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UK Special Forces Operations: Mali

Britain’s Special Forces have been deployed operationally in at least 19 countries in the past decade, new analysis reveals, raising questions over the degree of transparency and democratic consent these shadowy units operate under. This section outlines the extent of UKSF’s operations in Mali.

2013

January: UK special forces active in Mali: Small team is providing non-combat support during French military action against jihadi groups in country, says source (Guardian)

January: At a meeting of the National Security Council today, Mr Cameron is set to approve plans to send manned Sentinel R1 spy planes and Reaper drones to operate in the skies over Mali from an American base in neighbouring Burkina Faso. (Mail)

2020

February, 18: In this Tuesday Feb. 18, 2020, photo, Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service troops exercise under the supervision of British special forces during U.S. military-led annual counterterrorism exercise in Thies, Senegal. More than 1,500 service members from the armies of 34 African and partner training nations have assembled for the Flintlock exercises in Senegal and Mauritania, the two countries in West Africa’s sprawling Sahel region that so far have not been hit by violence from extremists linked to al-Qaida or the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Cheikh A.T Sy) – The tagline of this photo is not corroborated by any other suggestion of UKSF being in Senegal.

2020, March: Official line is that 30 Royal Marines are training in Senegal, training roughly 80 Nigerian, Moroccan, and Cameroonian soldiers – many from their respective special forces. (ExpressBBC)

July: the deployment of a 45- strong SAS unit Special Forces unit to the French base at Gao, in Mali last week, tasked with collating an “intelligence threat assessment” for commanders amid increasing instability in the Sahel and attacks on peacekeepers.

But a former director of Swedish special forces said: “The British force is not just a long-range reconnaissance unit,” Gen Gylennsporre, a former director of Swedish special forces, said. “It is also a force that I foresee has the agility to respond quickly. We can employ lethal force to execute our mandate.”

To mitigate this risk SAS soldiers will attempt to secure intelligence sources – through payment – to ensure warning of jihadi presence in villages or towns through which these vehicles will be forced to pass.

Ironically the British Army’s Mastiff heavily-armoured patrol vehicles, which has served in both Afghanistan and Iraq without casualty and can better withstand the blast of a roadside bomb, are currently being sold off so will not be available for deployment. The SAS team will present its report to the Permanent Joint Headquarters and in December and will continue to shadow troops in a move to counter any attempt by extremists to attack them or use roadside bombs against their vehicles. (Express)

“Living in the desert for long periods, travelling vast distances and still having the strength at the end of it to deliver a knock out blow to your enemy is exactly what the LRDG and the SAS perfected in World War Two,” a source said. “It is exactly what this new scorpion unit will do Mali. It is just a different part of the same desert.”

British troops will work alongside Swedish light infantry, a German intelligence unit, and 400 Chinese soldiers who guard the main camp at Gao run a field hospital. (Sun)