British Special Forces Conduct Covert Operations in Nigeria Research Reveals.
Research has uncovered that the British Special Air Service (SAS) and other special forces from the European country have covertly operated in Nigeria and 18 additional countries over the past 12 years.
Notably, in 2012, a group of Special Boat Service (SBS) commandos attempted a rescue mission, albeit unsuccessfully, to free a Briton and an Italian held by an Islamist group in Nigeria.
Aside from Nigeria, the British SAS has conducted secret operations in Algeria, Estonia, France, Oman, Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Cyprus, Pakistan, Somalia, the Philippines, Russia, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and most recently Sudan.
In Mali, UK Special Forces provided non-combat support during French military actions against jihadi groups, while also training soldiers from Nigeria, Morocco, and Cameroon. They have been involved in intelligence gathering and threat assessments in response to the increasing instability in the Sahel region.
These elite military units operate covertly without public certification from UK ministers. However, based on media leaks and a report by Action on Gun Violence, their operations since 2011 have been compiled.
The report titled “Britain’s Special Forces on Service in at Least 19 Countries since 2011” sheds light on their activities.
The Guardian UK reports that this extensive list of deployments suggests that the Prime Minister and Defense Secretary frequently deploy personnel from the SAS, Special Boat Service, and Special Reconnaissance Regiment on dangerous missions, often outside of times of declared war.
Special forces have been particularly active in Syria, where they reportedly supported rebel groups fighting against President Bashar al-Assad in 2012. They were also sent in 2013 to identify military targets ahead of a planned bombing campaign that was eventually voted against by MPs.
Due to the emphasis on secrecy, the SAS member Matt Tonroe, who was killed in Syria in 2018, was initially identified as a member of the Parachute Regiment. It was later revealed that he was killed by a grenade from a US colleague, not an improvised explosive device.
While the UK is not an official participant in the conflict, leaked Pentagon documents earlier this year revealed the presence of 50 UK special forces members in Ukraine. The US and France had 14 and 15 personnel respectively, although the purpose of their presence was unspecified.
The report’s authors highlight the extensive deployments of British special forces without sufficient control or oversight. Although special forces can be deployed without parliamentary consent and are not subject to parliamentary committee investigations, it is customary for MPs to vote on authorizing wars.
The deployment of British Special Forces in multiple countries over the past decade raises concerns about transparency and democratic oversight, according to Iain Overton, the executive director of AOAV. The lack of parliamentary approval and retrospective reviews for these missions is deeply troubling.
Despite these concerns, special forces continue to participate in operations such as exfiltrations and hostage rescues. Notably, in 2019, UK special forces assisted in the successful release of a couple detained in the Philippines, while in 2012, SBS commandos attempted but failed to rescue a Briton and an Italian held by an Islamist group in Nigeria.
The involvement of special forces in various covert operations exemplifies their crucial role in national security, albeit with ongoing debates surrounding transparency and oversight.