Mike Nelson spent 23 years in the US Army, first in the 82nd Airborne and then the majority of his career in the special operations community as a Green Beret. Mike grew up in an Army family and attended Virginia Military Institute. He served at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels including as the Deputy Director of the US Central Commander’s Action Group, Future Operations director of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-Syria, Director of the Baghdad Targeting Cell, and as a special forces company and operational detachment- alpha commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed eleven times to Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Qatar, and Kosovo with the 82nd Airborne Division, the 5th Special Forces Group, Joint Special Operations Command, and Special Operations Command-Central.

Mike exemplifies the warrior/diplomat/scholar on many levels and this conversation ranges from details of combat to war fighting strategy to foreign policy to individual stories of fellow soldiers Mike served with and enemies he faced. Mike covers the nuances of combating multiple insurgencies in Iraq, from Sunni groups to Iranian-backed Shia militias local villagers sitting on the fence waiting to see which group would emerge victorious. Mike explains in great detail the under appreciated,  deep familial ties and ever-shifting allegiances of Iraqi tribes that made the Coalition’s mission that much more difficult.  Mike also speaks movingly of his fellow Green Berets and the culture inside 5th Group that helped keep its members grounded and focused on mission during extremely trying times. Mike was later involved in the planning for dealing with ISIS in Syria and gets into the frustrations of formulating a battle plan hampered by bureaucracy and politics well above his pay-grade.

Mike is a visiting fellow at George Mason University’s National Security Institute, writings have appeared in institute’s blog, The SCIF, as well as War on the Rocks, Real Clear Defense, and the Modern Warfare Institute/Irregular Warfare Institute.

You can find/follow Mike on Twitter @mikenelson586

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