The soldiers have taken a leading role not only in guiding bombers to blast a path for opposition fighters but also in planning the offensive that broke the six-month Misurata siege, said Mohammed Subka, a communications specialist in the Al Watum brigade.
Yesterday afternoon, Subka and his unit waited at the rebel front line, known as Kilometre 60, aboard a column of battered black pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns and a few tanks recently captured from Gadafy’s forces.
“We are with the England team,” he said. “They advise us.”
Kilometre 60 lies in the flat, empty desert, no more than a sand-coloured mosque and a wrecked diner at a traffic intersection. Sirte, Gadafy’s birthplace, lies 130km away.
The advance on the city could not begin until loyalist units south of the road ahead were cleared from their positions, Subka said, flipping open his laptop to show a map – apparently provided by Nato – of artillery positions threatening the route. “We don’t worry about those units. They are Nato’s concern,” he said.
Defence sources have confirmed that British special forces have been on the ground in Libya for several weeks, along with special forces from Qatar, France and some eastern European states.