New York: Top US military officials are
still relying on a secret network of private spies to track
and kill Taliban militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan,
violating a Pentagon ban on such covert operations, a media
report said on Sunday.
Citing unnamed US officials and businessmen, The New
York Times said the network of private spies was still
operating and was submitting almost daily reports on Taliban,
especially in Pakistan, to top US commanders in the region.
"Not only are the networks still operating, their
detailed reports on subjects like the workings of the Taliban
leadership in Pakistan and the movements of enemy fighters in
southern Afghanistan are also submitted almost daily to top
commanders and have become an important source of
intelligence," the paper said.
The Times reported in March that US Defence Department
official Michael Furlong had set up a network of private
contractors in Pakistan and Afghanistan to help track and kill
suspected Taliban militants.
In the wake of those reports, US government officials
said it was a rogue operation that had been shut down once an
investigation had begun.
The US military is largely prohibited from operating
inside Pakistan. And under Pentagon rules, the army is not
allowed to hire private contractors for spying.
But a review of the spying programme by The Times
found that Furlong`s operatives were still providing
information using the same intelligence gathering methods as
before. The contractors were still being paid under a USD 22
million contract, managed by Lockheed Martin and supervised by
the Pentagon office in charge of special operations policy,
the report said.
And while Furlong was under investigation, the spying
operation in Pakistan and Afghanistan had appeared to morph
into traditional spying activities, the report noted.
Reacting to the report, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon
press secretary, said that the programme "remains under
investigation by multiple offices within the Defence
Department," so it would be inappropriate to answer specific
questions about who approved the operation or why it
"I assure you we are committed to determining if any
laws were broken or policies violated," he said.
Spokesmen for General Petraeus and Gen. Stanley A.
McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan,
declined to comment. Meanwhile, Furlong remains at his job,
working as a senior civilian Air Force official, the report