The New York Times has published a new article in its series “Shadow Wars”, about the expanding covert war that rages in many countries even as troop withdrawals are planned for Iraq and debated for Afghanistan.
The article makes several important observations to consider:
- “While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama…”
- “The administration’s demands have accelerated a transformation of the C.I.A. into a paramilitary organization as much as a spying agency, which some critics worry could lower the threshold for future quasi-military operations.”
- “For its part, the Pentagon is becoming more like the C.I.A. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret “Execute Orders” have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies. With code names like Eager Pawn and Indigo Spade, such programs typically operate with even less transparency and Congressional oversight than traditional covert actions by the C.I.A.”
- “…private contractors have taken on a prominent role, raising concerns that the United States has outsourced some of its most important missions to a sometimes unaccountable private army.”
The full implications of these changes and the blurring of traditional lines of authority and accountability for military operations are not yet known. A disturbing revelation is the fact that old covert operatives of the Iran-Contra era have been recalled to run these new covert operations:
Michael G. Vickers, who helped run the C.I.A.’s campaign to funnel guns and money to the Afghanistan mujahedeen in the 1980s and was featured in the book and movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” is now the top Pentagon official overseeing Special Operations troops around the globe. Duane R. Clarridge, a profane former C.I.A. officer who ran operations in Central America and was indicted in the Iran-contra scandal, turned up this year helping run a Pentagon-financed private spying operation in Pakistan.
These are some of the same guys that created the “blowback” problem of Al-Qaeda, who were initially trained, funded and armed by the C.I.A.
These developments have alarmed even old covert operatives such as Jack Devine, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who was involved in the covert war against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Devine was quoted as saying: “We got the covert action programs under well-defined rules after we had made mistakes and learned from them…Now, we’re coming up with a new model, and I’m concerned there are not clear rules.”
The new covert strategy has been touted as a surgically precise ‘scapel’, in contrast to the ‘hammer’ of conventional warfare. But a scapel can be a poor tool to remove a viral phenomenon such as the global networked resistance that has spread as a reaction to imperialism and globalization.
Secret Assault on Terrorism Widens on Two Continents
By SCOTT SHANE, MARK MAZZETTI and ROBERT F. WORTH
Published: August 14, 2010
WASHINGTON — At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.
But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.