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SBS Operations in Afghanistan

The Special Boat Service has carried out a series of operations in Afghanistan, starting not long after the attacks of September 11th 2001. In mid-November, 01, the whole of C Squadron, SBS, was flown into Bagram airbase, Afghanistan, which they quickly secured. The arrival of British forces was an unwelcome surprise to the Northern Alliance troops stationed in the area and a tense standoff arose. Frantic diplomatic efforts managed to cool the situation and disaster was narrowly averted..

With Bagram secure, more UK and US forces began to fly in and soon the SBS were to receive their taskings. C Squadron was split into small fire teams of 4-6 operators, with each fire team assigned a different mission. These missions included :

  • deploying North to the city Mazar-i-Sharif, to liaise with the Northern Alliance. In this role the SBS were to give tactical advice and to call in US air power against the Taliban
  • integrating with US Special Operations and CIA units (Task Force Dagger), who were hunting down senior Al Qaeda and Taliban figures. One such mission is detailed in Bloody Heroes, by Damien Lewis, in which he recounts the tale of SBS/CIA search and destroy mission in the Nakar Valley.

In late November 2001, an SBS team was drawn into a bloody uprising of captured Taliban at a fort close to Mazar-i-Sharif. Read more on the Qala-i-Janghi Fort Uprising

The SBS carried out a series of actions in late 2001 and into 2002. SBS teams were reportedly amongst UK/US special forces engaged in attempting to capture Osama Bin Laden in the Tora Bora cave complex. Later, in March 2002, the SBS reportedly took part in Operation Anaconda, an attempt o flush Al Qaeda and Taliban forces out of the Shahi-Kot Valley and Arma Mountains.

Details of SBS actions in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2006 are thin on the ground. It is thought that the SBS was part of a joint task force of UK/US special forces tasked with going after high ranking Taliban and Al-Qaeda figures in Afghanistan. A similar task force was said to have been set up in post-invasion Iraq, with the SAS at the heart of the UK's contribution.

News of SBS ops began to make the papers in 2006 following a ramping up of the British presence in Helmand Province, in the south of the country. The SBS have reportedly been involved in several operations against Taliban leadership targets.

  • Jun 2006 - in the aftermath of a successful swoop against the Taliban, 2 SBS operators were killed when their 'Snatch' land rover was ambushed.
    source : the Guardian

  • May 2007 - a daring raid was carried by C Squadron against Taliban commander, Mullah Dadullah.
    Read more on the raid on Mullah Dadullah.

  • July 2007 - an SBS operator is killed during a raid against under a Taliban commander in Nimruz, in the South of Afghanistan.
    source : the Sun

  • February 2008 - Mullah Abdul Matin - the SBS reportedly took out a senior Taliban figure, Mullah Abdul Matin in a shootout at Gereshk, Helmand province. Press reports indicate that the SBS intercepted a group of Taliban, including Matin, his lieutenant Mullah Karim Agha and a bodyguard as they moved across the desert on motorcycles. The SBS were rapidly deployed from helicopters across the convoy's path. A gun battle ensued in which all Taliban were killed.
    source : the Sun

  • July 2008 - Mullah Bishmullah - The SBS swoop on the Taliban leader, Mullah Bishmullah, in a helicopter-borne assault close ot his compound at Now Zad.
    source : the Sun

  • August 2008 - Mullah Multan - The SBS and 3 Para raided the fort of Taliban drug-lord, Mullah Multan.
    source : the Sun

  • September 2008 - The SBS spot a senior Taliban commander crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan and call in a WAH-64 Apache gunship to target his jeep with a Hellfire missile.
    source : the Sun

  • September 2008 - Pakistan Ops - Newspapers reported that the SBS, along with the SRR, had been operating across the Pakistan border, where they targetted Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership.
    source : the Times

  • October 2008 - Convoy Strike - SBS commandos called in air strikes against a Taliban convoy close to the border with Pakistan.
    source : the Sun

  • November 2008 - Mullah Asad - The SBS are believed to have taken part in an operation to kill Mullah Asad, a taliban leader responsible for a number of British deaths in Helmand. The SBS tracked down Asad's location then called in an aistrike by a Army Air Corps WAH-64 Apache gunship.
    source : the Sun

  • June 2009 - Mullah Mansur - In a precision strike, Army Air Corps Apache helicopters, called in by SBS operators on the ground, take out 3 Taliban, including Mullah Mansur.
    source : the Sun

Operation Medusa

In September 2006, NATO launched Operation Medusa in an attempt to drive the Taliban from the strategically important Panjwayi district of Afghanistan. It is reported that the SBS, in conjunction with US Special Forces, were at the vanguard of a large scale attack. The SBS were supported by the SFSG, who acted as cut-off groups whilst the SBS attacked. An RAF Nimrod spy plane tragically crashed whilst supporting Op Medusa, with the loss of all onboard, including members of SBS Signals squadron and their SFSG equivalents.

Hostage Rescue

Late September 2007 saw the usually low-profile SBS burst onto the television news as reports of a daring hostage rescue mission came out of Afghanistan.
Read more on the SBS Hostage Rescue in Afghanistan

April 2008 - Spy Drone Recovery

Special Boat Service personnel took part in a mission to recover sensitive electronics gear from a RAF Reaper unmanned spy drone that had crashed in Afghanistan. After securing the equipment, the SBS withdrew and called in an airstrike from a RAF Harrier attack aircraft to destroy the Reaper.
read news report in the Sun

February 2009 - Operation Diesel

The SBS took part in a 3 Commando Brigade Operation against a number of Taliban drug factories in Helmand, Afghanistan.
read report in the Telegraph

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