July 16, 2015:
In early July Britain decided to send up to a hundred SAS and SBS commandos to operate in Syria and Iraq against ISIL. This was largely in reaction to the June 26 ISIL sponsored terror attack in Tunisia where a university student smuggled an AK-47 (hidden in a folded beach umbrella) onto a popular tourist beach and killed 38 people before police shot him dead. Three-quarters of the victims were British and the British government was under pressure to do something. In Tunisia police soon arrested several local ISIL members who turned out to be involved with planning and carrying out the attack. The investigation also found that the shooter had recently received several months of weapons training in Sabratha (an ISIL stronghold in western Libya between Tunisia and Tripoli).
Britain has had aircraft bombing ISIL since late 2014 but no ground troops fighting ISIL. The SAS and SBS operators join American SEALs and Delta Force in Syria and Iraq, along with commandos from several other nations (some of them Arab) who prefer to remain unidentified just now. The only reporting on the activities of these commandos is when they stage a raid and capture or kill someone. In fact, most of their time is spent on reconnaissance and seeking out high-quality targets for the bombers and UAVs overhead. In some cases a commando team will find a target and immediately call in a missile or smart-bomb strike. Keeping quiet about these operations protects the operators (who do not want their tactics and methods known to the enemy) and increases the fear among the Islamic terrorists being sought.
Islamic terrorists would like nothing better than to capture or kill some of these commandos, but they rarely have the opportunity. The commandos are highly trained, experienced, thorough and careful. The commandos go in with plenty of backup, especially aircraft overhead and fellow commandos as well as dependable non-commando troops available to help out. The commandos practice what to do if spotted and pursued and this generally involves quickly calling in air strikes on all their pursuers. Some commandos consider such dangerous and desperate situations to have some benefits. Such a pursuit creates a “target rich environment” as the Islamic terrorists call in all the reinforcements available in the area. This means many vehicles full of gunmen headed for the scene. For those the commandos cannot see, aircraft overhead have targeting pods to look at these vehicles up close, confirm who they are and use a missile or smart bomb to eliminate the threat. More experienced terrorist leaders try to halt this stampede which nearly always creates more targets for the bombers rather than making it more likely to capture or kill some commandos. This is especially true when the terrorists believe the myth that Western sensors cannot see through sand storms.
Despite all these advantages Western commandos prefer to remain undetected and find targets quietly rather than using themselves as bait. Since there are only a few hundred commandos in Syria at the moment the addition of the British contingent is a substantial increase and should show up in the news as more spectacular air strikes against ISIL, especially ISIL leaders.