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Afghan War News > Afghan War Glossary > S

The military community uses a multitude and variety of terms, phrases, and expressions in its vocabulary. This is especially true in the Afghan theater of operations. Some terms, phases, and words are formal in nature while others are derived from common usage. This glossary is intended to assist those new to the Afghan theater or others unfamiliar with terminology or slang used by those working or serving in Afghanistan.

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S-1. Personnel and administration staff section of a unit.

S-2. Intelligence section or intelligence officer.

S-2X. Intel officer or section that deals with HUMINT or Counterintelligence.

S-3. Staff section that deals with operations and training.

S-4. Staff section that deals with supplies and logistics.

S-5. A staff officer responsible for plans or civil military operations.

S-6. Communications and signal section of the staff.

S-7. Information Engagement Staff Officer.

SA. See Security Assistance below.

SA. Situational Awareness.

SA. Staging Area.

SAA. Sense and Avoid.

SAARC. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Sabotage. An act or acts with intent to injure, interfere with, or obstruct the national defense of a country by willfully injuring or destroying, or attempting to injure or destroy, any national defense or war material, premises, or utilities, to include human and natural resources.

SACEUR.  Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

SACT. Supreme Allied Command Transition.

SAEDA. Subversion And Espionage Directed Against U.S. Forces.

SAF. Small arms fire.

SAFIRE. Surface-to-Air Fire.

SAG. Security Assistance Group.

SAGE. "Situational Awareness Geospatially Enabled". SAGE provides the intelligence analyst the ability to obtain information, analyze it, and produce a report. It works in conjuction with the Distributed Common Ground System - Army (DCGS-A) or as a standalone software application. Learn more in this news release from

Salafis. There is considerable confusion about the term, who can be designated a "Salafist" and the nature of Salafis doctrine. Essentially, " . . . Salafis adhere to a literalist theology that rejects allegorical interpretation and reason-based arguments and claim to be faithful to the teachings of the theological Hanbalis . . .". 1.

SALT. A military report providing Size, Activity, Location and Time.

SALT-P. Special ANSF Leave Travel Program. A coalition forces-led shuttle service that helps ANA Soldiers safely travel fro training and personal leave. SALT-P will transition to the Afghan program called the Personnel Movement Concept. Kam Air has the contract to continue this service.

SAM. Surface to Air Missile.

SAMM. Security Assistance Management Manual.

Sandbox. Usually refers to a desert like deployment as in Egypt, Kuwait or Iraq. Sometimes refers to Afghanistan.

"Sandhurst in the Sand". The name of an ANA officer academy located in Qargha (northwest of Kabul) established in the fall of 2013. The academy runs for one year and is being run by the British. It is modeled after Sandhurst in Britain. See a news story here.

SAO. Security Assistance Organization.

SAO. Special Activities Office.

SAPI. Small Arms Protective Inserts.

Sappers.  Combat engineers. Many sappers in Afghanistan are involved in the route clearance patrols to clear IEDs from the roads.

SAR. Search and Rescue.

SAR. Situational Awareness Room.

SARA. Southern Afghanistan Reconstruction Agency.

SARTF. Search and Rescue Task Force.

SASC. Senate Armed Services Committee.

SASE. Safe and Secure Environment.

SASO. Stability and Support Operations.

SAT. Systems Approach to Training.

SAT. Sustainment Advisory Teams.

SATCOM. Satellite Communications.

SATFA. Security Assistance Training Field Activity.

SAV. Staff Assistance Visit. What the staff higher-ups use as an excuse to get off the FOB and see "real combat". As in "I am from the government; I am here to help".

SAW. Squad Automatic Weapon. A light machine gun.

Sayyid. An honorific title given to decesendents of Prophet Muhammad.

SB. Suicide Bomber.

SBIED. Suicide Borne Improvised Explosive Device.

SBIRS. See Space Based Infrared System below.

SBS. Signal Branch School.

SBS. UK Special Boat Service.

SC. See Security Cooperation below.

SCC. SHAPE Command Center.

