The Special Air Service (SAS) is a special forces unit of the British Army. The SAS was founded in 1941 as a regiment and later reconstituted as a corps in 1950. The unit undertakes a number of roles including covert reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, direct action, hostage rescue and human intelligence gathering.
The corps presently comprises 22 Special Air Service Regiment, the regular component, under the operational command of United Kingdom Special Forces, and 21 (Artists) Special Air Service Regiment (Reserve) and 23 Special Air Service Regiment (Reserve), which are reserve units under the operational command of 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade.
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British special forces, including SBS and SAS and their supporting troops, are reportedly ready to leave Syria amid expected incursion of Turkish forces in the region that could spark fighting with Kurds. According to the Times, they are ready to leave in case the US military withdraws completely.
Yesterday’s White House announcement of US withdrawal from Northern Syria, after a call between President Trump and President Erdogan on Sunday, didn’t trigger an official UK comment on the ongoing situation in the Euphrates River Valley. The UK has reportedly deployed a few hundred of its troops to the area, including elite British special operations forces, Special Air Service (SAS) and British Special Boat Service (SBS). They had significant influence during the war against Islamic State militants and their operators were engaged in dozen direct firefights with militants, according to some reports.
But, the situation with withdrawal is not clear yet as it seems to be. President Trump repeatedly insisted he would pull back U.S. troops from northeast Syria but had not taken action in the field. The expected retreat of U.S. military personnel is not expected to happen this week.
However, I have understood that hundreds of British special forces soldiers will be pulled out of Syria only in case if the US military withdraws completely and according to the White House press conference last night “the UK was very thrilled by this decision”.
The Western countries special forces mostly worked alongside the Kurdish forces in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (also known as ISIL, ISIS, IS). Now, Islamic State is gone, but that doesn’t mean that the danger is still not present. In fact, simply killing all the ISIS militants won’t end the ISIS threat. They will be back… somewhere… someday. Having strong allies in the Middle East is far better than sending our troops there every few years.