‘Massive expansion’ in US covert operations in Africa

US military base in DjiboutiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States administration of President Barack Obama is implementing a near-unprecedented expansion of covert operations by American military forces throughout Africa, aimed at a host of armed groups deemed extremist by Washington. A lead article published yesterday in The Washington Post quotes over a dozen unnamed American and African officials, as well as military contractors, who refer to the US military-led effort as Project CREEKSAND. It allegedly involves secret operations in several African countries, conducted out of a large network of small air bases located in strategic locations around the continent. According to The Post, most of the airplanes used in Project CREEKSAND are small, unarmed, disguised to look like private aircraft, and bear no military markings or government insignia. In reality, however, they carry sophisticated electronic equipment designed to collect signals intelligence, while some are used to transport US Special Forces troops during capture or kill missions. The paper quotes an unnamed “former senior US commander [...] involved in setting up the [air bases] network”, who alleges that the US government has built about a dozen such bases throughout Africa since 2007. These secret air bases are located in countries such as Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Seychelles. Most of the US personnel involved in Project CREEKSAND consists of Special Operations forces tasked with “training foreign security forces [and] performing aid missions”. However, The Post alleges that there are also small teams of US operatives who are “dedicated to tracking and killing suspected terrorists”. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #690

Katya ZatuliveterBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Interview with Katia Zatuliveter. Just over three months ago Katia Zatuliveter was fighting to clear her name over claims she was a Russian spy who had passed British military secrets to Moscow. Now, in her first newspaper interview since winning her appeal against deportation from the UK, Katia Zatuliveter has told The Daily Telegraph why she does not support Vladimir Putin.
►►US Special Forces in Afghanistan to transfer to CIA. Top US Pentagon officials are considering putting elite special operations troops under CIA control in Afghanistan after 2014. If the plan were adopted, the US and Afghanistan could say there are no more U.S. troops on the ground in the war-torn country because once the SEALs, Rangers and other elite units are assigned to CIA control, even temporarily, they are not considered soldiers.
►►Indian army accused of spying on government officials. The Indian army is accused of using two surveillance vehicles to snoop near the offices and houses of senior Indian Defense Ministry officials. The vehicles with “off the air interceptors” were alleged to be parked in various localities in the New Delhi. Similar equipment is said to be used by the National Technical Research Organisation to listen to conversations without bugging the premises. The Defense Ministry has reportedly ordered a probe by the country’s Intelligence Bureau.

US Special Forces now fighting the LRA in four African countries

Lord's Resistance ArmyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
American troops fighting one of Africa’s most notorious rebel groups are now officially stationed across four African countries, a move that highlights the expansion of Washington’s military presence in the continent. Last October, the administration of US President Barack Obama announced the deployment of 100 US Special Forces members to Uganda, to fight an insurgency group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Founded in the 1980s, the LRA is widely considered the world’s most brutal Christian terrorist group. Its leader, Joseph Kony, who is wanted along with four of his commanders by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, is seen as a prophet by his followers. Washington had initially said that the Special Forces members would act as “advisors” to the Ugandan government, which has sustained the majority of the LRA’s attacks over the years. But Rear Admiral Brian L. Losey, the US Special Operations’ senior commander for Africa, said on Wednesday that, in addition to Uganda, American forces are currently stationed in military bases in Nzara, South Sudan, Obo, Central African Republic, and Dungu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Speaking to Western reporters on the telephone, Rear Admiral Losey said that counterinsurgency activity directed at the LRA “will increase in frequency” during the spring and summer, and hinted that the Christian rebel group would soon be forced to go on the defensive. It is important to note that this official acknowledgement does not mark the beginning of Washington’s military involvement in activities against the LRA. In 2009, The New York Times revealed that the US Department of Defense assisted in the planning of a major offensive against the LRA. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #661

Reza KahliliBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Britain increases pay for key intelligence staff. Having seen many of its key intelligence staff lured away by tech heavyweights like Google and Microsoft, the UK government is apparently offering bonuses and payouts to key intelligence staff to ensure they don’t leave their jobs at the Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ). The UK Cabinet Office has stated that the bonuses to be paid to its key staff have been already given the green light.
►►Ex-CIA spy sees split in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Reza Kahlili (codenamy WALLY) is the pseudonym used by an Iranian defector to the US, who claims to have worked as a CIA agent in the 1980s and early 1990s. Kahlili (pictured), who says he was a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the ideological protectors of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, argues that a serious split is developing within the IRGC, with one faction favoring the overthrow of the government.
►►A rare look at Fort Bragg’s Special Warfare Center. The US Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg is a CIA-approved paramilitary training facility, aimed at members of the US Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Marine Corps special operators. The piece claims –rather unconvincingly– that the Center is “an illustration of how special operations and intelligence forces have reached an easier coexistence, after early clashes where CIA officers accused the military operators of ineptly trying to run their own spy rings overseas without State Department or CIA knowledge”.

