August 9, 2005
Quite a number of smaller European countries have decided that maintaining a modest SOF (Special Operations Forces like the U.S. Army Special Forces or U.S. Navy SEALs) capability is a good idea. Figures here are rounded, and cover SOF-designated personnel of all services, including administrative and training cadres, but exclude reservists
Austria 400, Belgium 300, Bulgaria 1,200, Canada 300, Czech Republic 400, Denmark 150, Estonia 100, Finland 150, Greece 1,200, Hungary 1,000, Latvia 200, Lithuania 700, Netherlands 300, Norway 150, Poland 1,250, Portugal 150, Romania 500, Slovakia 400, Slovenia 150, Sweden 1,200, Yugoslavia 1,500.
There are several reasons for the decision by these nations to develop some SOF capability, despite its high cost. The SOF personnel may be the only really professional troops available, given the short enlistments that prevail in most of these countries. Having some SOF is also useful for anti-terrorist operations, especially hostage rescue or any time you need a super-SWAT capability. And a little SOF capability can go a long way toward demonstrating a countrys solidarity with the U.S. and other major powers; several of these countries, including Sweden, have contributed SOF contingents often just platoon sized to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.