Special forces unit taken away from Military Intelligence

Karel Hrubeš Karel Hrubeš, Ivan Eckhardt
27. 8. 2014 12:02
From January 1, 2015, Czech Republic's 601st special forces unit will answer to General Staff
Czech soldiers in Afghanistan
Czech soldiers in Afghanistan | Foto: Armáda ČR

Prague – From January 1, 2015, the Czech Republic's elite anti-terrorist special forces unit will answer to the General Staff. At present, the Prostejov-based 601st unit is under the supervision of the Military Intelligence (VZ) agency. The general staff will establish a special forces department headed by the 601st Special Forces Group's commander, Karel Rehka.

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The Defense Ministry has confirmed the change to Aktualne.cz. A ministry spokesman, Petr Medek, said that the military wants to improve the cooperation between the special forces unit and the military top brass. Medek added that the unit's combat capacities will not be negatively affected.

The VZ's reputation has suffered because of last year's Nagyova scandal. By losing control over the special forces unit, the agency will lose even more influence.

However, the move was already proposed in 2011, two years before the Nagyova scandal.

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The 601st group is the Czech Republic's only special forces unit. It has been deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and former Yugoslavia and has earned praise from Western allies. The unit includes snipers, divers and bomb disposal experts.

Experts have criticized for a long time what they see as an excessive concentration of power in the hands of the VZ, whose management currently controls military spies as well as the 601st unit. Analysts say that this arrangement is a Soviet-era relic.

The move will improve experience sharing between the unit and the rest of the military, said military expert Frantisek Sulc, who believes that no intelligence agency should have its own assault units. “They may be tempted to abuse them and thus harm the state,” said Sulc.

Some experts have pointed out tough that the general staff does not understand the special character and training of the unit, whose qualities may thus deteriorate. Moreover, the unit will lose access to key intelligence, they say.

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