US and UK special forces will team up to fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) despite a rumored prime ministerial ban on elite British troops engaging the jihadists, reports suggest.
President Obama announced on Monday that a further 250 US Special Forces would be going to Syria with sections of the UK press speculating the newcomers would throw their lot in with SAS troops.
This is despite reports on March 30 that David Cameron had banned the SAS from taking on IS.
A source reportedly told the Sun newspaper that commanders were unhappy with the PM’s decision and that “our SAS squadron in Kurdistan isn’t allowed to cross the border because of political restraints.”
The news comes after RAF Tornado bombers hit a major IS bunker near the Euphrates River in western Iraq using an advanced version of the Paveway bomb.
It is unclear if the strikes were guided from the air or by personnel on the ground, but according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) the attacks carried out on April 21 were the first to utilize the bunker-busting Enhanced Paveway III (EPIII).
Further RAF aerial attacks took place over on Friday and Sunday.
It was reported by Forces TV on Monday that French Special Forces would also be part of operations and that US B-52 bombers had arrived in Qatar amid whispers of a Western-led mass assault on the key IS-held Iraqi city of Mosul involving up to 70,000 Kurdish and Iraqi troops.
Forces TV quoted a senior source, saying: “Our people [UK Special Forces] have been at the forefront in dismantling IS across northern Iraq and Syria and are already preparing the ground for the battle to recapture Mosul.”
If the rumors are true then the US and UK are not alone in their designs on the city. As well as being Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul is home to a number of important Shia religious sites.
On Monday, France’s News i24 and the Jerusalem Post suggested Iran was planning to take back the city using a combined force, which included Shia Houthi fighters and members of the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah.
The shadowy nature of Britain’s activities in Syria have led to repeated calls for greater transparency, despite such requests being at odds with the long-standing policy of never commenting on special forces operations.
Crispin Blunt of the Foreign Affairs Committee told Forces TV on Tuesday the government should be “more transparent” if it hoped to “take Parliament and the public with it in getting a sensible strategy here.”
He previously told RT in an exclusive interview that the British should be as frank as the French were with their own public about special forces.
He was referring to the UK’s equally secretive reported operations in Libya.