Pentagon wants to restart top secret ‘irregular warfare’ mission in Ukraine

The US is reportedly considering restarting secret reconnaissance operations inside Ukraine in which local operatives would gather intelligence on Russian troop movements and pass it to American handlers.

Pentagon officials want to resume the programme, a form of “irregular warfare”, which was suspended when Russia invaded last year, the Washington Post reported.

It could see US Special Operations troops deployed, either inside Ukraine or in a neighbouring country, to receive reports from Ukrainians.

Meanwhile, it emerged that the US and allies have supplied or confirmed coordinates in most cases when Ukraine has used donated Himars and other advanced rocket launchers.

That suggested more in-depth operational involvement by the US military than previously known.

In Washington the Pentagon was reportedly seeking support in Congress to restart the top-secret reconnaissance missions.

However, some Republicans are opposed to any further deepening of US involvement.

Not involved in combat

Proponents are said to be arguing that it would not risk escalation because the Ukrainian operatives, and their US Special Operations handlers, would not be involved in combat.

If the measure was approved it would be unlikely to start until 2024.

The Pentagon was said to be trying to have the £12.5 million project included in a funding bill set to be formulated in Congress in the autumn.

The original US programme to use “surrogates” for intelligence gathering in Ukraine began in 2018.

Similar programmes using local military and paramilitary groups have been run against terrorist organisations in the Middle East and Africa.

US gave target coordinates

Retired general Mark Schwartz, former head of US Special Operations in Europe, said: “When you suspend these things because the scale of the conflict changes you lose access, and it means you lose information and intelligence about what’s actually going on in the conflict.”

Ukrainian officials said that virtually all firings of advanced rocket launchers were being done after the US had given target coordinates.

The coordinates came from US personnel at a base in another European country, the Washington Post reported.

Ukrainian officials suggested that level of oversight should allow the US to donate rocket launchers with a longer range, which Kyiv has repeatedly asked for.

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