USA’s Delta Force and the Baghdadi Killing

Jon Lockett, in SUN, 28 October 2019, with this title

THE special forces unit which hunted down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is so secretive even the Pentagon doesn’t admit it exists. Delta Force — set up by a US commander who served with the SAS- – only recruits the best of the best and plays by its own combat rules.

 Delta Force - known for its state-of-the-art equipment - was set up by a US commander who served with the SAS
Delta Force – known for its state-of-the-art equipment – was set up by a US commander who served with the SAS
In military circles it is known simply as ‘The Unit’ and is tasked with handling the most dangerous and specialised missions in the world.

However, despite its latest headline-grabbing success, very little is known about the workings of the secretive special operations division. Delta Force has regularly been used in covert combat missions around the globe, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Libya. Along with the US Navy’s Seal Team 6, Delta Force it has been working to locate and eliminate the very top members of ISIS’s hierarchy. Until now, Delta has had a lower profile than Team 6 whose exploits became world news when they shot dead Osama bin Laden in 2011.

 Delta Force troops posing as civilians while on a secret mission in AfghanistanDelta Force troops posing as civilians while on a secret mission in Afghanistan … Credit: wikipedia
 Very little is known about the workings of the secretive special operations division

In fact, the Pentagon does not normally even acknowledge the existence of Delta Force – something which clearly suits both parties. Founded by Colonel Charlie Beckwith, The 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta follows the same tough selection tests as the SAS. The spearhead unit is part of  the US Joint Special Operations Command, which works out of highly-secure Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Delta deals with hostage rescue and counter-terrorism, as well as direct action and special reconnaissance work regarding “high-value targets”. It’s recognised as being among the most advanced units in the world when it comes to training, hi-tech equipment and armoury.

Pushed to the limits of endurance

The initial selection for Delta Force begins with a physical endurance test….which has no equal in the US military. Candidates must meet strict requirements regarding push-ups, sit-ups and a gruelling 100 metre swim in combat gear. They must also endure a series of land navigation courses that push the boundaries of every conceivable human condition from a physical, mental, and emotional standpoint.

Prospective operatives reportedly undergo an 18-mile all-night land navigation while beginning with a 40lb rucksack. The weight of the rucksack increases as well as the length of the course over repeated marches. The final course of physical testing ends with a 40-mile trek carrying a 45lb rucksack over the rough terrain.

The time needed to clear the test has not been reported – so candidates cannot prepare beforehand. Qualifying soldiers are also tested from psychological point of view. The exams are intended to decide if a candidate is mentally prepared enough to handle the missions new members will be expected to carry out.

The troops even have their own team of specialist gunsmiths which develop state-of-the-art weapons just for their personalised needs.

Selection is considered the most challenging in the US armed forces – as those looking to join must already be members of other elite units. Therefore, it is impossible to become a part of ‘The Unit’ immediately after enlisting. Soldiers are carefully selected from a narrow pool after having proved themselves in battle, sometimes for  many years.

However, despite all the training, not every Delta Force mission has been a success.

The US Army unit led an attempt to rescue American and other foreign hostages held by Isis in Syria in 2014.

Delta Force…a brief history

After a series of well publicised terror-related incidents in the 1970s the Pentagon decided to take action. Set up by Colonel Charlie Beckwith (pictured), Delta Force became the US’s first full-time counter-terror force. He served with the SAS during the Malayan Emergency – a brutal guerilla war fought between 1948 and 1960. When he returned home Beckwith acknowledged that the US military needed its own highly-specialised unit.

Beckwith’s now famous claim that the US military needed “not only teachers, but doers” led to the founding of Delta. He envisioned extremely adaptable teams that could operate in highly combative and risky situations.

The Pentagon launched Delta in the mid-1970s as Beckwith estimated it would take another two years to get the unit battle ready. It was officially recognised on November 19, 1977 and began recruiting a year later. It’s first high-profile mission was Operation Eagle Claw in 1979 – an aborted attempt to rescue hostages in Iran. The hostages included James Foley, an American journalist, and Kayla Mueller, a US aid worker. The mission failed and both American hostages and others were subsequently killed by their ISIS captors

Delta Force was also involved in a dramatic abduction in Tripoli, Libya, in 2014 when commandos seized Abu Ahmed Khattala. He was suspected of being one of the terrorists who launched an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on September 11 2012. The US ambassador and three other American nationals were killed.

One of the unit’s most successful missions was against the terrorist leader who was eventually to be succeeded by Baghdadi. In April 2006, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was killed in an operation involving a US airstrike and Delta Force commandos. Baghdadi, who had joined al-Qaeda, took over and then transformed it into the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the forerunner of ISIS.

 Delta Force works out of highly-secure Fort Bragg in North CarolinaDelta Force works out of highly-secure Fort Bragg in North Carolina

 The rubble of what was Baghdadi's house is inspected after his death

The rubble of what was Baghdadi’s house is inspected after his deathCredit: AP:Associated Press
 ***** *****

* Michael Evans: “Delta, a secret force to be reckoned with” The Australian 29 October 2019

* Joseph Trevithick: “They will Kill you …,” 27 September 2019

* Emily Crane:  “Captured Confidante of Al-Bagdadi helped ….,” 29 October 2019,

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