SCE. Staff Churning Exercise. Something IJC and ISAF are experts in.

SCF.  Save the Children Foundation.

SCI. Sensitive Compartmented Information.

SCIF. Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.

SCIP. Security Cooperation Information Portal.

SCO. Security Cooperation Officer (or office).

SCR. Senior Civlian Representative.

SCT. Small capture team.

SDCA. Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement.

SDO. Staff Duty Officer.

SDO/DATT. Senior Defense Offical / Defense Attache.

SDOS. Standard Days of Supply.

SE. Site Exploitation.

SEA. Senior Enlisted Advisor.

SEAL. Sea-Air-Land team or personnel.

SECDEF. Secretary of Defense.

SECFOR. Security Forces.

SECGEN. Secretary General.

Secret Squirrel. Someone who works in intelligence or Special Operations. Can usually be spotted wearing a beard, sunglasses, and civilian clothes. That's what makes him secret and easily identifiable as a Secret Squirrel. If for some reason they are wearing a uniform then they are required to wear the Secret Squirrel indentification patch inside a pocket flap (out of view) or the interior of their hat or beret.

Security Assistance (SA). Group of programs authorized by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, and the Arms Export Control act of 1976, as amended, or other related statutes by which the United States provides defense articles, military training, and defense related services by grant, loan, credit, or cash sales in futherance of national policies and objecties. (JP 1-02, JP 3.07.1)

Security Assistance Organization (SAO). All Department of Defense elements located in a foreign country with assigned responsibilities for carrying out security assistance management functions. It includes military assistance advisor groups, military missions and groups, offices of defence and miltary cooperation, liaison groups, and defense attache personnel designated to perform SA functions. (JP 1-02)

Security Cooperation (SC). All Department of Defense interactions with foreign defense establishments to build defense relationships that promote specific US security interests, develop allied and friendly military capabilities for self-defense and multinational operations, and provide US forces with peacetime and contingency access to a host nation. (JP 1-02)

Security Cooperation Activity. Military activity that involves other nations and is intended to shape the operational environment in peacetime. Activities include programs and exercises that the US military conducts with other nations to improve mutual understanding and improve interoperability with treaty partners or potential coalition partners. They are designed to support a combatant commander's theater strategy as articulated n the theater campaign plan (JP 1-02)

Security Cooperation Planning. The subset of joint strategic planning conducted to support the Department of Defense's security cooperation program. This planning supports a combatant commander's theater strategy. (JP 1-02)

Security Force Assistance (SFA). The unified action to generate, employ, and sustain local, Host Nation, or regional security forces in support of a legitimate authority (FM 3-07). In Afghanistan, Functional Security Force Assistance is now the buzz-word as ISAF advisor teams move from unit-based advising to providing advice and assistance along functional areas (C2, leadership, combat arms integration, training, and sustainment).

Self Licking Ice Cream Cone. A continous state where something exists merely to exist. Large FOBs are considered self licking ice cream cones - such as the personnel needed to run a large FOB far outweigh the number of personnel that actually have a mission related to the war.

SEM. Sensititive Election Material. Registration and ballot forms for the Afghan election.

Senior Leader Protection Program (SLPP). The Afghan Senior Leader Protection Program is designed to protect high-profile personnel from assassination by the insurgents. Assassinations have historically been a favorite target of insurgents as it dissuades personnel from working for the government. Read more on SLPP in a NATO news release here.

SERE. Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. See SERE.

SES. Senior Executive Service.

SF. Security Force. Military police personnel of the Air Force. Guards air fields and air bases and performs police functions as well as VIP security.

SF. Special Forces. Known as Green Berets, these individuals undergo intensive Special Forces Training and operate on twelve-man detachments or SFODAs.

SFA. See Security Force Assistance above.

SFA Fusion Cell. Stood up in January 2014, this cell was established within ISAF HQs in order to engender unit of effort in FbSFA across the ISAF force. The cell has (had) a program management team, a capability development team, and a readiness team.

