NATO has special forces in Ukraine, US military leak reveals

NATO maintains 97 special forces personnel in Ukraine, including 50 British, 14 Americans, and 15 French forces, amid the war in the country, secret US military documents leaked online have revealed.

The documents appear to offer a partial snapshot of US military assessments of the state of the Ukraine conflict and Western support for Kyiv and reveal the presence of the NATO forces in the country as of March 1, 2023, the UK-based Guardian Daily and other British media outlets reported Tuesday.

The documents were labeled “secret” and had been prepared for senior US military officials, the newspaper said, pointing out that the daily updates contained information about NATO military operations, logistics, weapons deliveries, and training for Ukrainian troops.

The leaked files further suggest that the special forces could form part of NATO’s Special Forces Command coordinated by the military alliance’s special operations headquarters, though the precise details of how the forces are organized were not specified.

Another British news outlet, Declassified UK, said the 14 US special operators in Ukraine were among the 29 American military personnel present in the country that included the Marine security detachment at the US Embassy in Kyiv and military attaches.

It further revealed that yet another 71 State Department personnel were also listed as being on the ground in Ukraine, amounting to a total of 100 Americans in the country, despite Washington’s insistence that no American forces would take part in the Ukraine conflict.

Declassified further said the leaked secret document was marked “not releasable to foreign nationals.”

According to the report, while US special operators come from two units – Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force – the British definition extends beyond the Special Air Service (SAS) to paratroopers, marines, and other units. The British prime minister, it noted, is not obligated to brief the parliament on their deployment.

The British special forces include the SAS, the Special Boat Service, the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, as well as several other secretive military units such as the 18 (UKSF) Signals Regiment.

The units, which conduct undercover operations as well as covert surveillance and reconnaissance operations, are the most secretive organizations within the British military. Unlike the UK’s intelligence services, the Special Forces are not subject to external parliamentary oversight.

While the US and Britain have never officially confirmed the presence of their military forces in Ukraine, a number of Western news outlets have reported on it over the past year. In April 2022, the French daily Le Figaro reported that SAS and Delta Force operators had been present since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict, waging a “secret war” on behalf of Kyiv.

The US-based news outlet Grayzone further reported in November last year that British special operators had been working through a private company called Prevail Partners to train Ukrainian saboteurs targeting Crimea.

In December last year, a British military publication also admitted that up to 300 Royal Marines had been deployed to Ukraine for “discrete operations.”

Dozens of highly classified US military documents have been discovered online over the past week, attracting considerable media attention as American officials scramble to find the source of the latest leak of the top secret files.

US officials were cited in press reports earlier this week as saying that the span of topics discussed in the leaked documents – which address the Ukraine conflict, China, the Middle East, and Africa – suggest that the breach may have been perpetrated by an American rather than a foreign ally.

The Pentagon has referred the case to the Department of Justice, which has opened a criminal investigation.

US military and intelligence agencies were reportedly looking at their processes for how widely some intelligence is shared internally.

Officials are also looking into the possible motivations a US official or a group of officials would have in leaking such sensitive information, according to recent press reports, which noted that investigators were looking at four or five theories, from a disgruntled employee to an insider threat who actively wanted to undermine US national security interests.


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