What the SAS did in Afghanistan is still secret, so what is written below is an outline of what has been said in the British press and reported on television.
The first strikes on Afghanistan were cruise missile strikes launched from British and American submarines in the Arabian Sea. From this we can conclude that British SAS/SBS and American Delta Force/Army Rangers had been on the ground in Afghanistan (probably for two or three weeks previously) gathering intelligence and performing reconnaissance missions on Taliban and Al-Qaida targets. Targets were:
- A military base in Konduz.
- 3 Al-Qaida training camps in Jalalabad
- A Bin Laden base at Farmada.
- In Kandahar, the Taliban headquarters, 100 Al-Qaida housing units, Airport buildings; not the runway and a compound believed to be the HQ of the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar
- In Kabul, Electricity cut, Kabul Airport struck
- Near Mazir-I-Sharif a large concentration of Taliban equipment was bombed, and
- Herat airport was bombed, oil dump destroyed.
These reconnaissance teams are likely to be made up of 4 – 8 man teams, dropped by helicopter and moving on foot. It has recently become apparent that the SAS were dressed natively, suggesting they may have been operating covertly in populated areas. Armed with Minimi machineguns, Diemaco Carbines and the new H&K G36 which was on its first trials.
The SAS were on the ground throughout the conflict, and it was reported that 4 SAS men had been flown home after a firefight with Taliban fighters, the incident was actually an SAS raid on a Taliban cave which resulted in four men wounded, one serious but not fatal.
On November 25th, 2001, a prisoner of war camp run by the Northern Alliance was over run by its Taliban occupants, at the time it wasn’t known but it has since been revealed that the SAS and Delta Force were sent in to assist in the re-capture of the camp. Unusually a local camera man was on the scene and was permitted to film the SAS fighting alongside the Northern Alliance. More recently it has been suggested that this was actually the SBS not the SAS.
TRANSCRIPT OF CHANNEL 4 NEWS REPORT ON THE QALA-I JANGHI FORTRESS FIREFIGHT
The role of British Special Forces in Afghanistan has never been officially spelt out the impression has been that they were there to advise the Northern Alliance and to co-ordinate US bombing strikes on Taliban targets.
On Sunday November 25th 20001 a fierce battle took place just outside of Mari-e Sharif, at the Qala-I Janghi fortress between Taliban prisoners and their Northern Alliance captures. The armed prisoners rebelled in an intense firefight in which British Special Forces also came under heavy fire.
GABI RARDO HAS THIS EXCLUSIVE REPORT.
Qala-I Janghi fort after the bloodshed it’s now a decollate reminder of the most costly single incident of the Afghan war so far in terms of lives. No-body knows how many died, it may have been as many as seven-hundred and what nobody knew until now was the part British Forces played in it.
VT OF SAS FIREFIGHT
It’s Sunday twenty-fifth of November and the rebellion of prisoners in the fort has started some of the Westerners have unmistakable British accents.
SAS TROOPER 1 AND TROOPER 2 BANTER
What these remarkable pictures show is that not only were British forces present in the three day long battle but they fought fiercely alongside the Northern Alliance. At one stage a gun jams, and then an Alliance fighter points out targets to a British marksman.
US DELTA TROOPER – “THE CHOPPER THAT’S COMING IN WANTS TO LAND SOUTH”
[repeats] The chopper that’s coming in wants to land South, American Special Forces in desert fatigues are alongside their British colleagues in darker clothes [actually native dress], here they’re seen with a satellite phone which they use to call down air support.
No one seems to mind the presence of the Afghan cameraman who’s told them he’s filming for a local TV station.
PROFESSOR MICHAEL CLARK – KINGS COLLEGE LONDON
In essence British Special Forces have been there to act as forward air controllers and as advisors to the Anti Taliban forces but we must remember that this particular situation was an emergency, there was a revolt of prisoners at the fort, they’d armed themselves fairly heavily and one gets the impression from these pictures that it was probably all hands to the pump.
At the time this is what we reported:
OLD REPORT VT
Northern Alliance forces claim they’ve regained control of Qala-I Janghi fortress, inside hundreds of prisoners and captured foreign fighters who had been with the Taliban in Konduz had apparently grabbed weapons and fight their way out, perhaps fearing that they’d be slaughtered anyway by their captures. Alliance soldiers claimed a high price for their victory, achieved with the help of American and British Special Forces who called in air attacks.
It’s now clear those Special Forces had a far wider role. Qala-I Janghi fort lies just to the West of Mari-e Sharif, exactly how the riot broke out my never be answered but this maybe the sequence of events.
Two CIA agents on the scene question a prisoner, the incident turns violent, the Taliban disarm the Americans and kill one of them, and the other escapes over a wall. Several hundred Taliban prisoner then over power their Northern Alliance guards, capture weapons stored in an arms dump and take control of the whole compound. The CIA man who escaped calls for help, some time later more American and British Special Forces arrive, US war planes start bombing and a fierce gun battle begins from there position from behind the wall on one side of the compound the Westerners help the Northern Alliance put down the uprising.
The Taliban respond with all the ferocity of men with nothing to lose, it’s clear they hadn’t been properly disarmed when they were captured.
NORTHERN ALLIANCE FIGHTER – SUBTITLED
Q – “Why are they resisting?”
A – “Because they’re terrorists, they’re carrying a lot of grenades on them. When you go near them, they blow themselves up, or they throw the grenade at you.”
As darkness falls the British soldiers continue to battle it out.
Amnesty International has called for an enquiry into the circumstances of the death of so many Taliban prisoners, now it’s clear that British Special Forces were closely involved in the fighting, attempts may be made to draw them into the investigation, but it’s equally clear that they were operating in a very hostile environment.