Exclusive: MI6's Real Life 'Mixed Teams' Strike Back Against Putin

Fiction is not always that far off

In my last piece on Britain’s escalating kinetic spy war against Russia, I promised to reveal something about the similarities between ‘Strikeback’, the fictional TV series, and the UK’s latest move against Putin’s wetwork teams.


Strikeback’s ‘Section 20’ doesn’t exist. But something almost exactly like it, with almost exactly the same real name, does in fact exist. As you might expect, the announcements made by the UK’s military and spy chiefs lag reality significantly. As discussed, the gauntlet was flung into Putin’s face by Britain’s highly unusual avowal of covert action. But that’s not all the spy chiefs and military commanders had to say. Special Operations in the UK will be following a much more American model, with extra funds for operators and a ‘Tier Two’ level of highly qualified combat soldiers whose function appears to ape that of America’s Green Berets. (In the UK, the soldiers who would be termed “SOF”, Special Operational Forces, are called “Special Forces”, while in the United States, “Special Forces” refers to the Green Berets, only, who are one rung below the SEALs, Delta, the Night Stalkers and other operator combat united (Marine RECON, etc). The UK Telegraph reported:

The command paper will see an extra £3 billion given to the army, £120 million of which will be used to create the new Special Operations Brigade, based around a Ranger Regiment of four battalions….

The new tasks for the SAS will be complemented by the Rangers, the army’s new battalions of troops to advise partner forces around the world and go into battle with them (ed: these are exactly the tasks typically performed by the US Green Berets)

But not only is the UK freeing up its SBS (Special Boat Service, the SEALs equivalent), SRR (Special Reconaissance Regiment) and SAS operators to act solely as the rapid response, elite operators they are, the UK security chiefs also announced that they would be acting together with MI6 to perform, (ahem), “covert surveillance” on Russian teams abroad. The Daily Mail said:

General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith suggested the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) would be put on a 'different trajectory' in a major overhaul of the armed forces to be announced on Monday.

The overhaul could see Special Forces soldiers operating alongside MI6 to mount surveillance operations against Russian intelligence and military units.

The fact is of course that the SBS and SAS don’t do “surveillance” and everybody knows it. They do “elimination” and “hostage rescue” etc after surveillance has been carried out. MI6 might do some surveillance now and again - GCHQ, Britain’s NSA, performs electronic surveillance activities, but once in a while you need human eyes on targets - but, again, their missions are more active; they recruit spies and defectors, they obtain information, and so forth. With the announcement that UK Tier One units and UK spies are ‘working together’, the British security establishment has basically admitted something that has been going on for many years.

The American concept of “mixed teams” means that not every operator on a special mission will be a uniformed servicemember. Just as the FBI agent in ‘Sicario’ tagged along to make a mission legal, the United States has spies and government contractors “green badges” who can and do perform the roles of elite warriors while simultaneously being able to act as spies, hackers or whatever else might be needed on the mission. And such missions often include operators - SAS members, MI6 operatives, Australian special forces, whatever it might be - from closely trusted allied partners. Task Force 88 was one such grouping; there have been, and are now, plenty of others.

‘Strikeback’ was, to all intents and purposes, real enough. An ex-SAS soldier, Colin Armstrong, MM, created the series. (Some sources have told me that they were very impressed by the American actor Philip Winchester who flawlessly played a British SAS operator and how he handled his gun and in general acted the part; Winchester and his co-star trained with the SAS and SBS exhaustively). American operators, some of whom have named units and some of whom don’t, fight in the field alongside British commandos and spies. The name of at least one of these units was “Section (Number that is not 20 but is pretty close)”. I mentioned this in passing to a UK source some years ago, and that was the only time I ever saw a look of surprise involuntarily cross my source’s face. Frankly, when a fictional series has gone as near to the knuckle as ‘Strikeback’ did at its beginnings, it’s probably long since past time for the UK to shift nomenclature, although it has probably already done so, just as America long did with Delta (SFOD) before finally giving up and admitting the unit exists. I am withholding the exact name out of an abundance of caution, but the announcement of a melding that, in reality, has long existed, between UK commandoes and UK spies, is a further act of aggression against Russia. It’s also good military business and spywar common sense. Denying that mixed teams exist and that Britain deploys them risks the enemy exposing it for you. Julian Assange showed the West that traitors absolutely exist and Russia, and others, are forever on the lookout to recruit them.

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