Washington: Behind his public rhetoric of
global engagement and diplomacy, President Barack Obama has
secretly sanctioned the deployment of US special forces to 75
countries as part of a largely `secret war` against al Qaeda
and other radical groups, a news report said on Sunday.
It has come to light that Obama, who has been
recognised for giving greater role to multilateral diplomacy
unlike the previous Bush administration, has approved a huge
increase in the number of US special forces carrying out
search-and-destroy missions against radical groups,
particularly al Qaeda.
American troops are now operating in 75 countries
compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year, the
Washington Post reported on Sunday.
In the past 18 months he has ordered a big expansion
in Yemen and the Horn of Africa known areas of strong
al Qaeda activity and elsewhere in the Middle East, central
Asia and Africa.
Obama has asked for a 5.7 percent increase in the
Special Operations budget for fiscal 2011, for a total of USD
6.3 billion, plus an additional USD 3.5 billion in 2010
contingency funding, the report said.
It said Obama has also approved pre-emptive special
forces strikes to disrupt terror plots, and has given the
units powers and authority that was not granted by George Bush
when he occupied the White House.
Commanders are now planning greater use of these
special forces for preemptive or retaliatory strikes around
the globe when a plot has been identified, or after an attack
linked to a specific group.
Former Bush officials, still smarting from accusations
that their administration overextended the president`s
authority to conduct lethal activities around the world at
will, have asked similar questions.
"While they seem to be expanding their operations both
in terms of extraterritoriality and aggressiveness, they are
contracting the legal authority upon which those expanding
actions are based," John B. Bellinger III, a senior legal
adviser in both of Bush`s administrations, was quoted as
saying by the The Post.
The surge in Special Operations deployments, along
with intensified CIA drone attacks in western Pakistan, is the
other side of the national security doctrine of global
engagement and domestic values President Obama released last
Of about 13,000 US special forces deployed overseas,
about 9,000 are evenly divided between Afghanistan and
The United States "will not merely respond after the
fact" of a terrorist attack but will "take the fight to
al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates whether they plot and
train in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond,"
John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism director,
said last week.
"Eighty percent of our investment is now in resolving
current conflicts, not in building capabilities with partners
to avoid future ones," another official said.
A key advantage of using "secret" forces is that their
operations are rarely discussed in public.
A top UN human rights official has questioned the
jurisdiction under international law to conduct such raids,
particularly when they kill innocent civilians.
In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, Philip
Alston, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions,
warned that the "prolific" use of targeted killings, mainly by
unmanned US aircraft, was setting a damaging example that
other countries would follow.
However, the US State Department has argued that
targeted killings abroad are legally justified, citing the
principle of self-defence under international law.
Defence Secretary Robert Gates insisted US lawmakers
are kept fully informed about CIA operations abroad, including
widely reported drone bombing raids on militants in Pakistan.
"I have no doubt whatsoever that the intelligence
committees in the United States Congress are fully informed of
the activities the CIA is carrying out," said Gates, a former
director of the spy agency, at the Shangri-La security
conference in Singapore yesterday.