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Syrian Army rapidly advancing towards US and British special forces

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Syrian government forces accompanied by Iranian and Hezbollah fighters are within 15 miles (24km) of a joint US/UK Special Forces base, sparking fears of a confrontation.
British SAS troops were photographed at the heavily-fortified base at al-Tanf in 2016 and are thought to be operating alongside units from the US military, including in a training role.

“The Iranians are the ones promoting their movement towards al-Tanf, using the slogan Fighting The Grand Satan i.e. the US and the international coalition,” Mozahem al-Saloum, a spokesman for the al-Tanf-based Free Syrian Army brigade told the Telegraph.

The area is of substantial strategic importance to the regime, as controlling it would help re-establish a road link with Iraq to the south. In June 2016, Russian jets, providing top cover for the Syrian military, bombed the base. No casualties were reported.

In April, the base reportedly came under attack from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

The UK government refused to comment in line with its long-standing policy relating to Special Forces operations.

Elite UK forces in Syria

The US has reportedly warned against further encroachment on the base and it remains unclear how foreign troops would respond to contact with Syrian forces.

The precise disposition and number of UK forces in unknown though they are likely to be either British Army personnel from 22 SAS or Royal Marines from the SBS – Britain’s so-called ‘Tier 1’ operators.

Other units that operate under the same ‘no comment’ umbrella include the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG), formerly the 1st Battalion of The Parachute Regiment, which supplies additional troops to SF operations and the shadowy Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), which provides expert close surveillance capabilities.

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Special Forces

Canadian special forces out of Mosul, preparing for new battle in Iraq

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Canadian special forces have left the city of Mosul and are now backing up Iraqi forces as they prepare to assault one of the Islamic State group’s last strongholds in the country. The move comes amid growing friction between the various local groups facing off against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and warnings that despite its battlefield victories, the international community has a lot more work to do in Iraq.

The Iraqi military, Kurdish Ppeshmerga and various paramilitary groups have surrounded Hawija, a city of about 150,000 people, and are waiting for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s order to attack. The victory there would represent a pivotal moment in the war against ISIL, since the group would then control only a few small pockets of Iraqi territory along Syria’s border.

Canadian troops who had been helping Iraqi forces secure Mosul throughout the summer are now near Hawija, and will provide support during the upcoming battle, military spokesman Maj. Alexandre Cadieux said Friday. Canada has about 200 special forces soldiers supporting local forces in northern Iraq. Most of their work has been with the Kurds, but Cadieux said they are also now operating with other Iraqi groups.

“Members of the Special Operations Task Force will provide their (Iraqi Security Force) partners with advice and assistance in the vicinity of Hawija,” Cadieux said in an email. “Canadian Armed Forces personnel are advising its partners on how to best secure their position and prevent effective counter-attacks from Daesh,” he added, using the Arabic name for ISIL.

“CAF personnel also advise and assist in the detection, identification and possible prosecution of Daesh targets by our partner, or through coalition resources.”

Exactly when the battle will start has been a source of speculation for several weeks. Hawija is located in territory claimed by both the Kurds, who have their own semi-independent regional government, as well as Iraq’s central government in Baghdad.

That alone has created disagreements between the various forces preparing to attack the city, but the fact the Kurds plan to hold a referendum on independence on Sept. 25 has heightened tensions. Yet even if Hawija is liberated, one senior Canadian officer whose job is to organize coalition training efforts and help Iraqi officials plan operations says the hard work is just beginning.

Brig.-Gen. Steven Whalen said that’s because Iraqi security forces will continue to need help as ISIL shifts to terrorist tactics such as suicide bombings, one of which killed 80 people on Friday. “This fight is not anywhere near over,” Whalen said in an interview from Baghdad, where he is leading a team of international advisers inside Iraq’s defence ministry.

“From a military perspective, we are expecting that there is going to be some kind of insurgency-type scenario that will evolve. And we see some signs of it occurring elsewhere in Iraq.” Special units are being trained to deal specifically with such a threat, Whelan said, but there is also the need to make sure regular forces are able to hold territory and conduct basic military tasks.

“We’re going to transition from building hardcore combat capability to moving towards giving the Iraqis training and resources to help them become self-sustaining,” Whelan said. “They’re not ready for self-sustainment yet from a security perspective.”

The Liberal government recently extended Canada’s mission against ISIL until March 2019, while giving the military more flexibility to decide on its own what it needs to accomplish its objectives. One area that Canada is exploring is whether to partner with NATO to train Iraqi forces to find and disarm improvised explosive devices, though military officials said no decisions have been made.

In addition to the special forces troops, Canada has surveillance, refuelling and transport planes, an intelligence unit, a helicopter detachment and a military hospital in the region to help fight ISIL.

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Special Forces

IDF releases rare video of its elite Unit 5101 also known as SHALDAG

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The IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) have released a video of Shaldag unit. Shaldag (Hebrew: שלדג‎‎, Kingfisher), also known as Unit 5101, is an elite Israeli Air Force commando unit. So far, their public appearance was very rare. Shaldag was founded in 1974, in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, by Muki Betser, a Sayeret Matkal veteran who brought several Matkal veterans with him. Initially operating as a Sayeret Matkal reserve company, it was eventually transferred to the IAF.

Shaldag’s mission is to deploy undetected into combat and hostile environments to conduct special reconnaissance, establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control and commando actions.

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