Analysis: Trump has made record use of US Special Forces since becoming president

special forcesWith reports about the activities of the United States Special Forces continuously surfacing in the media lately, it is important to remember that the White House has drastically increased Special Forces deployments since Donald Trump assumed the presidency. In December last year, it was reported that President Trump had ordered the deployment of Special Forces troops more often than any other president in American history. At that time, US Special Forces troops were deployed in 150 nations, a number that represented 75 percent of all nations on the planet, according to government data. The figures were published by TomDispatch, which said it received them directly from the US Special Operations Command. The website said that American Special Forces troops were participating in wars, counter-insurgency operations and covert-action activities across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and saw action every day.

According to the statistics provided by the US Special Operations Command, it appears more than 10 percent (8,000 troops) of the US Special Operations Command’s 70,000 troops are deployed each day. These deployments take place daily in more than 80 countries. This rate of deployment represents a significant increase from the eight years of the administration of US President Barack Obama, which ended in 2016. That year, US Special Forces troops were deployed in 138 countries, according to media reports. The Trump administration’s use of Special Forces troops also represents a jump of approximately 150 percent from the last Republican administration, that of George W. Bush, which ended in early 2008.

Africa represents an area of consistent rise in the rates of deployment of US Special Forces. Currently, US Special Forces troops are active in no fewer than 33 countries across Africa. Most of these countries are witnessing activity by Islamist groups that are described as terrorist by the region’s governments. But the US Special Operations Command has also deployed contingents in Europe, said TomDispatch. Currently, the US maintains Special Forces troops at every country bordering Russia’s western region, with the exception of Belarus.

These numbers echo the record growth of the US Special Forces community since September 11, 2001, when Washington declared its global war on terrorism. Observers estimate the post-9/11 numerical growth of US Special Forces at 75 percent. However, little is known about the nature of campaigns in which US Special Forces are deployed, and whether they are effective in establishing security, or whether they inflame tensions across different battlefronts. There is also limited information about the resulting casualties. The US government has admitted that US Special Forces troops died in 2017 in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Niger, Mali and Somalia.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 22 March 2018 | Permalink

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US Special Forces carry out 100 missions ‘at any given time’ in Africa

US Special Operations forcesTeams of United States Special Forces are carrying out “nearly 100 missions at any given time” in the continent of Africa, according to American military documents released to the media. Operating under the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), US Special Forces are trained to carry out missions using unconventional tactics. Much of their work is classified. However, a Freedom of Information Act request by the New York-based Vice News has revealed extensive deployment of US Special Forces in Africa in recent times.

Information provided to Vice News by the USSOCOM appears to show that operations by US Special Forces in Africa have seen dramatic growth in recent years, possibly more than any other region of the globe. According to documents, US Special Forces in Africa represented just over 1 percent of all US Special Forces personnel stationed abroad in 2006. By 2010, that number had risen to approximately 3 percent —a significant increase but still relatively low in comparison to USSOCOM deployment in other regions of the world. But by 2016, over 17 percent of US Special Forces stationed abroad were based in Africa. Information unearthed by Vice News shows that 1,700 US Special Forces troops were stationed in 20 different African countries in 2016. This number indicates that there are now more US Special Forces troops stationed in Africa than in any other region of the world barring the Middle East.

Vice News said it obtained a report by US Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA), which states that US Special Forces were deployed in “at least 32 African nations in the 12 months of 2016”. Only the Middle East saw more deployments of US Special Forces than Africa. The report’s author, General Donald Bolduc, the commander of SOCAFRICA, wrote that the increasing presence of US Special Forces in the continent reflects the significance of the region for the US. “Africa’s challenges could create a threat that surpasses [that faced] from conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria”, wrote General Bolduc. The report does not specify how many missions USSOCOM carries out per year. The US Department of Defense did not respond to questions on the subject.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 May 2017 | Permalink

US Special Forces soldiers killed in Jordan were with the CIA, say officials

JordanThree United States Special Forces soldiers who were killed outside a Jordanian military base earlier this month were working for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to American government officials. The three soldiers were shot dead on November 4 by a Jordanian soldier, who was subsequently wounded in an exchange of fire, according to reports. The US Department of Defense said the three men were members of the 5th Special Forces Group based in Fort Campbell, a US Army installation located in the American state of Kentucky. They were reportedly shot as they were attempting to enter the Prince Faisal Air Base, located in Jordan’s southern desert, 150 miles south of the capital Amman.

It is believed that the three soldiers were members of a 2,000-strong contingent of American troops who are currently stationed in the Arab country as part of Washington’s involvement in the regional war against the Islamic State. Some of these troops are assigned as advisers to Jordanian military units stationed at the border with Syria. But many others are allegedly involved in training so-called moderate Syrian rebel factions who are fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as other rebel groups on the ground. According to The Washington Post, the three American soldiers were among the trainers and were detailed to the CIA while they were in Jordan.

Details of the incident that led to the death of the three Americans are still unclear and are reportedly being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Jordanian sources allege that the US troops were returning to the base after a training session when one of their weapons accidentally misfired inside their vehicle. Thinking that they were under attack, Jordanian guards at the entrance to the base opened fire, killing the three Americans. But American officials told The Washington Post that the FBI is investigating whether the Jordanian soldier who opened fire on the US soldiers was an Islamist sympathizer.

