Special Forces could soon move away from manhunts and strikes in the Middle East to focus on guarding against foreign threats through intelligence operations.
If approved by the government, the SAS and other outfits will change tack as part of the secret Special Operations Concept, sources will tell the BBC‘s Newsnight later.
The SAS is shifting its focus to Putin’s Russia as missions against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq wind down, sources will tell Newsnight later
The source also suggests that financial concerns lay behind the shift in priorities. Changes will also hit the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SSR) and Special Boat Services (SBS).
One Whitehall source told Newsnight: ‘The counter terrorist task is drawing down, while the need to confront dangerous international behaviour by peer adversaries is increasing.’
Pictured: Emergency services cleaning up in Salisbury in 2018 after the nerve agent attack, which the British government says was the work of Russia’s GRU
New missions would involve less direct violence after almost 20 years of man-hunting missions in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
The move would see closer cooperation with allied intelligence agencies as well as MI6.
This would mean the SSR taking a more central role as covert surveillance comes to the fore.
Military chiefs believe Russia has been using its military intelligence arm, the GRU, effectively in Ukraine, Syria and Africa.
Police were hunting two Russian GRU agents, named as Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga, over the chemical weapons attack in Salisbury
The government holds the GRU responsible for last year’s Salisbury attack, in which Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with the novichok nerve agent.
One senior officer told Newsnight: ‘Right now you do nothing or you escalate. We want to expand that competitive space.’
The Ministry of Defence said it did not comment on the Special Forces.
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