CIA runs 3,000-strong covert army to hunt al Qaeda in Pak
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Last Updated: Thursday, September 23, 2010, 18:05
New York: CIA is running a 3,000-strong covert army to hunt down key leaders of Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with US officials saying that the force is proving "highly effective".

The heavily-armed irregular force manned entirely by Afghan personnel operates in small units called Counter- terrorism Pursuit Teams is modelled after the US Special Forces, the officials said confirming the disclosure made in new book 'Obama's wars' by journalist Bob Woodward.

The brigade sized force, officials said is "one of the best Afghan fighting forces that have made major contribution to stability and security".

The stunning disclosures in the book which is making waves for laying bare the policy divisions and the personality clashes among the Obama advisors on the Afghan policy may complicate relations between Washington and Islamabad.

The book said the force trained and bankrolled by the CIA and had been operating for nearly eight years to hunt al Qaeda and Taliban commanders.

The clandestine Afghan force reportedly drawn out from private militias and armies of former warlords has been trained in CIA's facilities in the US.

The force has been designed as an elite unit to pursue "highly sensitive covert operations into Pakistan", Washington Post reported.

New York Times said, "Firing missiles from unmanned drones patrolling over Pakistan's turbulent northwest tribal region at a rate that has outstripped the Bush administration's record is bad enough and now to have brigade size paramilitary units operating inside Pakistan marks a significant expansion of the covert war that the Obama administration has waged there."

These forces, the paper said, conducted clandestine raids into Pakistan as part of stepped-up campaign against al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban havens there.

"The covert army captures and kills Taliban fighters and seeks support in Tribal areas," the NYT reported and quoted Pentagon officials as saying that these Afghan units were closely working with American Green Berets to go after Taiban fighters.

According to the Woodward's book, by the end of 2009 strategy review, the President had concluded that the task in Afghanistan could not succeed without wiping out al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban havens operating with impunity in the border tribal areas of Pakistan.

"We need to make clear to the people that the cancer is in Pakistan", the book quotes President Obama as saying, adding that the CIA had turned this into its classic old strategy of setting up of a lethal proxy unit.

The book says that such "kill teams" were also operating within Afghanistan to target groups like Haqqani network, closely linked to Taliban and al Qaeda.

Officials said that the force has operated in Kabul and in some of Afghanistan's most violence prone provinces, including Kandahar, Khost, Paktia and Paktika.

Pakistan government has said it was unaware of such a force while the military said Islamabad's views were clear of not allowing any foreign forces to operate on its soil.


First Published: Thursday, September 23, 2010, 18:05

Tag: CIAarmyal Qaeda
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