If the three American soldiers were indeed detailed to the CIA, their killing will mark the most deadly incident involving CIA personnel since December 2009. Late that month, seven CIA personnel were killed in Khost, Afghanistan by suicide bomber who was masquerading as a CIA intelligence asset and managed to detonate a suicide vest inside a US military base. The Post said it contacted the CIA about the November 4 incident, but the Agency declined to comment.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 November 2016 | Permalink

US Pentagon hires private intelligence contractor for Syria operations

PentagonThe United States Department of Defense has released details of an agreement with a private intelligence contractor, which experts believe involves the provision of services to American Special Forces working clandestinely inside Syria. The announcement, made on the Pentagon’s website, is believed to be the first public admission of the use of a private intelligence contractor by the US government in Syria. In the brief press release, the DoD identifies the contractor as Six3 Intelligence Solutions, a McLean, Virginia-headquartered company that specializes in intelligence, biometrics and security.

Six3 Intelligence Solutions is a subsidiary of CACI International Inc., one of the largest defense, security and intelligence contractors in the US. According to The Daily Beast, CACI purchased Six3 Intelligence Solutions in 2013 for $820 million, in what a CACI media statement said was “the biggest deal” in the company’s 50-year history. Public records indicate that Six3 Intelligence Solutions is already fulfilling a $30 million contract with the Pentagon, involving the provision of nondescript “intelligence services” to American troops stationed in Afghanistan. The latest contract, worth $9.5 million, was announced on July 27. It is a no-bid contract, otherwise known as a ‘sole source contract’, which means that the government believes that only one company can provide the services required. Thus, the process by which a no-bid contract is awarded is non-competitive.

The Pentagon’s July 27 announcement states that, under the contract, work by Six3 Intelligence Solutions personnel “will be performed in Germany, Italy, and Syria”. There is no mention of the precise nature of the work, though it is generally assumed that it will support the operations of US Special Forces troops that are currently stationed in Syria. American troops have been active in Syria for at least a year. Nearly 300 US Special Forces members are believed to be presently operational in the war-torn country, working with officers of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Daily Beast said it contacted CACI and the DoD about the recently announced contract, but received no responses.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 August 2016 | Permalink

Hersh: Pakistanis gave CIA permission to kill bin Laden

Osama bin LadenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Journalist Seymour Hersh has cited senior American intelligence officials in claiming that the killing of Osama bin Laden was a joint operation between the United States and Pakistan. In a lengthy article published over the weekend in The London Review of Books, the veteran investigative reporter suggests that Pakistan had kept the al-Qaeda founder in prison for several years in the city of Abbottabad. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate —known commonly as ISI— had planned to turn bin Laden over to the US in its own time, in a quid-pro-quo move. But the Pakistanis’ plan had to be scrapped when bin Laden’s hideout was betrayed to the Central Intelligence Agency by a former ISI officer, says Hersh. His assertion agrees with previous accounts of the US raid against bin Laden, offered by security expert R.J. Hillhouse in 2011, and earlier this year by Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani, who led the ISI from 1990 to 1992.

The unnamed sources behind Hersh’s claims are an American “retired senior intelligence official” who was privy to early intelligence concerning bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Hersh also cites “information from inside Pakistan”, as well as two other sources from America, who have been “longtime consultants to the [US] Special Operations Command”.

The initial tip about bin Laden’s whereabouts came to the CIA in the form of a ‘walk-in’ —a term used to denote 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. Hersh says the walk-in was a former high official in the ISI, who told the Agency’s Islamabad station that he could lead them to the al-Qaeda founder’s location. The retired official was successfully polygraphed and was eventually able to claim the $25 million reward offered by the US Department of State for bin Laden’s head. He and his family are now living in the Washington, DC, area, says Hersh.

The walk-in told the CIA that the compound in Abbottabad where bin Laden was living was “not an armed enclave”, as Langley had initially assumed. Instead it was a prison and was under the complete control of the ISI. The latter had managed to capture bin Laden in the Hindu Kush Mountains in 2006, by paying off some of the local tribesmen who were sheltering him. Hersh also reiterates information previously reported by intelNews, namely that the government of Saudi Arabia had entered into an agreement with Islamabad to finance the construction and maintenance of bin Laden’s prison-compound in Abbottabad.

According to Hersh, the US government eventually informed Pakistan that it had uncovered and was incessantly monitoring bin Laden’s location. Along with threats, Washington offered the ISI commanders, who were in charge of bin Laden’s security, “under-the-table personal incentives” to agree to stand aside during a US raid on the compound. Under the final agreement, struck at the end of January 2011, the Americans promised to send in a small force that would kill bin Laden, thus sparing Islamabad and Riyadh the embarrassment of the al-Qaeda founder speaking out about his previously close relations with both governments. The Pakistanis even provided the CIA with accurate architectural diagrams of the compound. Accordingly, when the US forces went into Abbottabad in May of that year, “they knew where the target was —third floor, second door on the right”, says the retired US intelligence official quoted by Hersh.

The veteran journalist adds that the American planners of the operation knew well that bin Laden had been held in virtual isolation from the outside world for years, and that he was not “running a command center for al-Qaeda operations” from Abbottabad, as the White House later claimed. Consequently, the stories about “garbage bags full of computers and storage devices” that the US Navy SEALs brought back from the compound were false. Some of the SEALs took with them some books and papers found in bin Laden’s bedroom. But most of the material that was eventually acquired by the CIA was voluntarily provided to the Americans by the Pakistanis, who took control of the compound immediately after the SEALs left and eventually razed it.

‘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

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.