Julia Gillard’s Australian Labor government deployed special forces to Africa, which have been operating out of uniform in countries like Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya. The story has been revealed by the social-democrat daily newspaper The Age. [1]

This is the first time that Australia coordinates in a time of peace covert actions between its intelligence services and a military unit. This development mirrors that trend in the United States of the CIA and Special Operations Command working together in States with which they entertain officially peaceful relations.

Australia had assisted the United States during the attack on Iraq in 2003, and the SAS were the first foreign troops on the ground, to mark targets for bombing raids.

According to the newspaper, the Australian SAS 4 squadron is in Africa allegedly carrying out tracking missions and exfiltration of Australian nationals who are in the hands of terrorist groups.

However, it may well be that Australian forces are being used to back covert operations in the context of the U.S. war on terrorism, including targeted killings.

The status of these fighters is uncertain both in terms of Australian and international law.

[1] "Secret SAS Squadron send to spy in Africa," by Rafael Epstein et Dylan Welch, The Age, 12 mars 2012.