LONDON (Sputniknews): The UK Government published the outcome of its year-long integrated review (IR) of foreign policy, defence, security and international development in March 2021, where it underscored the need to address growing threats such as terrorism, cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns.
A top-secret unit of bankers is being commandeered to join a UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) taskforce entrusted with protecting British financial infrastructures from attacks by foreign adversaries, reported The Financial Times.
The reservist battalion of bankers will also purportedly be honing the skills they acquired in the City – London’s financial district – to engage in financial and economic warfare targeting channels of international revenue believed to fund designated terror groups. The unit will, accordingly, provide financial expertise not readily available in mainstream military units.
“We need to find key elements of the business model of our opponents, remove them, and make them very difficult to replace,” Marshal Edward Stringer, former MoD Joint Force Development Secretary, was cited as saying.
The taskforce is believed to be already collaborating with Special Forces, intelligence agencies and the British Army’s 77th Brigade. The latter was established in 2015 to draw on existing and developing capabilities to “meet the challenges of modern conflict and warfare”, such as online operations.
The newly-expanded secret unit was reportedly instrumental in shutting down funding streams supporting Daesh* after the jihadis seized swathes of Iraq and Syria rich in oil reserves in 2014. Fundraising for the “caliphate” was targeted, as part of a sophisticated intelligence-gathering operation analysed financial ledgers, receipts and computer records, states the report. As a result, crucial Daesh revenue streams were cut off.
Adversaries said to be in the unit’s crosshairs are China – accused of posing an increasingly-challenging cyber threat, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite branch of the Iranian Armed Forces designated as a terrorist organisation by the US, Hezbollah in Lebanon,Russian billionaires with purported links to President Vladimir Putin and Wagner private military company, accused of being Kremlin-affiliated.
As crypto-currencies are being increasingly used to funnel money to support terrorist activities and groups such as the Taliban*, which swept to power in Afghanistan in the wake of the hasty withdrawal of US and NATO forces from the South Asian country, experts with a skill set in financial technology are in growing demand, according to the report.
Tom Keatinge, of the Royal United Services Institute think-tank, was cited as saying that “when we’re trying to negotiate with the Taliban… if you need to, you can come down on them like a hammer and put them out of business.”
Unlike other recruits, the “banking battalion” will not necessarily be required to endure typical frontline military training, while also purportedly spending less time on the parade square.
“We are not trying to throw middle-aged bankers out of the back of an aircraft on military operations – it is about using their professional skills,” a UK defence source was cited by the outlet as saying.
Furthermore, a review of the Ministry of Defence’s rank and pay structures is said to be in the works to allow individuals with unique skill-sets to be appropriately rewarded. The MoD will also ostensibly introduce a new “lateral” entry system related to the reserve army, easing age and fitness requirements for “banking” recruits, and enabling the professionals to move directly to senior military ranks.
The UK MoD was cited by the publication as saying:
“We retain some of the best experts from the private sector through the specialist reserves and we work closely with partners to exchange expertise and knowledge.”
Earlier in the year, the UK government unveiled its long-awaited integrated review of defence and security capabilities, which re-examined priorities and objectives following its departure from the European Union in January. While including reductions in conventional forces, it highlighted increased investment in new technologies.