British special forces killed or captured almost 4,000 insurgents during six years in Iraq, according to a new book on the elite regiment that its commanding officer tried to stop being published. Task Force Black, by a senior BBC correspondent, Mark Urban, says that an internal rift almost prevented the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service from working with Delta Force, their US counterparts, against al-Qaeda in Iraq. It also gives details of a daring raid that led to the freeing of Norman Kember, a British hostage, and two Canadians, in 2006. The book, based on interviews with serving and former members of the SAS, was cleared for publication only after months of negotiations between the Ministry of Defence and lawyers for Urban, Newsnights diplomatic and defence editor. The head of special forces, however, remains concerned about how the tactical detail described will affect the regiments operational effectiveness. Extracts, published today in the Daily Mail, report that the SAS was initially deployed to Iraq to help MI6 find weapons of mass destruction. It was quickly apparent that this was a blind alley, according to the book. The debriefing of agents who had provided the British intelligence service with eye-catching lines in the Governments Iraq dossier produced some awkward scenes in Iraqi living rooms as the sources shrugged their shoulders and confessed they had little idea where the stuff was or if it even existed. The SAS switched to finding and arresting the leading members of Saddam Husseins fallen regime, a task they dubbed man-hunting. However, Urban writes that the elite force was unhappy with this police work, particularly as they sensed the atmospherics were changing in Iraq as the insurgency started to take hold. The book describes how Delta Force started to take on al-Qaeda but, because of a reluctance in Whitehall for the SAS and SBS to follow suit, Task Force Black, the name of the British special forces unit, was left on the sidelines. It hurt their pride, especially when, with nothing of real importance to do, they were disparagingly dismissed as 'Task Force Slack, Urban says. In reporting how Mr Kember, a British peace activist, was rescued, the book says that a phone call was made to the kidnappers to tell them the SAS were en route. Not long after, a ground assault force hit a house in western Baghdad. They cleared it room by room and found no insurgents. Then they burst into the final room, and there were the hostages.(The Times)