SFA Guide 2.0. The ISAF SFA Guide 2.0 provides guidance to nations and Coalition forces for implementing the new emphasis in ISAF's Security Force Assistance approach.

SFA JCB. The Security Force Assistance Joint Coordination Board was established in late 2013 to help with the transition from the SFA mission to FbSFA. The SFA JCB was replaced with the SFA Board; which was a burearcratic move to refocus the board to changes in the implementation of FbSFA. Same people; same job; different name.

SFA Imperatives. The Security Force Assistance Imperatives provide advisors a specific mindset of work with the ANSF. More information on the SFA Imperatives are listed at this link - Security Force Assistance Imperatives.

SFA Tasks. Commonly referred to as OTERA, the SFA tasks are Organize, Train, Equip, Rebuild (build), and Advise (assist). Learn more about the SFA Tasks or OTERA.

SFAT. Security Force Assistance Team. A 48-man element attached to a BCT to assist the BCT in the advise and assist mission in Afghanistan. See SFAT.

SFAAT.  Security Force Assistance Advisor Team. A 9-man, 12-man, or 18-man advisory team attached to an ANSF element to advise, assist, and train. See SFAAT.

SFA-AT. Same as SFAAT but looks better with the hyphen.

SFAB. Security Force Assistance Brigade. A BCT mission-tailored for the advise and assist (SFA) mission. See SFAB. The 2012-2014 era SFABs are different from the SFABs established by the Army in 2017.

SFA WG. Security Force Assistance Working Group.

SFG. Special Forces Group.

SFLE. Special Forces Liaison Element.

SFOB. Special Forces Operations Base.

SFODA. Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha.

SFSG. See Special Forces Support Group below.

SGDP. Sheberghan Gas Development Program.

SGI. Security Goverance Initiative.

"Shadow Tracking". Referring to how SFAATs up, down, and across the ANA and ANP keep track on what the ANSF are doing and a parallel messaging to help the ANSF resolve coordination, planning, reporting, and logistic problems.

Shafafiyat. CJIATF Shafafiyat was the anti-corruption element set up to combat the diversion of U.S. funds meant for Afghan ministries into corrupt officials bank accounts as in Karzai's bank accounts in Dubai. (Tell me how that's working!). Shafafiyat means "transparency"; not a lot of that going on in Afghanistan. Shafafiyat was a sub-organization of CSTC-A. Read more about corruption in Afghanistan. With the drawdown in Afghanistan this organization was eliminated and its functions performed were assumed by a staff section of ISAF (later Resolute Support).

SHAPE. Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.

Shari or Shariat. Islamic Law.

Shura. Meeting or council of tribal elders and Afghan leaders.

SI. Special Intelligence.

Sia Sang. Location for the ANA military intelligence school.

SIGACT. Significant Activity (action or event).

SIGAR. See Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction below.

SIGINT. Signals Intelligence.

SIED. Suicide IED.

SIF. Special Information Forces.

SIKA. Stabilization in Key Areas. A USAID program that has not produced much results.

Silkies. Physical Training (PT) shorts that Marines used to be able to wear but that are no longer authorized (unless it is during personal PT time). Like the infamous UDT shorts of old that were worn by Special Forces Combat Divers and Navy UDT / SEALs, the "silkies" were determined to be in bad taste. Rumor has it that an older, fatter Marine had a large part in doing away with the silkies; if you are buff and hit the gym you look good in them. If you spend more time in the pizza shop than the gym then not so much. Read more in this news story about the silkies. Buy a pair (if you look buff) here on Green Silkies for Marines.

SIPR. Secure Internet Protocol Routing.

SIPRNET. Secure Internet Protocol Routing Network.

SIR. Serious Incident Report.

SITEMP. Situation template.

SITREP. Situation Report.

SIU. Sensitive Investigation Unit.

Sivas Police Training Centre for Afghanistan (SPTC-A). This police training center is located in Turkey and is funded by the UNDP, Turkey, and Japan. The training is for six-months and covers basic and advance police subjects. Sivias is a town in Turkey.

SJA. Staff Judge Advocate.

