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Sunday, March 7, 2010

UK’s SAS suffers worst losses in Afghanistan for 60 years

LONDON, Mar 07 : Britain ’s Special Forces have suffered the worst blow to their fighting strength since the World War II, with 80 members killed or crippled in Afghanistan .

Serious injuries have left more than 70 unable to fight, while 12 have been killed. It means the forces have lost about a sixth of their full combat capacity.

The Sunday Times has established that the Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Squadron (SBS) have mounted “several hundred” operations targeting Taliban leaders since 2007.

Sources say commanders are putting pressure on the SAS and SBS reservists to fill the gaps in manpower. The high casualty rate is a result of both the scale of special forces operations in the past three years and the Taliban’s increasing use of roadside bombs.

“The operational pool has been severely depleted,” the source said. “It’s largely because of the numbers of injuries. There are lots of Hereford [SAS] and Poole [SBS] guys walking round with missing limbs.”

The Falklands claimed the lives of 19 SAS members – 18 of them in a helicopter crash.

The commanding officer of the SBS, in charge of British special forces operations in southern Afghanistan , has warned that the pace of operations is likely to continue. “Many of our team have been almost continually fighting our country’s enemies since 2001,” he said, “and it is likely that our current scale of effort will continue for some time.”

“Sabre” squadrons of SBS and SAS are based at the tactical group headquarters in Kandahar . This winter the SBS reverted to arctic warfare skills, using skis to track down Taliban commanders above the snowline in the Hindu Kush . INP

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