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Belgian special operations worldwide boost role of intelligence.

| 2019

On 6 February, the Belgian Land Component, the Intelligence service (SGRS) of the Belgian armed forces, and the Belgian Special Forces gave a joint conference about the past, ongoing and forthcoming external operations carried on by the Belgian army. Maj.Gen. Johan Peeters gave an overview of the worldwide involvement of Belgian troops, followed by Lt.Gen. aviator Claude Van De Voorde (SGRS) for an in-depth presentation of the various intelligence sources supplied to the F-16 detachment deployed by the Belgian Air Component (Air Force) in Iraq, as well as to other Allied air forces.

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Belgian SF Group team in Iraq (Picture source: Belgian Special Forces Group)

SGRS (Service Général de Renseignement et de Sécurité) is the intelligence service of the Belgian army. Its personnel is responsible for various missions before the deployment of other soldiers on the theatre of operations. In fact, SGRS is the natural partner of the special forces and other deployed units. The information patiently collected both in the field by the Belgian Special Forces in close connection with Allies includes surveillance (through optics or the use of UAS/UAV), contact making with people in the areas of Belgian missions (local military personnel, civilians, journalists, state representatives, etc.), analysis of the situation in the country (level of tension/dangerousness, forces in presence including Belgian personnel and vehicles, allied personnel and vehicles but also potential enemies), analysis of satellite images (GEOINT), analysis of electronic signals (EW SIGINT), the analysis of digital equipments (EW SIGINT), etc.

To perform all these tasks, SGRS works in close cooperation with its allies of the European Union and NATO, exchanging information, images and reports with them. Some aspects of the work achieved by SGRS in the cyber, SIGINT and IMINT sectors are unique in the intelligence landscape. This cooperation is fundamental and enables this service to constantly increase its database of relevant information used both ways for troops working abroad and SGRS in Belgium, along with its sister civilian structure, the State Security Sûreté de l'Etat). To make it short, the Belgian troops (mainly special forces) deployed abroad work in the Baltic states, in Africa (several countries), in the Middle East, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Shifting of troops toward new operations, mainly in Africa, is planned, if not already on track.

Concerning Iraq (OVP, Operation Valiant Phoenix), Lt.Col. Etienne Schmitz, CO of the Special Forces Group, detailed how far the action carried on by his men mainly in the field of intelligence (but also in EOD and C-IED actions) played and will keep playing a crucial role in enabling Iraqi-led ground operations, as well as allied air strikes. Med.Col. Bart Vanderheyden unveiled how far his Special Operations Surgical Team brings a crucial assistance to wounded soldiers, mainly Iraqi, in connection with the helicopters fully dedicated to AirEvac. The Bel SOST (Special Operation Surgical Team) achieves wonders.

In Iraq, the role of intelligence carried on by the Belgian Special Forces is crucial as a tool to detect potential targets and avoid collateral damage if and when it is bombed by Belgian F-16s or Allied aircraft. No action is ever decided without a previous and sufficient amount of relevant information. Therefore, where ever the Belgian Air Force is deployed, SGRS and Special Forces are never far away. So it goes in Iraq for the current Operation Valiant Phoenix (OVP) in Iraq in the harsh fighting against ISIL (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Islamic State of Iraq, or even al-Sham). In all the aspect of that long-lasting fighting, the Iraqi armed forces often have the lead.


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