Revealed: Afghan government at war with ‘CIA vigilante group’

Afghanistan

Afghanistan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Very little has been written about the Kandahar Strike Force, a controversial CIA-funded vigilante group operating in Afghanistan’s Kandahar, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces. In 2009, The New York Times reported that the late Ahmed Wali Karzai, notorious drug lord and younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, helped the CIA run the group. But ever since Wali Karzai’s assassination, in July of this year, the CIA-operated group appears to be engaged in a brutal war, not with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but with provisional Afghan authorities. The Christian Science monitor spoke to the former leader of the Kandahar Strike Force, Atal Afghanzai, who is currently in prison, having been convicted of shooting dead a senior Afghan police commander in broad daylight. The group is made up of elite members of Afghanistan’s regular army, selected by CIA case officers and trained by US Special Forces personnel in Kandahar’s Camp Gecko, a former al-Qaeda base built by Osama bin Laden’s forces in 1996. The group operates outside the institutional parameters of the Afghan government, and answers directly to the CIA, says The Monitor, which claims to have corroborated this information with “US diplomats, other Western officials, and Afghan authorities”. The group’s imprisoned former leader told the newspaper that he and his men were paid directly by the CIA, and that they were transported by United States Blackhawk helicopters to various locations around the country, where they were expected to conduct “raids on Taliban targets at a moment’s notice”. Afghanzai claims that the group’s operations were so effective that they received letters of appreciation by no other than Hamid Karzai. But the idyllic relationship between the Kandahar Strike Force and the Afghan government appears to have ended, as members of the group are now accused of “extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and larceny”. Read more of this post

Saudis paid Pakistan to shelter bin Laden, claims security expert

R.J. Hillhouse

R.J. Hillhouse

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An American academic and security expert with deep links in the intelligence community claims that, at the time of his killing by US Special Forces, Osama bin Laden was living under house arrest, following a secret arrangement between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Former professor and Fulbright Fellow R.J. Hillhouse has cited “sources in the intelligence community” in alleging that the CIA discovered bin Laden’s whereabouts through a Pakistani intelligence officer. The officer, who was privy to the alleged deal between the Saudis and the Pakistanis, appeared as ‘a walk-in’, a term meaning someone who voluntarily contacts an intelligence outpost, usually by simply walking into an embassy or consulate and asking to speak to the intelligence officer on duty. According to Hillhouse, the ‘walk-in’ provided CIA officers with detailed information as to the al-Qaeda leader’s whereabouts, in exchange for US citizenship for him and his family and the $25 million reward offered by the US Department of State for bin Laden’s head. According to Hillhouse’s story, which was picked up yesterday by The Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald, the Pakistani informant also told the Americans that elements in the government of Saudi Arabia had entered into a complex monetary agreement with senior members of Pakistan’s main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). Under the arrangement, the ISI was paid to keep bin Laden under house arrest in Abbottabad —a military community in Pakistan, selected precisely in order to keep bin Laden under constant and close supervision. Read more of this post

Bodyguard who killed Karzai’s brother was CIA agent

Wali Karzai

Wali Karzai

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The bodyguard who killed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother was a trusted aide of British and American intelligence and had worked with US Special Forces in Afghanistan, before turning on his employer, according to American and British news media. Ahmed Wali Karzai, influential Afghan drug lord and CIA agent, was shot dead on July 12 by no other than his trusted bodyguard, Sardar Mohammad. The killing shocked Afghan and American officials, who believed Mohammad’s trustworthiness and loyalty to be beyond reproach. Initial reports blamed Karzai’s killing on internal feuds that often feature in bloody Afghan politics. But these early reports may need to be revised following the revelation in The Washington Post that Mohammad had been working closely for years with the CIA and US Special Forces in Afghanistan, prior to turning against his boss. According to the paper, not only was Mohammad working with the CIA, but two of his brother-in-laws served in the Kandahar Strike Force, a notorious paramilitary unit trained and armed by the CIA. Based on this new information, The Post explains Karzai’s killing as yet another spectacular triumph by Taliban intelligence, who must have managed to recruit Mohammad and turn him against the US-supported Afghan government. Commenting on Mohammad’s CIA background, an unnamed “Western intelligence analyst” told British newspaper The Independent that Karzai’s assassination is indicative of the Taliban’s “increasingly sophisticated intelligence apparatus” in Afghanistan. Western intelligence agencies “probably [...] underestimate the [Taliban's] intelligence components”, said the analyst, even though the latter “do have dedicated intelligence officers. And that’s not just about gathering information but also about infiltration, using whatever combination of blackmail or ideological levers [they need to]”. But there is also another possibility, which neither The Post nor The Independent appear to entertain: namely that Mohammad was still acting under the commands of the CIA when he killed Karzai. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #513 (Pakistan edition)

  • Pakistan spy chief tells US to end drone strikes. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the outgoing director of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has reportedly told CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell that Pakistan “will be forced to respond” if the US does not stop its drone strikes in the country.
  • CIA-ISI back in business. Overall, however, the meeting between Pasha and Morell was focused on mending CIA-ISI relations, according to Pakistan’s leading newspaper The Nation.
  • Leaked cables reveal joint US-Pakistan missions. US Special Forces were embedded with Pakistani troops on intelligence-gathering missions by 2009, confidential American diplomatic cables showed, a revelation that could hurt the Pakistani military’s public image. The Pakistani government has denied the reports.

