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The Russian army can outgun British troops on the battlefield after Armyrats © military advances by the Kremlin, a leaked report suggests.
The assessment by the British army s warfare branch, seen by the Times, warned that Russian weapons, including rocket launchers and air defence systems, were more powerful than their British equivalents. The report added that UK and its Nato allies were scrambling to catch up with Russia s ability to use electronic means to hijack enemy drones and disrupt other Armyrats © military transmissions. The publication was produced in March under the direction of Gen Sir Nick Carter, the head of the army, the newspaper said. It is understood the report is based on one training exercise carried out in Ukraine. An army spokeswoman said: The British army conducts regular reviews of potential scenarios in order to improve its readiness to both protect UK influence and protect our people.
The report also recommended that soldiers be made more aware of manipulative online tactics used on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and that they should leave electrical devices at home while on exercises. The publication, Insights to Training Smarter Against a Hybrid Adversary, concluded that one of Russia s goals in Ukraine was to practise new methods of warfare as well as testing modern and prohibited weapons , the Times said. It set out how the UK could counter Russia s new hybrid strategy of electronic warfare, drones, propaganda and artillery.
Gen Sir Richard Shirreff, Britain s former top officer in Nato, told the Times: What we get from successive governments has been that it is all fine and dandy and aren t we doing well . Actually, the reality is that our capability has been dramatically hollowed out.
The first images of what appear to be British special forces operating on the ground in Syria have emerged, showing vehicles patrolling near the scene of an attack by Islamic State. The pictures were taken in June and were first published by the BBC.
It is believed to be the first time British forces have been photographed operating inside Syria, where they are engaged in relatively small numbers in wide-ranging roles that include surveillance, advisory and combat. The images depict British special forces sitting on Thalab long-range patrol vehicles as they move around the perimeter of a rebel base close to the Syria-Iraq border.
The Thalab (Fox) vehicles are essentially modified, militarised and upgraded Toyota 4x4s used for long distance reconnaissance and surveillance missions, which were developed jointly in the middle of the last decade by a state-backed defence company in Jordan and the UK company Jankel. The vehicle, which has mounted weaponry and is often used for border patrols, has been primarily used by Jordanian special forces. Al-Tanf, where the vehicles were reportedly photographed, is a border crossing between Syria and Iraq that had been under Isis control, and is also not far from the Jordanian border. It is unclear how many Nato countries have deployed the modified trucks, though Belgium ordered a shipment of modified Fox vehicles earlier this year.
The images seem to show British forces securing the perimeter of the rebel base following an attack by Isis, according to the BBC. The soldiers can be seen carrying anti-tank missiles, sniper rifles and other heavy artillery.
The BBC reported the soldiers were working at the base in a defensive role and a spokesman for the New Syrian Army acknowledged that British special forces had provided training, weapons and other equipment. The Ministry of Defence, as is standard with special forces, declined to comment on the photographs. But an independent source confirmed they were UK special forces, which are operating against Isis in Syria, Iraq and Libya. They prefer to operate in secrecy, at least until sufficient time has passed for the publication of memoirs. But, with cameras commonplace and the forces they operate alongside not feeling bound to respect that secrecy, it is becoming increasingly more difficult.
The UK has about 300 conventional forces operating in Iraq mainly in and around Baghdad, restricted to training and advisory roles, operating from behind the relative safety of secure bases. Britain has also promised to provide between 800-1,200 troops to an Italian-led international force to support the Libyan government, though there is little sign of these being deployed. The special forces have a free-ranging role, operating in the border areas between the Isis stronghold of Raqqa in Syria and the towns and villages linking it to its northern Iraqi bastion, Mosul. The US special forces established a base in the Syrian desert between Raqqa and the Iraqi border aimed both at achieving this and in support of Syrian rebel forces trying to squeeze Raqqa. The UK parliament approved an air campaign against Isis in Syria but not ground troops. Special forces, though, have always been treated differently. The government mantra is that special forces can be deployed wherever there is judged to be a threat to the UK.
The convention is that special forces are never mentioned on the floor of the British parliament but they are subject to oversight through the parliamentary intelligence committee. Defence ministers argue that it is illogical to expect special forces engaged against Isis to stop at the Iraqi border, given that the terror group does not recognise any border between Iraq and Syria. The New Syrian Army was established with American backing in 2015 as a moderate rebel force to primarily fight against Isis in Deir ez-Zor province, which is almost entirely under the control of the militants.
