SBS Trooper killed in Afghanistan


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice

A member of British special forces, which have been targeting Taliban leaders and drug barons in their biggest operation since the second world war, has been killed in southern Afghanistan, defence sources said today.

The Ministry of Defence announced only that a Royal Marine had died there yesterday but the Guardian can reveal that he was a member of the Special Boat Service (SBS), the naval equivalent of the SAS.

Though Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, revealed earlier this year that 500 members of Britain's special forces were deployed in southern Afghanistan, their activities are still meant to be an official secret. About 70 are understood to have been wounded there, and at least 13 killed.

They have conducted hundreds of operations against Taliban commanders over the past three years, killing some and capturing other, less prominent, Taliban fighters in joint operations with Afghan special forces. They are engaged in operations in Kandahar, where they are based, as well as Helmand province, where most of the 9,500 regular British troops are deployed.

In "carrot and stick" tactics, the SBS and SAS are mounting attacks directed at Taliban commanders on the ground while in parallel covert operations, intelligence officers are trying to persuade more influential Taliban leaders to negotiate an end to the conflict.

While the SAS led British special operations in Iraq – where seven were killed and 30 seriously wounded – the SBS have taken the lead in Afghanistan ever since their first troops were flown to bases near Kabul soon after the start of the war in November 2001. SBS members were recently reported to have used skis to track down Taliban commanders last winter in the mountains of the Hindu Kush.

In an operation described as "striking a critical blow to the insurgency's command and control capabilities," a Taliban leader known as Bishmullah was killed two years ago in Now Zad in Helmand by British special forces.

In an address to a Royal United Services Institute conference in London, General David Petraeus, who today took command of all US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, praised what he called the "world-class counter-terrorism expertise" of British special forces.

He singled out Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb, a former head of Britain's special forces, a confirmed adherent of hitting the Taliban hard – "till their eyeballs bleed", as he once put it – but also of encouraging "reconcilable" Taliban to lay down their arms.