The 8 most elite special forces in the world
8. The Special Services Group in Pakistan is better known in the country as the Black Storks because of the commandos' unique headgear. Training reportedly includes a 36-mile march in 12 hours and a 5-mile run in 50 minutes in full gear.
In October 2009, SSG commandos stormed an office building and rescued about 40 people taken hostage by suspected Taliban militants after an attack on the army's headquarters.
Earning the UOE green beret, however, is a quite a challenge — the failure rate of candidates is around 70% to 80%. It's not uncommon for 100% of would-be new recruits to be rejected.
6. Russia's Alpha Group is one of the best-known special forces units in the world. This elite antiterrorism unit was created by the KGB in 1974 and remains in service under its modern-day counterpart, the FSB.
Russian special forces — the Alpha Group, in particular — was criticized during the 2002 Moscow hostage crisis, in which at least 120 hostages died from the effects of a gas used to knock out militants who had seized a theater.
5. Few of the world's counterterrorism forces can compete with France's National Gendarmerie Intervention Group, or GIGN. The group is 200 strong and trained specifically to respond to hostage situations. It claims to have freed more than 600 people since it was formed in 1973. It is against the law in France to publish pictures of its members' faces.
One of the most extraordinary episodes in the GIGN's history was the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979. Because of the prohibition of non-Muslims entering the holy city, a team of three GIGN commandos briefly converted to Islam before helping the Saudi armed forces plan the recapture of the mosque.
4. Israel's Sayeret Matkal is another of the world's most elite units. Its primary purpose is intelligence gathering, and it often operates deep behind enemy lines. During the selection camp (Gibbush), would-be recruits endure hardcore training exercises while being constantly monitored by doctors and psychologists. Only the strongest get in.
In 2003, an Israeli taxi driver, Eliyahu Gurel, was kidnapped after transporting four Palestinians to Jerusalem in his cab. But the Sayeret Matkal unit located and rescued him from a 10-meter pit in an abandoned factory in a suburb of Ramallah.
3. The British Special Air Service, known as the SAS, is the infantry counterpart to the Special Boat Service. http://armydotmil.com Their insignia bears the phrase "Who dares wins." Asked about the importance of the SAS's role in the fighting that followed the Iraq War, US Gen. Stanley McChrystal said: "Essential. Could not have done it without them."