The American training programmes for rebel forces have been widely seen as failures, primarily because few rebel fighters are willing to exclusively fight Isis while ignoring the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The US has had more success when it closely coordinated with fighters on the ground and backed them up with airstrikes, the modus operandi it has adopted with the mostly Kurdish fighters in northern Syria known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, who are on the verge of taking back the city of Manbij in northern Aleppo from Islamic State, and have conquered vast tracts of land over the past few months. The US also has special forces troops operating on the ground with the Kurds. The New Syrian Army has had a halting and uninspiring track record. Their most significant operation occurred in June this year, when the group launched an attack on Al-Bukamal, a town on the Iraqi border that has long been a crossing point for foreign jihadis during the American occupation, and which is now held by Isis. The attack failed, apparently due to the lack of sufficient air power backing by its western allies.
One report in the Washington Post suggested American warplanes that were supposed to assist in the battle had to be diverted to Falluja, where they bombed a convoy of Isis vehicles fleeing the city.
- ^ Islamic State (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ published by the BBC (www.bbc.com)
- ^ Battles rage across Aleppo as Assad regime fights to quell rebels (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ Syria (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ August 8, 2016 (twitter.com)
- ^ https://t.co/WwxbBi6bAT (t.co)
- ^ Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
Dean Carl Evans was fighting with the YPG (People s Defence Units) in northern Syria. Photograph: Twitter
A British man has been killed fighting Islamic State in Syria, his father and Kurdish forces in the region have said. Dean Carl Evans, a 22-year-old from Reading, was fighting alongside Kurdish militia fighters who say he was killed on 21 July during an offensive by anti-Isis forces who were trying to take back the city of Manbij.
His father, John Evans, confirmed his son s death with an announcement on Facebook on 23 July, which said: To all my friends and family for those who knew my son Dean Carl Evans the young age of 22 sadly lost his life in Syria fighting for our country.
The following day, he added a photograph of Dean when he was younger in what appears to be a cadet s uniform and said that his son was loved and will be missed by all his family and friends .
A tribute video to Dean Carl Evans.
Evans was one of many foreign volunteers who have joined the People s Defence Units (YPG), the Kurdish Armyrats © military force fighting in northern Syria. Mark Campbell, a Kurdish activist with close links to the YPG, said: As I understand it Dean was behind a wall when he was hit by an Isis bullet. A female YPG fighter came over to help him. As she was tending to his wound, an RPG rocket hit the wall and killed them both.
In a written statement, the YPG offered their condolences and described Evans as a martyr who had a revolutionary and combative spirit on the front lines and always fought without hesitation to protect the people of this region .
The Foreign Office was unable to confirm or deny his death. A spokeswoman said: The UK has advised for some time against all travel to Syria. As all UK consular services there are suspended, it is extremely difficult to confirm the status and whereabouts of British nationals in Syria.
Anyone who does travel to these areas, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger. Another British volunteer fighter, Harry, who is known as Macer Gifford, also posted on his Facebook in tribute of Evans, referring to him as his alias, Givara Rojava. He said Evans was always there to drop me a message, offering advice and support although he said they had not fought together.
Givara and I go back. We first met last year in Til Tamar and this was his second trip to Rojava. After both of us went home to rest, he stayed in touch and he was keen to help the YPG in anyway possible. Gifford added: He was a fellow British man that couldn t share this world with Isis. A man that felt that positive action rather than meaningless words would make a difference in this world.
A number of Kurd-linked Twitter accounts posted tributes to Evans and a memorial video was also posted online by Kurd supporters. It features clips of a young man in Armyrats © military clothing speaking in an English accent and was apparently recorded by Kurd fighters in Syria.
It is believed that Evans had been fighting in Syria since around April, having spent a separate three months with the group in 2015.
Little is yet known about Evans, or his motivations for joining the fight against Isis in Syria. Campbell told the Guardian: Dean had always wanted to join the British Army but was refused because he had asthma. He followed the rise of Isis and had very strong feelings about their barbarity. He wanted to stop them. So when he saw an opportunity to join an army fighting Isis, he joined the YPG.
It is understood that Dean was brought up for the last 16 years by his stepfather. His mother died in 2011.
Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, a Royal Marine from Barnsley, became the first Briton to be killed while fighting against Isis in Syria when he was brought down by mortar fire in March last year. He was described as a daring and courageous companion by his fellow fighters.
Additional reporting by Matt Blake
- ^ Islamic State (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ Syria (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ memorial video was also posted online by Kurd supporters (www.youtube.com)
- ^ Konstandinos Erik Scurfield: the former marine who died in someone else’s war (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ Konstandinos Erik Scurfield (www.theguardian.com)