U.S. Official: CIA Runs Covert Afghan ForceThere seems to be few, if any people in the "intelligence community" who are capable of keeping a secret. Instead, it appears that it is stocked with those who, "on condition of anonymity" will spill their guts to the press about anything and everything. Does this unnamed "official", or Bob Woodward for that matter, feel any obligation to withhold these juicy little tidbits in the interest of ongoing operations, or their country?
KABUL, Afghanistan — A U.S. official in Washington confirmed reports that the CIA is running an all-Afghan paramilitary group in Afghanistan that has been hunting Al Qaeda, Taliban, and other militant targets for the agency.
A security professional in Kabul familiar with the operation said the 3,000-strong force was set up in 2002 to capture targets for CIA interrogation. A former U.S. intelligence official said members of the covert Afghan force are used for surveillance and long-range reconnaissance and some have trained at CIA facilities in the United States.
The sources spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.
The force, called the Counterterrorist Pursuit Team, was described in a new book by Bob Woodward, "Obama's Wars." The paramilitaries, designed after U.S. commando teams, operate in violence-wracked provinces including Kandahar, Khost, Paktia and Paktika, as well as the capital, Kabul, the security professional said.
Woodward also reports the units conduct covert operations inside neighboring Pakistan's lawless border areas as part of a campaign against Al Qaeda and Taliban havens there. Pakistan does not permit U.S. special operations forces to enter the area, except for limited training missions. The alleged use of Afghan paramilitaries to carry out spying activities will likely inflame already frayed political relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
During World War II, my mother worked as a cryptographer in Naval Intelligence. All she ever told me, or my father, was that every morning she boarded a windowless bus that went to an unnamed location that she suspected to be underground, that had armed guards posted in the halls. All that she ever disclosed was that she worked with Japanese codes and when prompted for more information, the conversation was summarily ended. After her death, I found a number of ribbons and vague commendations for her "work", with instructions that she was not to wear the ribbons on her uniform. All other information regarding her activities was taken to her grave.
Do people really have "a right to know"? Well, that's a difficult question. In matters such as civil legal conduct of our officials, such as "Watergate" where Bob Woodward made his career, absolutely. What Nixon was doing was clearly illegal and he, and those around him, deserved what they got. It's in matters of military secrets and national security where the answer become more difficult to answer.
Stories, like this one from Afghanistan, are no more than attempts by the likes of Bob Woodward to "get the scoop" without regard to the damage that it may do in the long run. It describes incursions into Pakistan, even while adding that "Pakistan does not permit U.S. special operations forces to enter the area", and that these operations "will likely inflame already frayed political relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan". So, what's the point of these revelations other than some misguided respect for the borders of a terrorist rat's nest like Pakistan? Is it possible that some still sane individual in the Pakistani government privately gave a "wink and a nod" to this operation, while publicly warning against incursion? If so, this type of "revelation" is highly damaging.
The fact is that we simply do not know the circumstances, how much information this "source" had, the motivation behind divulging it, or the ultimate effects of its disclosure. We do know one thing, though; honor is not a grey area, it is a stark line of demarcation - one either has it or one does not.