SKL. Simple Key Loader.

SKS. Samozaryadiy Karavin Simonova (Russian infantry rifle) with 10-rd magazine.

SKT. Small Kill Team.

Skyhook. A means of exfiltrating an individual in a remote area where a fixed-wing aircraft cannot land and out of the range of a rotary wing aircraft. Rumor has it that the last known use of Skyhook was to exfiltrate a wounded British military member in Afghanistan in 2001. Skyhook is also known as the Fulton Recovery System, Fulton Extraction, and the Surface-to-Air Recovery System or STARS.

SLAR. Side Looking Airborne Radar.

SLBM. Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missle.

SLP. Speech-Language Pathology.

SLPP. Learn more about the Senior Leader Protection Program above.

SLOC. Sea Line of Communication.

SM. Scatterable Mines.

SMAF. Self-Reliance Through Mutual Accountability Framework.

SME. Subject Matter Expert. Someone who studies and does something long enough that he becomes an expert. As in an Army warrant officer.

SME Program in MOI. In 2012 CSTC-A and the Ministry of Interior embarked on the "SME Program" which places Afghan civilians within the MoI in tecnical and administrative positions focused on procurement, logistics, facilities, human resources and finance. As of June 2015 there were over 363 positions identified but with only 138 filled.

Smoking. As in "She is a hot looking chic".

Smoking and Joking. Engaging in useless activity instead of working. Smoking cigarettes, telling stories, or engaging in unproductive activity.

SMS. Single Mobility System.

SMW. The Afghan Special Mission Wing is an Afghan air unit of rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft that supports special operations forces of the ANP and ANA.

SNAP. Secure Internet Protocol Router Network / Non-secure Internet Protocol Router Access Point.

SNAP. Simplified Non-standard item Acquisition Program. An Internet tool that allows for an FMS purchase transaction through the Internet. Shortcuts the lengthy FMS process allowing for a quick turnaround of high-priority items getting into the Afghan logistics system.

SNR. Senior National Representative.

Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS). This is a United States satellite system that can monitor missile launches from the ground. This family of satellites fly in a geosynchronous orbit high in space and can detect heat sources with infrared sensors.

SO. Special Operations.

SoA. School of Artillery.

SOA. Strategic Oversight Area. The areas are Security, Governance and Civil Society, Humanitarian Assistance and Development, Stabilization and Infrastructure, and Support to Mission. The SOAs are included in the FY2018 Joint Strategic Oversight Plan for Afghanistan.

SOAG. Special Operations Advisory Group.

SOB. Special Operations Brigades. As of 2014 here were two SOBs assigned to the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC); a division-sized two star level unit. Plans under the 4-Year Plan are to increase ANASOC to a three-star level corps level entity and add additional SOBs.

SOCA. Serious Organised Crime Agency. A British civilian policing body. Allegations indicate that the SOCA contributed information to the list of individuals who were placed on the ISAF Joint Prioritised Effects List (JPEL). Learn more about these allegations in a news report by the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) dated April 2016. SOCA is now known, after a renaming, as the National Crime Agency or NCA.

SOCCE. Special Operations Command and Control Element. A SOF C2 element usuall co-located at division or corps level.

SOCCENT. Special Operations Command Central. Located in Tampa, Florida with forward elements in the Middle East and Central Asia.

SOCCENT FWD-PAK. The name of the special operations unit in Pakistan providing counterinsurgency training to selected units of the Pakistan military since 2012. From 2008 to 2011 this element was called SOCFWD-PAK but it was expelled after the Bin Laden raid and other incidents that increased tension between Pakistan and the U.S. Read more in a related news story by War is Boring, September 28, 2015.

SOCEUR. Special Operations Command Europe. Located in Stuttgart, Germany.

Social Network Analysis (SNA).  SNA is used to evaluate data obtained in a variety of methods and from a large number of sources. This data is then entered, processed and filtered in an analytic methodology using computer programs that will help intelligence analysts understand ortanizational or social networks. There are various computer programs that do the analytic computations - these include Palantir, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and others.

