LONDON: The British Army is building a new special-operations group for overseas activities that could soon take part in conflicts in the Middle East and East Africa.
Budget cuts have played a role in the restructuring, but the move is also part of efforts by the UK to build influence abroad in the wake of Brexit.
The new Ranger Regiment, modeled after the US Green Berets, will contain four battalions of about 250 specially selected personnel. Their duties will include cyberwarfare and intelligence gathering.
The regiment will support foreign powers or proxy forces through training and direct support operations.
Speaking at a demonstration of the new force in the UK, Gen. Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, head of the army, said the first battalion will be ready by Christmas this year and could deploy to East Africa in 2022.
Mozambique and Somalia are said to be two key locations targeted for deployment, as they are part of what officials consider to be the “most contested environments.”
The terror group Al-Shabab could become the first target of the regiment, but military chiefs are also considering building ties with Kurdish forces in their conflict with Daesh.
Gen. Sir Patrick Saunders, chief of UK Strike Command, said the new foreign policy outlined by the government means that non-traditional conflicts, including space warfare, need to be addressed.
“We must also be prepared to confront rivals and adversaries in this grey zone, where we have been losing the initiative and losing our strategic advantage,” he added.
“So you’re going to see ships, soldiers and aircraft deployed around the globe, and then there are the things that you can’t see, such as space and cyberspace, which will also play an active role.”