Developing

Special Forces: 600 Support Posts To Go

Around 600 posts could be cut from the support network for Britain's special forces after the military pull-out from Afghanistan.

The Special Forces Support Group is expected to be restructured as Britain's role in the Afghan conflict draws to an end.

The Ministry of Defence thinks the extra support and logistics will no longer be necessary.

The unit is primarily made up of paratroopers from 1 Para and a contingent of Royal Marines.

It was bolstered around five years ago to cope with the demands of fighting in Afghanistan.

These personnel, although some of the UK's most exceptional armed forces, do not complete the same training as SAS or SBS soldiers, neither do they apply the same rules of anonymity.

Their role is to provide logistical support, intelligence gathering and force protection.

The Government does not comment on the special forces, but senior defence sources have stressed this should not be seen as an attack on the special forces.

Of the posts that will be closed, 156 will be from the support group itself, the remainder from a wider network that assists the SAS and SBS.

It is understood that none of the personnel affected will actually lose their jobs because both the Royal Marines and paratroopers are exempt from the latest redundancies.

In the case of the marines, this is because the Navy has pretty much made all the cuts it needs to. The paras are deemed exempt because they are a specialist regiment.

The posts will be closed and those affected will go back to their original jobs.

Paranoia about redundancies in the Armed Forces was revived last month when the latest tranche of job losses was announced. The third round will mean 5,300 soldiers learning they have lost their jobs in June.

The Ministry of Defence defends the cuts as necessary to "meet the challenges of the future".

Former Liberal Democrat leader and Royal Marine Lord Ashdown told Sky News: "My guess is this is a redeployment - it will not cut back on special forces numbers, though it may have an impact on capacity."

Confusion also persists over the defence budget post-2015.

On his recent trip to Algeria, Libya and Liberia, Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters that defence spending would start to rise again beyond 2015, but Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said he thought this only applied to equipment spending.

Jim Murphy, shadow defence secretary, said: "This seems senseless and serious.

"These very specialised, high-end forces, which the UK now needs more than ever, may lose their roles at the same time as ministers hail their importance."

He added: "The country will demand an explanation as to why at a time when more is being demanded of Special Forces these roles may be lost."