The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill points to the recent deaths of three United States special forces soldiers in Pakistan as further evidence of the existence of an extensive, but classified American military presence in that country.
Scahill highlights a number of reasons to be suspicious of the United States Government’s claims that the soldiers were part of a training mission. He cites a Pakistani journalist who claims that some of the U.S. soldiers had been dressed in civilian clothes and had been identified by Pakistani handlers as journalists. Moreover, he points to a potential discrepancy in numbers—a United States Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman claims there are two hundred U.S. military personnel in the country, whereas the New York Times estimates only sixty to one hundred of those forces are trainers. Finally, Scahill points to the geography of the attack—the soldiers were killed in Lower Dir, an area in the northwest of the country where the United States has no aid presence and where active fighting is occurring between Pakistani forces and Taliban insurgents—as the most conclusive evidence that the U.S. military is taking a more active role in Pakistan. Scahill further claims that the admission by a former CENTCOM employee that “white” Special Operations Forces (i.e., United States Special Operations Command forces not assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which are considered “black” units) are expanding into Pakistan is an indication that further, more extensive military operations may be in the offing.
The article builds on a longer piece Scahill wrote in November on what he termed then “the secret US war in Pakistan.” There, Scahill claimed that the magazine’s sources pointed to extensive Blackwater involvement in the country, with the company’s employees operating from a secret forward operating base in Karachi. Blackwater operatives purportedly have been participating in “snatch and grabs” of high-value targets, gathering intelligence, and assisting the U.S. military’s widely reported drone bombing campaign. Statements by defense officials and Blackwater representatives give conflicting reports as to the extent of the company’s involvement with either CIA or JSOC activity in Pakistan. According to a U.S. military intelligence source, Scahill writes that Blackwater’s classified contracts are being renewed at the request of JSOC. The deaths of seven CIA operatives at a remote base in Afghanistan raised questions last December concerning the extent of the Agency’s involvement in the country, with the New York Times reporting on some of the troubles it has had due to its straying from its historical mission of espionage and intelligence analysis.
Scahill’s reporting raises further questions not only as to the extent of the United States’ involvement in Pakistan, but also to how the Obama administration is spreading mission responsibility among the military, the Intelligence Community, and even private contractors.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press, via the Washington Post