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The Utility of Elite Counterterrorist Units
Elite military and police counterterrorism units have been mustered into the security establishments of many nations. Many of these units include highly trained professionals who can operate in a number of environments under extremely hazardous conditions. Their missions include hostage rescues, punitive strikes, abductions, and reconnaissance operations.
When elite units perform well, the outcomes include rescued hostages, resolved crises, and disrupted terrorist environments. However, these units sometimes find themselves involved in ambiguous political situations or tenuous operational conditions. In other words, special operations are often high-risk, high-gain situations.
Nevertheless, proponents of elite counterterrorist units argue that conventional forces are not trained or configured to fight β€œshadow wars”—only special operations forces can do so. Critics of these units argue that conventional forces can accomplish the same objectives and goals and that, aside from the very good special operations units, other elite units have not proven themselves to be very effective.
Historical examples suggest that the deployment of special operations forces is a high-risk and high-gain option. Which counterterrorist options work most efficiently in conjunction with elite units? Which options work least efficiently?

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