A recent study conducted by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a London-based charitable organization that focuses on global armed violence research, revealed that the United Kingdom has dispatched its special forces to 19 different countries since 2011.
These British operatives engaged in activities such as training foreign militants, carrying out targeted killings, and reportedly even participating alongside child soldiers.
AOAV’s report, released on Tuesday, disclosed that British special forces were deployed for combat or surveillance purposes in various locations, including Algeria, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Somalia, the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and Oman, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen.
While certain deployments were to areas where British troops were already engaged, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, the UK Special Forces (UKSF) continued their operations even after regular military units withdrew.
During the Afghanistan campaign, British and American special forces conducted night raids between 2009 and 2012, resulting in numerous civilian casualties.
The study indicated that, aside from authorized actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, UKSF personnel were dispatched to other conflict zones without parliamentary approval.
For instance, just before parliament rejected a deployment to Syria in 2013, UKSF and MI6 operatives were reportedly present on the ground, targeting Syrian air defenses and coordinating American airstrikes. Shortly thereafter, they began training anti-government fighters while also carrying out assassinations of Islamic State members.
In Yemen, UKSF operatives participated in raids against militants linked to Al Qaeda. However, some instances saw them fighting alongside jihadists who were recruited by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to combat Houthi rebels. Troublingly, up to 40% of these jihadist forces were identified as child soldiers, as highlighted by AOAV.
The study noted that a significant portion of these deployments consisted of training missions and hostage rescue operations. Moreover, the UKSF’s involvement in Russia centered on providing security for British athletes during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Leaked Pentagon documents have indicated that the UK dispatched around 50 special forces personnel to Ukraine following Russia’s military intervention in February of the previous year.
Prior to this leak, several media outlets had already reported the presence of British and American special forces in Ukraine. A senior military officer even mentioned to The Times in the previous year that up to 300 British commandos were engaged in discrete operations alongside Ukrainian forces.
AOAV Director Iain Overton expressed concern about the lack of transparency and democratic oversight regarding these extensive deployments of British special forces in numerous countries over the past decade.
The absence of parliamentary approval and retrospective reviews for these missions, according to Overton, raises significant questions. The study highlighted that covert operatives took part in various foreign conflicts without proper parliamentary consent or oversight.