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Special Forces Berlin
by James Stejskal







El Salvador

Home > History > El Salvador

The American involvement in El Salvador spanned from 1981 to 1992. For many Special Forces Soldiers at that time - it was the only real war taking place. For many SF Soldiers, 7th Special Forces Group, was the group to be in. At least twenty U.S. military and civilian personnel lost their lives in the conflict. The number of SF advisors in El Salvador was limited; but they were very effective. The mission in El Salvador validated the U.S. Army's Foreign Internal Defense (FID) doctrine and demonstrated how advisors in a supporting role can help create a political and social conditions in which the host nation could function effectively; thereby promoting public confidence in the government's ability to govern. (see Victor Rosello paper below).

Restrictions to Advisory Effort by Congress. The U.S. Congress place restrictions on the number of advisors in country (limited to 55) and their roles (no combat). Despite that small number and the no combat restriction - the U.S. military took some losses.

Effectiveness of the U.S. Advisory Effort. The advisors were effective at a number of levels and in a variety of ways. The military advisors were effective in improving the ability of the El Salvador Armed Forces (ESAF) to use their equipment (zero weapons, employ mortars), conduct patrols (raids, ambushes, etc.), and conduct company and battalion level operations. Equally important was the professionalization of the ESAF and the improvement of the ESAF human rights record. However, the advancements made in the military establishment would not mean much if the El Salvadorian government did not institute a number of reforms. The reforms undercut the support of the insurgents (FMLN).

The El Salvador Army grew from 12,000 to 55,000 men during the period of conflict. It became a professional counterinsurgency force that prevented the collapse of the El Salvadorian government and kept the FMLN at bay.


King, MSG Brian. Special Forces in El Salvador and Afghanistan, USASMA Digital Library, March 18, 2008. Paper for the United States Sergeants Major Academy, Class # 58. The paper compares and contrasts Special Forces counterinsurgency during the 13 year war in El Salvador and the current war in Afghanistan.

Briscoe, Charles H., "El Paraiso and the War in El Salvador", Veritas, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2007.

Sepp, Kalev. I., Best Practices in Counterinsurgency,  Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA. ADA485146, June 2005.

Ramsey, Robert D., Advising Indigenous Forces: American Advisors in Korea, Vietnam, and El Salvador,  Global War on Terrorism Occasional Paper 18, Combat Studies Institute Press, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 2006, PDF, 187 pages.

Cale, MAJ Paul P., The United States Military Advisory Group in El Salvador, 1979-1992, CSC, 1996. A thesis that the U.S. MAG in El Salvador helped an emerging democratic nation combat a communist supported insurgent threat.

Rosello, Victor M. LTC, "Lessons From El Salvador", Parameters, Winter 1993-94, pages 100-108.



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