Despite imminent US-Taliban deal, CIA plans to keep proxy units in Afghanistan

Armed guerillas Khost AfghanistanThe United States Central Intelligence Agency plans to retain a strong presence on the ground in Afghanistan, despite reports that American troops may soon be leaving the country following a deal with the Taliban. Several news outlets reported this week that Washington has resolved its differences with the Taliban about withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan, after receiving assurances by the Taliban that they will not cooperate with other militant Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. An announcement of an agreement between the United States and the Taliban may thus be imminent. But in an article for Foreign Policy, Stefanie Glinski points out that the CIA is not planning to leave the Central Asian country any time soon.

The American intelligence agency is known to support, arm and train several proxy forces throughout Afghanistan. Langley plans to keep those proxy forces operating in the country for the foreseeable future, regardless of whether US troops pull out, says Glinski. She gives the example of the Khost Protection Force (KPF), a 6,500-strong unit of Afghan soldiers who are “trained, equipped and funded by the CIA”. The KPF is the most active and visible of an extensive network of CIA-sponsored paramilitary groups in Afghanistan. It operates almost exclusively along the Afghan-Pakistani border and has a strong presence in Taliban strongholds like Ghazni, Paktia and Khost. The roots of the KPF go back to the days immediately after the attacks of September 11, 2001, which prompted the US military invasion of Afghanistan. It therefore precedes the Afghan National Army, Afghanistan’s state-run military apparatus, and does not operate under its command. Instead, it is solely directed by the CIA, which uses it to secure the Afghan-Pakistani border and disrupt the activities of Taliban, al-Qaeda and Islamic State fighters in the Afghan borderlands.

Members of the KPF claim that they are “better trained than the Afghan National Army”. They are also paid much better, over $1000.00 per month, which is an enormous sum for Afghanistan. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Glinski reports that most KPF fighters joined the group for the money and the ability to eventually seek permanent resettlement in the United States. But alongside the group’s elite image, KPF members have acquired notoriety and are often seen as trigger-happy and unaccountable. Several reports in Western media have said that the KPF’s tactical accomplishments have come at a high price, with countless reports of civilian deaths and, some claim, even war crimes. These risk “alienating the Afghan population”, said a New York Times report last year. Glinski says it is possible the KPF’s aggressive tactics may be “radicalizing portions of the very population it intends to pacify or frighten into submission”. In April of this year, a United Nations report alleged that more Afghan civilians died as a result of attacks by Afghan government and American military attacks than at the hands of the Taliban and other guerilla groups. The CIA did not respond to several requests for comment from Foreign Policy, says Glinski.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 August 2019 | Permalink

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Revealed: The CIA bodyguard unit that protects officers and spies

Raymond Allen DavisBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The popular view of Central Intelligence Agency operations officers as gun-brandishing martial arts experts who can kill an adversary using their bare hands could not be further from the truth. Typically, CIA operatives are trained to avoid attracting attention while establishing useful, long-lasting relationships with foreign assets. Broadly speaking, guns are rarely used in day-to-day intelligence work. Increasingly, however, CIA case officers operating on counterterrorism assignments in the post-9/11 environment find themselves in warzones with a level of physical risk rarely encountered during the Cold War. CIA operations planners believe that case officers cannot properly run foreign assets while constantly having to worry about their personal safety, as well as the safety of their recruits. To address this problem, the CIA put together a new unit shortly after 9/11, which goes by the name Global Response Staff (GRS). An article published yesterday in The Washington Post provides the most detailed public examination of this new unit to date. The Post’s Greg Miller and Julie Tate, who authored the article, suggest that the GRS currently has around 250 members, about half of whom are detailed to CIA stations around the world at any given time. Most are contracted by the Agency as retired Special Forces officers, and only work three to four months a year for around $140,000. Recruitment is done largely by word of mouth. The Post quotes an unidentified former US intelligence official, who says that GRS recruits are not required to operate within the typical CIA operational framework: unlike their CIA colleagues, “they don’t learn languages, they’re not meeting foreign nationals and they’re not writing up intelligence reports”. Instead, they are expected to conduct “area familiarization” work, that is, mapping escape routes from places where CIA case officers meet their assets. Read more of this post

