Special forces is a generic term for elite, highly-trained military, police or civilian paramilitary tactical teams that conduct specialized operations. These include reconnaissance, surveillance, sniping, guerilla and unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action and counter-terrorism actions.
Special forces have played an important role throughout the history of warfare whenever the aim has been to achieve disruption by “hit and run” and sabotage, rather than more traditional conventional army combat using large formations of troops and motorized armor groups. Other significant roles lay in reconnaissance, providing essential intelligence from close to or among the enemy, and increasingly in combating terrorists, their infrastructure and activities.In antiquity, Hamilcar Barca in Sicily had specialized troops trained to launch several offensives per day. Later, during the Crusade wars, small, highly trained units of Knights Templar attacked individual Muslim units attempting to forage or seize booty. Muslim armies had several naval special operations units, including one which used camouflaged ships to gather intelligence and launch raids, and another which consisted of soldiers who could pass for Crusaders who would use ruses to board enemy ships and then capture and destroy them.
In Tang Dynasty ancient China and later feudal Japan, members of various clans or organizations of mercenary Special Forces operators, called Ninja, were highly trained in the various forms of martial arts (e.g., Ninjutsu) and special tactics for unconventional warfare and guerilla warfare utilizing the most technologically advanced weapons (e.g., firearms/explosives, snow shoes, water floatations devices etc.) and tactics (e.g., camouflage, stealth, meteorology, geography, psychological warfare) available at the time. They were usually hired by rival leaders for covert operations and black operations such as espionage, assassination, sabotage, security details, and destabilizing the political, social, economic and military infrastructure of a rival territory.