News you may have missed #506 (bin Laden edition)

American held in Pakistan is acting CIA station chief

Raymond Allen Davis

Raymond Davis

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A British and a Pakistani newspaper have confirmed that an American diplomat, who is being held in Pakistan for killing two armed men in Lahore, is in reality an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency. On January 25, former US Special Forces member Raymond Allen Davis (note: this may not be his real name) used an unregistered Glock semi-automatic pistol to shoot dead two passengers on a motorcycle, who he says tried to assault him while he was driving his car in Pakistan’s second largest city. Witnesses say Davis shot dead the one of the two men by firing ten shots from inside his vehicle, before stepping outside to shoot the second man as he was running away from the scene of the crime. Pakistani authorities say Davis’ claim to self-defense is discredited by the fact that the second man’s body was found almost 10 meters away from the motorcycle, bearing bullet wounds in his back. A third individual was struck and run over by a car carrying several armed Americans, whom Pakistanis say were also CIA operatives. The latter have since returned to the United States, according to Pakistani officials. Soon after Davis’ arrest, US President Barack Obama insisted that Pakistani authorities had illegally captured a “US consulate worker” of an “administrative and technical” capacity, attached to the US consulate in Lahore. Read more of this post

Private US spy network still operating in Pakistan

US Pentagon

US Pentagon

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Senior US Pentagon officials continue to rely almost daily on reports from a network of contracted spies operating deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to The New York Times. Last March, when the paper revealed the existence of the network, several senior US military sources expressed serious concerns about the operation, which some say borders on illegality, and is currently under investigation by the US government. Although The Times is apparently “withholding some information about the contractor network, including some of the names of [its] agents”, it appears that the network is staffed by former CIA and Special Forces operatives. The entire operation appears to be an attempt to evade some of the stringent oversight rules under which the CIA and the US Pentagon are required to operate. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #318

  • US State Dept. lawyer defends CIA drone attacks. State Department legal adviser Harold Koh has told a conference that “the considered view of this administration” is that the controversial CIA-operated drone attacks inside Pakistan “comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war”.
  • How the CIA let Anwar al-Aulaqi escape to Yemen. Last year, the Yemeni government asked the CIA to help collect intelligence on US-born al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Aulaqi. But the CIA refused, and so did US Special Forces officials, who had been asked by the Yemenis to help them pursue Aulaqi. Just months later, US Army Major Malik Nidal Hasan, who was in contact with al-Aulaqi, killed 13 US soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas.
  • More on alleged Israeli spy caught in Algeria. Algerian authorities insist that a man (identified only as “Alberto”), who was captured after entering Algeria using a forged Spanish passport, is a Mossad agent. There are also rumors that the US embassy in Algiers has been involved in the case, and that it was for this reason that FBI deputy director John Pistole traveled to Algeria last week.

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Reports of a possible rogue US DoD operation in Pakistan

Michael Furlong

Michael Furlong

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A New York Times article published late yesterday alleges the existence of a clandestine intelligence network of private contractors, set up by a US Pentagon employee, possibly without supervision or approval by senior US Defense officials. The network, which appears to operate under the cover of an Internet-based research company, is actually used to gather intelligence on the activities and whereabouts of individuals on the CIA’s assassination list, claims the paper. What is more, the network coordinator, retired US Air Force officer Michael D. Furlong, is currently being investigated by the US Department of Defense for fraudulent dealings with private contractors. It is not clear whether these were the same contractors (mostly former CIA and US Special Forces operatives) who were employed in the undercover intelligence network uncovered by The New York Times. Read more of this post

Analysis: Taliban knew about US Special Forces presence in Pakistan

Bombed site in Shahi Koto, Pakistan

Bombed site

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
There has been remarkably little coverage in the US media of the deaths earlier this month of three US Special Forces operatives in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, who were killed in a bomb attack in the city of Shahi Koto. Most of the few analyses that have commented on the importance of this event have focused on the inevitable revelation that US troops are indeed active in Pakistan. But what about the intelligence angle? It appears that the bombing, which took place outside a newly built girls’ school in the town, was in fact aimed at the US troops, and that the attackers were aware of their supposedly secret presence in the area. The operation was therefore carefully targeted, and the suicide bomber appears to have patiently waited for the arrival of the Pakistani Frontier Corps five-vehicle convoy to arrive at the school. Read more of this post

US admits ’200 troops’ on the ground in Pakistan

Afghan-Pakistani Border

AfPak border

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Last December, when Washington’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, categorically denied that the US had troops on Pakistani soil, we at intelNews were among some who refused to believe him. Instead, we referred readers to earlier revelations in The New York Times that US military forces were already secretly operating in Pakistan, and that more than 70 US “military advisers [...] and technical specialists” were embedded with Pakistan’s special forces in the remote areas bordering Afghanistan. Those in the know are aware that embedded US troops have operated in Pakistan since at least February of 2008, no matter what Holbrooke claims. It took the deaths of three of these American soldiers, in a suicide attack by Pakistani Taliban, last week, for American officials to begin to admit that US troops are indeed operating inside Pakistan. Read more of this post

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