Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

SAS and SBS Are Deep Behind the Lines

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

SAS and SBS Are Deep Behind the Lines

Article excerpt

Byline: KEITH DOVKANTS

From Keith Dovkants in Pakistan

BRITAIN'S SAS and SBS are operating deep behind Taliban lines in the south of Afghanistan today in a continuing operation to identify and pinpoint targets for possible further air strikes.

According to military sources in Pakistan undercover units have been active around Jalalabad and Kandahar for days in an effort to gain absolutely precise information on Taliban military installations.

It was indicated that British special forces have been assigned missions in the south of the country, while American units are operating in the north and west.

The small number of British special forces, probably no more than two squadrons of 100 men from 22 SAS, a unit of up to 50 from the Navy's Special Boat Service, and additional support elements from the Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade, have had a long-established relationship with the Pashtu-speaking minority in the Kandahar region for many years.

The pinpointing of targets using sophisticated satellite positioning equipment has been made a priority to ensure civilians are not hit. The source said: "They are almost paranoid about this. They want the targets positively identified and positioned down to the last centimetre."

It seems to have paid off in at least one case. There was a reliable report from Jalalabad that a camp used by so-called Arab-Afghans trained by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group had been wiped out. The camp, near the Naghlu hydroelectric dam, was an important weapons training centre.

The SAS has been helped by Pakistan's ISI - InterServicesIntelligence - sources say and it was believed the undercover units had crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan's territory. This, it was said, has caused a major row inside the military. Some senior officers had argued against direct co-operation with ground troops and after days of bickering Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf ordered a purge of officers who refused to toe his pro-coalition line. …

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