CIA runs 3,000-strong covert army to hunt al Qaeda in Pak

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.

PTI



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

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