SOCOM. Specil Operations Command. Located in Tampa, Florida.

SOCOORD. Special Operations Coordination Cell. Usually found at corps level.

SODARS. Special Operations Debrief and Retrieval System.

SOE (ANASOC). The ANA SOF School of Excellence is located near Kabul. Rumor has it the training site is Camp Morehead named after MSG Kevin Morehead.

SOF. Show of Force. Like when the B1 bomber comes in really low to scare the Taliban away.

SOF. Special Operations Forces. Special Forces are in the Army; SOF can be found in the Army (Rangers) as well as the Air Force, Marines, and Navy.

SOFA. Status of Forces Agreement. What we didn't negotiate with Iraq that provided President Obama with an excuse to "get out of Iraq". What we likely won't come to agreement with Afghanistan which will provide President Obama with an excuse to "get out of Afghanistan". See also Bilateral Security Agreement.

SOK. Special Operations Kandak. As of early 2014 there were nine Special Operations Kandaks. The SOKs provide a precision strike capability.

SOI. Signal Operating Instructions.

SOJTF-A. Special Operations Joint Task Force - Afghanistan. The U.S. component of NSOCC-A. The U.S. SOF guys; were primarily from the CJSOTF-A (now a SOTF) - as well as other 'SOF' entities. Learn more about the SOJTF-A.

SoK. South of Kabul. Operational area of the ANA 203rd Corps.

SOK. Special Operations Kandak. As of late 2017 there were ten SOKs. Plans are to increase the number of SOKs in accordance with the 4-Year Plan.

Solar Energy. Afghanistan has lots of solar power but little infrastructure to use it.

Solatia. Payments to civilian victims (or their families) who are victims of US attacks or operations.

SOLE. Special Operations Liaison Element.

SOLIC. Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict.

SOP. Show of Presence.

SOP. Standard Operating Procedure.

SoPA. School of Public Affairs.

SOR. Statement of Requirement.

SoS. System of Systems.

SOT. Small Observation Team.

SOTF. Special Operations Task Force.

Soup Sandwich. Nothing to do with the dining facility or mess tent. Usually referring to an individual who is a bit incompetent or looks a mess. As in "The new LT is a soup sandwich".

South Asia Strategy. In the summer of 2017 the DoD introduced a new 'conditions-based' strategy for resolving the Afghan conflict - called the South Asia Strategy.

SOW. Statement of Work.

SP. Security Police.

Spox. Spokesman.

SPSS. Statistical Software Package for the Social Sciences.

Special Forces Support Group. The SFSG is a secret (sort of) British unit operating in Helmand province that conducts raids against the Taliban in conjunction with an Afghan elite commando unit known as Task Force 444. See a related news story here.

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). One of the few U.S. government entities that doesn't put a "spin" on what is going on in Afghanistan. A good counterbalance to the PAO news releases produced by ISAF that are becoming ever so close to resembling the Vietnam "Five O'Clock Follies". See

Special Mission Wing. See SMW above.

Speedball. A bag filled with supplies (food, water, ammo, mail) dropped from a helicopter or plane to resupply a unit in a remote location or in urgent need of resupply.

SPINS. Special Instructions.

SPOD. Sea Port of Debarkation.

SPOE. Sea Port of Embarkation.

SPOX. Spokesman.

SPP. State Partnership Program.

SPTC. Special Police Training Centre.

SPTC-A. See Sivas Police Training Center for Afghanistan above.

SPTW. Special Police Training Wing.

SR. Surveillance and Reconnaissance.

SR. Strategic Reconnaissance. A Special Forces mission.

S-RAD. USAID's Southern Regional Agricultural Development Program.

SRAP. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The office of the SRAP coordinates across the government to meet U.S. strategic goals in the region while engaging NATO and other key friends, allies, and those around the world who are interested in supporting these efforts.

SRO. Stability and Reconstructioin Operations.

SROE. Standing Rules of Engagement.

SQD. Squadron.

Squared Away. A term used to refer to a person who knows his job and performs well.