Controversial Swiss master-spy dies in Ireland

Albert Bachmann

Albert Bachmann

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One of Switzerland’s most controversial Cold War figures, who set up a clandestine guerrilla unit to combat a feared Soviet invasion, has died in Cork, Ireland. Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger has said last week that Colonel Albert Bachmann, who headed Switzerland’s military intelligence force, the Untergruppe Nachrichtendienst der Armee (UNA), from 1976 until 1979, died on April 12. Although Bachmann was a communist in his student years, he later headed Projekt-26 (P-26), a clandestine project to set up a ‘left-behind’ force of Swiss guerrillas trained in sharp shooting, bombing and assassination techniques. The guerrilla force was designed to engage the Soviet military if it ever invaded Switzerland. In the late 1970s, Colonel Bachmann also secured government funds to purchase the 200-acre Liss Ard country estate near the Irish town of Skibbereen, in west Cork. The estate was to be used as a base for a Swiss government-in-exile following a feared Soviet invasion of central Europe. Furthermore, the basement of one of the two manors on the estate was designated as a secret depository of Switzerland’s gold reserves, in the event of a Soviet invasion of the Alpine country. Read more of this post

WikiLeaks documents reveal CIA’s role in Iraq

CIA HQ

CIA HQ

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Along with unprecedented inside information on American military operations in Iraq, the 400,000 US military reports recently released by whistleblower site WikiLeaks provide several interesting snippets of the role of the Central Intelligence Agency in that ongoing conflict. Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog correctly notes that, unlike Afghanistan, where the CIA’s role has been relatively clear almost from the very start of the US invasion, the Agency’s function in Iraq has been something of a mystery for most outside observers. There has even been some speculation that the CIA has been sidelined in Iraq by a host of Pentagon-managed special operations outfits, including the Joint Special Operations Command. But the WikiLeaks documents, which are primarily composed of incident reports authored by US troops on the ground in Iraq, include frequent references to operations by “Other Government Agency” or “OGA” —a term usually reserved for the CIA in internal military documents. Collectively, the reports referring to OGA activities reveal significant paramilitary functions performed by CIA personnel until as recently as 2009. Read more of this post

Analysis: Is an obscure US military unit replacing the CIA?

Joint Special Operations Command logo

JSOC logo

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An obscure US military unit established in 1980 is gaining prominence in America’s “war on terrorism” and may be slowly replacing the CIA’s functions, according to a well-researched piece in The Atlantic magazine. The US Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was created soon after the fiasco of the attempted rescue of the hostages held at the US embassy in Tehran. Since 9/11, the unit has emerged from its relative obscurity to join the forefront of America’s so-called “global war on terrorism”. Gathering evidence from a variety of sources investigating the use of paramilitary operations in America’s post-9/11 wars, Max Fisher argues that, even under the Obama Administration, JSOC may in fact be “taking on greater responsibility, especially in areas traditionally covered by the CIA”. Read more of this post

Comment: Why the Italian Convictions of CIA Agents Matter

Sabrina DeSousa

Sabrina DeSousa

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An Italian court has convicted 22 CIA agents and a US Air Force officer involved in the abduction of a Muslim cleric from Milan in 2003. All but three Americans tried in the case received jail sentences ranging from five to eight years, for kidnapping Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in broad daylight and for illegally renditioning him to Egypt, where he says he was brutally tortured before being released without charge. As intelNews has previously reported, it is extremely unlikely that the US will agree to extradite the convicted abductors to Italy. Washington has formally invoked the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, arguing that the offenders were operating “in the course of official duty” and fall therefore under US, not Italian, jurisdiction. But the convictions are important nonetheless, for three reasons.

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Mussolini was paid by Britain’s MI5, archives reveal

Benito Mussolini

Benito Mussolini

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Cambridge professor has unearthed archived documents showing that money from MI5, Britain’s counterintelligence and security agency, helped Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini lunch his political career. Dr. Peter Martland, Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, said MI5’s Rome station, which at the time was staffed by 100 British intelligence officers, paid Mussolini £100 a week (around £6,000 or $9,600 a week in today’s money) starting “from the autumn of 1917 [and] for at least a year”. The payments, which were authorized by MI5’s director in Rome, Sir Samuel Hoare (later Lord Templewood), were aimed to assist Mussolini’ newspaper, Il Popolo d’Italia, propagandize in favor of Italy’s continued fighting in World War I on the side of the Allied Powers, of which Britain was also a member. Read more of this post