Are Western Special Operations Forces in Ukraine?

In a 25 June article the New York Times, the newspaper reported the presence of Western special operations forces in Ukraine. The account was corroborated by three senior US officials according to NYT.

The NYT claims “…a few dozen commandos from other NATO countries, including Britain, France, Canada and Lithuania, also have been working inside Ukraine.” The article also mentions CIA personnel on the ground in Ukraine. This would tally with so far unconfirmed reports of the loss of a CIA contractor earlier this year inside Ukraine (two further anonymous stars have been added to the Agency’s Memorial Wall this year).

The US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group who, along with UKSF, had been shouldering the majority of the training of Ukrainian forces (along with a number of US Army National Guard units) prior to the invasion, were withdrawn immediately before the Russian offensive to continue their training activities in Germany and Poland. According to the NYT article, 10th Special Forces Group are now heading up a fusion intelligence cell to manage both deliveries of Western military aid and disseminate NATO and US intelligence to the Ukrainians.

Ukrainian SOF during joint training 2021 (DVIDS)

Army Secretary Christine E. Wormuth is quoted as noting:

“As the Ukrainians try to move that around and evade the Russians potentially trying to target convoys, you know, we are trying to be able to help coordinate moving all of those different sort of shipments… another thing I think we can help with is intelligence about where the threats to those convoys may be.”

The SOF effort on-the-ground inside Ukraine is claimed to include elements from UKSF, Canada, France and Lithuania. Lieutenant General Jonathan P. Braga, the commander of US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) was quoted in April confirming cooperation between Western SOF units: “what is an untold story is the international partnership with the special operations forces of a multitude of different countries…”

Following the successful model employed in Iraq and Syria, it would also be unlikely that operators from Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are not already embedded with Ukrainian headquarters elements within the country. Certainly, there will be JSOC (and SOCOM) representatives now stationed at the recently reopened US Embassy in Kyiv.

A journalist at Le Figaro reported in April that both UK Special Air Service (SAS) and American Delta Force operators had been deployed inside Ukraine since the start of the war according to an unnamed French intelligence source quoted by the paper.

Again, if true, these operators will not be conducting operations directly against Russian forces but will be embedded within Ukrainian headquarters in SOF liaison cells to provide real-time intelligence and assist with targeting and electronic warfare in a similar fashion to their efforts during the Battles for Mosul and for Marawi.

Amusingly, and despite strident official protestations to the contrary, a DMSA notice was issued by the UK Defence & Security Media Advisory Committee precluding discussion of “alleged deployment of UK troops” to Ukraine.