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SAS Observers At Iraq Front Lines

01.10.2014

British and American special forces have been supporting Kurdish fighters battling ISIS forces in Northern Iraq. Details of the involvement of United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) in the north appear in report in the Telegraph.[1]

In recent battles, The Kurds have launched attacks on Islamic Stae (IS) at Rabia, near the Syrian border, at Zummar, a town near Mosul Dam and at locations South of Kirkuk.

The Telegraph reports that members of the British Special Air Service (SAS) and Green Berets from the U.S. army Special Forces have been deployed to the front lines as observers. They have also been training Kurdish fighters.

A Kurdish military official, Brig. Gen. Hikmet, is quoted as saying, "The [US and UK] special forces have been so effective for us... Their special forces don't take any part in the fighting. They are only taking a role in training and teaching, and also as observers. As observers they go to the front line, but don't do any fighting."

The Brigadier also spoke of plans to give the US/UK a permanent base in the region.

While it has been emphasized that the western boots on the ground are not actively engaging in direct combat, it can be speculated that they could be involved in coordinating air strikes. US/UK operators trained in the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) role, and deployed with Kurdish forces, would be well placed to direct close air support (CAS) operations.

Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado aircraft have carried out several strikes against IS forces, including hitting targets near Rabia.

Video showing a Brimstone missile strike on an IS vehicle near Rabia, launched from a RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft. Kurdish forces have been engaged in fierce fighting at this strategically important town, located on a main IS supply route. In order to avoid blue on blue incidents, such strikes may be directed by JTACs on the ground.
MOD video | Crown copyright 2014 | used under MOD News Licence

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports[2] that British Special Forces operating in Iraq have been issued with Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) protection suits. Such protective gear, which includes special clothing and respirators, has been carried by the SAS on previous deployments to Iraq. During both the 1991 Gulf War and the invasion stage of the 2003 sequel, the worry was that Saddam Hussein would unleash chemical weapons against coalition troops. Now it is feared that chemical weapons held by the Syrian regime may find their way into IS hands.

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