American Commandos Being Trained to Stop Terrorists With ‘Dirty Bombs’

Moonlight active-duty Special Boat Team members from the Navy's Gulf Coast team participate in drills on the Pearl River at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, on Feb. 20, 2013. (Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)
Moonlight active-duty Special Boat Team members from the Navy’s Gulf Coast team participate in drills on the Pearl River at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, on Feb. 20, 2013. (Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)

U.S. commando units have been trained to seize and disable nuclear or radioactive bombs, providing a crucial last line of defense if terrorists get their hands on such weapons, according to the general in charge of the forces.

The U.S. Special Operations Command “has sufficient ‘render-safe’ capacity to respond to the most likely” scenarios involving weapons of mass destruction under the current analysis of threats, Army General Raymond Thomas has told lawmakers.

The Pentagon rarely discusses publicly its plans to use commandos if terrorists obtain a nuclear weapon or build a “dirty bomb” from radioactive material. While U.S. officials say there’s no sign yet that Islamic State has such a capability, the prospect was on Friday’s agenda for the Nuclear Security Summit of world leaders being hosted by President Barack Obama in Washington.

Thomas described the role U.S. commandos might play in written responses to the Senate Armed Services Committee before his confirmation as head of the Special Operations Command, a post he took this week. He moved up a rung from his previous role heading the Joint Special Operations Command, directly overseeing fabled — and secretive — units such as the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s SEAL Team 6.

‘Proper Threshold’

Even with U.S. special forces spending significant time conducting counterterrorism operations, Thomas said those deployments haven’t interfered with preparations to handle a weapon of mass destruction.

Thomas said his commandos have “found the proper threshold of maintaining the world’s foremost counterterrorism force” for missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere “while ensuring our counterproliferation forces, including the no-fail mission of render-safe, are manned, trained and equipped and prepared to address WMD threats as they arise.”

More about the Defense Department’s preparations for using commandos to disarm weapons of mass destruction can be found in the fine print of budget documents.

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SOURCE: Anthony Capaccio 
Bloomberg