“On Sunday, Russian state-run television ran a segment showing what appears to be one of Russia’s most elite military units fighting in Syria, putting an often secretive Special Operations detachment in the limelight, albeit briefly.
Footage of Russian troops in Syria is extremely uncommon. The nine-minute segment is composed of various clips, some of it focused on training, likely in Russia, while other parts take place in Syria. The unit is probably Russia’s Special Operations Command, or KSO, a group akin to the U.S. military’s elite Delta Force that has existed for only a few years.
While Russian Special Operations forces are commonly known as Spetsnaz, those troops often operate attached to large units, acting more as elite infantry detachments than anything else. The KSO is different, according to Michael Kofman, an analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, because it is a dedicated military Special Operations unit, created after the Russians had watched the U.S. military’s success with its own Special Operations Command over the past two decades.
During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and more recently against the Islamic State, U.S. Special Operations forces have taken advantage of their small numbers, high-tech communication gear and extensive training to achieve battlefield successes often reserved for conventional forces many times their size. Having gleaned this lesson from their American counterparts, the Russians are now implementing such forces for the first time Syria.”