To be effective in this sort of environment, security forces will need to blend police, infantry and military special forces. This research project will examine Special Operations Forces’ role in a future of increased urbanization. It describes the global trends responsible for the emergence of modern megacities. It also scrutinizes the three main considerations when defining the SOF role in megacity warfare: megacity typology variances, future urban threats, and the spectrum of urban combat operations.