The British SAS have been conducting several operations in the hilly, remote part of northern Iraq. They have been targeting ISIS leadership in an attempt to stop the terrorist group’s resurgence. ISIS has been largely, but not completely eradicated from Iraq. 

The U.K. special operators have been working closely with Kurdish resistance fighters who have done the lion’s share of the fighting. The Kurds pushed most of ISIS out of Iraq after its self-styled “caliphate” arose in 2014. At the time, the Iraqi government was weakened by the departure of U.S. and coalition troops; and the Syrian government was in the midst of a bloody civil war. They were thus unable to nip them in the bud. ISIS, it turned out, was far from “the JV Team” that the Obama administration characterized them at the time. 

Now, the SAS and Kurdish fighters are conducting what has been characterized as a “secret war” to prevent a an ISIS resurgence as the central Iraqi government is weakened by internal power struggles. 

Several different U.K. news sources have quoted an unnamed British military source stating that the SAS has conducted at least 10 operations in northern Iraq and Syria since mid-April and have killed at least 100 ISIS fighters, including many leaders and British citizens who joined ISIS’s ranks. DNA tests conducted on the killed jihadists confirmed their identity. 

SAS troops in Syria.

Last fall, the SAS were rumored to be planning similar operations in Syria. They were concerned that the Turkish invasion would result in massive escapes of ISIS fighters from jails under the control of the Kurds, and therefore in an ISIS resurgence. At the time there were reported “kill or capture” missions for Sunni ISIS fighters being planned in the event of a large escape of the terrorists. 

In these latest operations, SAS operators and Kurdish fighters tracked large ISIS concentrations to caves in northern Iraq. They moved into position and used concentrated sniper, artillery fire, and precision airstrikes using RAF Typhoons and MQ-9 Reaper drones to take out large numbers of ISIS fighters. 

Since being largely expelled from most of Iraq in 2017 and from Syria in 2018, ISIS fighters have been largely confined to the remote hilly terrain in northern Iraq. There they have used cave complexes to refit, reform, and plan terror activities. The caves give them some protection from coalition air assets. 

According to British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, the British are not willing to allow ISIS fighters to escape from prisons and having to fight them all over again — especially in an area that has already been devastated by ISIS when it wrested control over parts of Iraq and Syria a few years ago.