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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 43, October 16, 2010

Afghanistan: CIA’s ’Army of Assassins’

Tuesday 19 October 2010, by Bashir Mohammad


The CIA is funding the operation of a secret 3000-strong Afghan paramilitary army whose principal objective is to assassinate the Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives not just in Afghanistan but also in adjoining Pakistan’s tribal areas across the border. This has been brought out in sharp relief in Bob Woodward’s recently published absorbing but sensational book, Obama’s Wars. This operation bears striking resemblance with the covert assassination drive against the Al-Qaeda in Iraq; this helped to partly stem the tide of violence following the Gulf state’s implosion in the 2004-07 period.

As Julius Cavendish has written in Global Research (October 5, 2010) and The Independent (September 23, 2010),

Although the CIA has long been known to run clandestine militias in Afghanistan, including one from a base it rents from Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother in the southern province of Kanadhar, the sheer number of militiamen directly under its control has never been revealed.

Woodward’s book… describes these forces as elite, well-trained units that conduct highly sensitive covert operations into Pakistan as part of a stepped-up campaign against the Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban havens there. Two US newspapers published the claims after receiving copies of the manuscript.

The secret army is split into “Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams”, and is thought to be responsible for the deaths of many Pakistani Taliban fighters who have crossed the border into Afghanistan to fight the NATO and Afghan Government forces there.

It is well known that the US Special Forces have undertaken a growing number of “kill-or-capture” missions against the Afghan Taliban as well as the foreign fighters, so as to push the Taliban towards the peace process initiated by the Kabul administration consequent to the elimination of the Taliban leaders through such a course of action. One suspects that the CIA-sponsored and directed secret army is working in close cooperation with the US Special Forces with the same end in view.

Despite the absence of any official confirmation, it is believed that the mission enjoys the approval and endorsement of the top US and NATO commander in the country, General David Petraeus.

None in Kabul has been taken aback by the details of the clandestine army since there have been numerous reports about the CIA running its own militants in southern Afghanistan. However, the public exposure of the classified information through Woodward’s book is without parallel or precedent.

This secret operation is reminiscent of the clandestine operations in the 1990s when the CIA recruited a militia and directed it within the Afghan border with the aim of killing Osama bin Laden. According to Cavendish,

The order then that a specially recruited Afghan militia was “to capture him alive”—the result of protracted legal wrangles about when, how and if Osama bin Laden could be killed—doomed efforts to assassinate him before 9/11.

It is further noteworthy that the killing of countless Pakistani Taliban fighters by this secret CIA-run army has infuriated the Pakistani Taliban to such an extent that their wrath has now fallen on the Islamabad rulers for kowtowing to the dictates of the US authorities; hence the increasing number of attacks on Pakistani installations, including military establishments, in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore.

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