The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has 28 member states with its Operational Headquarters at Mons, Belgium. Planning, training and force generation for NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF) takes place within NATO. Since 1998, NATO and its SOF have become more closely engaged in crisis response operations. Deployments in the Balkans and Afghanistan have drawn heavily on the special skills practised by SOF in areas of reconnaissance, surveillance and military training assistance of local forces.
Historically SOF have been composed of specialists, with a typical team comprising a linguist, a signaller, a medic and a demolitions expert. Today this degree of specialisation is being taken to greater levels as the need for civil and military training assistance grows. Many of the skills required are still vested in a few individuals, therefore their selection, management and deployment requires detailed planning.