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UK Special Forces Operations: Turkey and Lebanon

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 Turkey and Lebanon.

2011, November: A report in French weekly Le Canard Enchaine on Nov. 23, citing a French military intelligence source, said French and British special forces had made contact with Syrian rebel soldiers in Turkey and Lebanon to establish how strong they were and pave the way for training them, should the decision be made. (Reuters, Dec 2011)

Iskenderum (city in southern Turkey) is also the seat of the Free Syrian Army, the armed wing of the Syrian National Council. French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA and U.S. Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers.(American Conservative, Dec 2011)

Daily Star, Jan 1, 2012: The well-placed source said: “We have SAS and SBS not far away who want to know what is happening and are finding out what kit dissident soldiers need.

2012, May 26: Unconfirmed first reports from British, French and Turkish sources say British special operations forces crossed from Turkey into northern Syria Tuesday, May 26, and advanced up to 10 kilometers inside the country. (Debkafile, Israeli news, June 26, 2012)

The report came after the media also revealed that the British and French intelligence agencies have tasked their agents with contacting Syrian dissidents based in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli to help fuel the unrest in Syria.

Reports also said that French agents have been sent to northern Lebanon and Turkey to build the first contingents of the Free Syrian Army out of the deserters who have fled Syria.(naharnet/Billeyet)

British special forces (whose presence in Syria was exclusively revealed by debkafile Monday) carried out two tasks: They helped rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army, extend their control of territory in the Idlib province on the northern Syrian border with Turkey and Lebanon, and gave them badly-needed hi-tech communications equipment.

They also made it possible for the first Syrian opposition leader, Burham Ghalioun of the Syrian National Council, to set foot in Syria. Under their heavy guard, Ghailioun toured rebel-controlled local villages in Idlib for a few hours before crossing back into Lebanon. Assad’s heavies watched helplessly.

(Debkafile)

Even before this news from Brussels, the French satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine – as well as the Turkish daily Milliyet – had already revealed that commandos from French intelligence and the British MI6 are training the FSA in urban guerrilla techniques, in Hatay in southern Turkey and in Tripoli, in northern Lebanon. Weapons – from shotguns to Israeli machine guns and RPGs – have been smuggled en masse. (Asia Times)

More recent reports have stated that British and French Special Forces have been actively training members of the FSA, from a base in Turkey. Some reports indicate that training is also taking place in locations in Libya and Northern Lebanon (Elite).