British paratroopers secretly operating in support of the SAS in Iraq are using American uniforms, weapons and vehicles as part of their cover.
Although John Reid, the Defence Secretary, only announced this week that the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) had become operational, a company of more than 100 paratroopers has been working for six months in Baghdad. They have reportedly become so successful that American special forces have called on their help.
The SFSG was formed mainly because it was found that small groups of highly trained SAS troopers did not have enough firepower to take on large groups of Iraqi and Afghan terrorists. The unit has already seen a substantial amount of action in Baghdad.
Whenever the SAS goes on raids to apprehend terrorists in highly dangerous areas of Baghdad, the Paras are used to provide perimeter security.
Arriving in US Humvees, dressed in American army fatigues and armed with C7 Diemaco guns – a Canadian made version of the M16, the men have fought several battles with insurgents while protecting SAS colleagues.
“The SAS are doing the smash and grab but all the contacts are happening on the perimeter and there are a serious amount of rounds going down the range,” a Parachute Regiment source said.
“They are making a really good name for themselves with the Hereford blokes and the Americans. If the shit hits the fan and the SAS need them, the boys are there as a quick reaction force.”
The troops were also believed to have been used to provide a security cordon as part of Task Force Maroon when the SAS rescued the peace campaigner Norman Kember and two other hostages.
The troops deployed to Baghdad at the end of last year after undergoing specialist training at the SAS headquarters in Hereford, including the use of American weapons and equipment.
“They wear US uniforms so they can blend in in Baghdad where a British paratrooper would stick out and draw unwanted attention,” an intelligence source said.
“But they don’t have their hair cuts ‘high and tight’, don’t strut around like Americans and are certainly not trying to speak with American accents. They are loving it with all the American kit, and you can’t keep them out of the PX shop [US military duty-free shops].”
The SFSG is mainly based on the 500 men of the 1 Bn The Parachute Regiment supplemented by a company of about 100 Royal Marines and a similar number of men from the RAF Regiment.
The group is based at St Athan, near Cardiff