The United States Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets because of their distinctive service headgear, are a special operations force. Army Special Forces are tasked with six primary missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, hostage rescue, and counter-terrorism. The first two emphasize language, cultural, and training skills in working with foreign troops. Other duties include combat search and rescue (CSAR), security assistance, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian demining, counter-proliferation, psychological operations, manhunts, and counter-drug operations; other components of the United States Special Operations Command or other U.S. government activities may also specialize in these secondary areas.[2] Many of their operational techniques are classified, but some nonfiction works[3] and doctrinal manuals are available.[4][5][6]

The original and most important mission of the Special Forces had been "unconventional warfare", while other capabilities, such as direct action, were gradually added.

Their official motto is De oppresso liber (Latin: To Liberate the Oppressed), a reference to one of their primary missions, training and advising foreign indigenous forces.[7]

Currently, Special Forces units are deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom. They are also deployed with other SOCOM elements as one of the primary American military forces in the ongoing War in Afghanistan. As a special operations unit, Special Forces are not necessarily under the command authority of the ground commanders in those countries. Instead, while in theater, SF soldiers may report directly to United States Central Command, USSOCOM, or other command authorities.

The Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) highly secretive Special Activities Division (SAD) and more specifically its elite Special Operations Group (SOG) recruits soldiers from the Army's Special Forces.[8] Joint Army Special Forces and CIA operations go back to the famed MACV-SOG during the Vietnam War.[9] This cooperation still exists today and is seen in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.[10][11]