Squids. A term that Army personnel use to refer to Navy personnel - Sailors or Seamen.

Squirter. Someone running for cover; trying to get away.

SSA. Security Sector Assistance.

SSA. Supply Support Activity.

SSC. Security Sector Coordinator.

SSE. Sensitive Site Exploitation.

SSR. Security Sector Reform

S&T. Science and Technology.

STAAR. Social and Technical Association for Afghanistan Rehabilitation.

STAB. A short way of saying "stability".

Stability Operations. A overarching term encompassing various military missions, task, and activities conducted outside the United States in coordination with other instruments of national power to maintain or reestablish a safe and secure environment, provide essential governmental services, emergency infrastructure reconstruction, and humanitarian relief (JP 3-0).

STANAG. Standardization Agreement.

"Stand by to stand by". The meeting (gathering, event, conference, etc.) will start as soon as the boss arrives. The quick conversation or phone call he is having is worth wasting the time of the ten to one hundred people who think they have better things to do.

STAR. Surface to Air Recovery. Something that SF dudes used to do before they discovered it was really dangerous; also known as Fulton Extraction.

STE. Secure Telephone.

Steganography.  Insurgents and terrorists have been known to pass messages via stenanography. A detailed description of steganography is available at Wikipedia here. Many messages have been passed within pornographic images or via "Sexting". Sexting is where people (usually teenagers) send images (erotic) of themselves via text. Terrorists have used sexting as one way of passing off instructions or plans to others in their network. However, due to a reduction in sexting by teenagers in the past few years the ability of the NSA to gather intel by monitoring sexting messages has diminished. Read more about that here.

Stingray. Electronic surveillance equipment used by the military and police to monitor cell phone traffic at the local level. Manufactured by Harris, the device simulates a cell tower (IMSI cather) and can gather information about cell phone calls, text messages and data up to a range of 1/2 mile.

STU. Secure Telephone Unit.

STUAS. Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System.

STOL. Short Take Off and Landing.

STRATCOM. Strategic Communications.

STT. Special Tactics Team (Air Force).

STX. Situational Training Exercise.

Subversion. Action designed to undermine the military, economic, psychological, political strength, or morale of a regime.

Sustainability. The ability of a force to maintain the necessary level of combat power for the duration required to achieve its objectives. Sustainability consists of two major components: the ability of ISAF to sustain the SFA effort throughout all the phases of the operation and the ability of the ANSF to sustain their capabilities independently over the long term. These ANSF capabilities consist of processes described by the five functional pillars: command and control, leadership, combined arms integration / integrated layered security, training, and sustainment.

Sustainment. The provision of logistics and personnel services required to maintain and prolong operations until successful mission accomplishment.

SVBIED. Suicide vehicle-borne IED.

SVD. Soviet style sniper weapon.

SVEST. Suicide Vest.

SVIED. Suicide Vest IED.

SVTC. Secure Video Teleconference. A mechanism that provides staffs with the opportunity to tie up commanders of companies, battalions, and brigades.

SWA. Southwest Asia.

SWAT. Special Weapons and Tactics.

SWE. Short for Sweden. The Swedes let their military women wear long hair in pony tails. Just simply awesome to see a female military member in uniform; unconfirmed reports state that several U.S. Soldiers have defected to Sweden.

SWEAT-MSO. Sewers, water, electrical, academic, trash, medical facilities, safety, and other considerations.

SWEDINT. Swedish Armed Forces International Centre.

SWG. Sub-Working Group.

Switchblade. A UAV or guided missile (small one) that has recently been deployed to Afghanistan. Read more at Strategy Page.

SWS. Sniper Weapon System.

SWT. Scout Weapons Team (OH-58s).

SVBIED. Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device.

SY. Solar Year.

Symphony. An a piece of equipment mounted on ANSF vehicles that help defeat IEDs.



1. See The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought at this link.


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The definitions provided in this Afghan War Glossary are from many different sources to include publications, documents, and personal knowledge. In some instances, there are several definitions or meanings to a word or phrase.

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