Below are excerpts from a February 10 article in The Nation, by Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.
According to CENTCOM, the soldiers [Americans, who were killed earlier in February in Pakistan were classified] as “civil affairs” trainers… specifically for Pakistani Special Operations Forces and their Frontier Corps to make them a more effective counter-insurgency force.”
In military parlance, these above-board US “training” forces operating under an unclassified mandate are “white” forces, while operatives working for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) would be classified as working on “black” operations, sometimes referred to as Special Mission Units. Since 2006, JSOC teams have operated in Pakistan in pursuit of “high-value” targets.
“What we’re seeing is the expansion of ‘white’ Special Operations Forces into Pakistan,” says a former member of CENTCOM and US Special Forces with extensive experience in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. “As Vietnam, Somalia and the Balkans taught us, that is almost always a precursor to expanded military operations.” The former CENTCOM employee spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the Pakistan operations. He characterized the US military’s role with the Pakistani Frontier Corps as “training in offensive operations,” but rejected the idea that at this stage these US trainers would cross the line to engage in direct combat against Taliban forces.[…]
What has gone largely unmentioned in the media coverage of the deaths of the three US soldiers in Pakistan is the role private contractors are playing. While the New York Times reported that “The Americans’ involvement in training Frontier Corps recruits in development assistance was little known until Wednesday’s attack,” The Nation first reported on that program –and the US involvement in training the Frontier Corps– last December. A former Blackwater executive told The Nation that Blackwater was training and advising the Frontier Corps, working on a subcontract with Kestral Logistics, a Pakistani firm. The presence of the Blackwater personnel in Pakistan was shrouded from the public, the former executive said, because they worked on a subcontract with Kestral for the Pakistani government. At times, he said, Blackwater forces cross the line from trainers or advisers and actually participated in raids. “That gives the Pakistani government the cover to say, ‘Hey, no, we don’t have any Westerners doing this. It’s all local and our people are doing it,’” said the former executive. “But it gets them the expertise that Westerners provide for [counterterrorism]-related work.” […]
While the former CENTCOM employee said the US military’s training mission in Pakistan (he is against using contractors for such missions) is in the “US interest,” he cautioned that there is growing concern within the military about what is perceived as the disproportionate and growing influence of JSOC’s lethal “direct action” mentality on the broader Special Forces operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As The Nation reported in November, JSOC operates a parallel drone bombing campaign in Pakistan, carrying out targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, “snatch and grabs” of high-value targets and other sensitive action. JSOC, a military intelligence source told The Nation, also operates several secret bases inside Pakistan. These actions are deeply classified and not subjected to any form of comprehensive oversight by Congress.
With General Stanley McChrystal, who commanded JSOC from 2003-2008, running the war, forces –and commanders– accustomed to operating in an unaccountable atmosphere now have unprecedented influence on overall US military operations, opening the door for an expansion of secretive, black operations done with little to no oversight. “The main thing to take away here is a recognition and acceptance of the paradigm shift that has occurred,” says the former CENTCOM employee. “Everything is one echelon removed from before: where CIA was the darkest of the dark, now it is JSOC. Therefore, military forces have more leeway to do anything in support of future military objectives. The CIA used to have the ultimate freedom–now that freedom is in JSOC’s hands, and the other elements of the military have been ordered to adapt.” […]
The CIA is legally required to brief the Intelligence committees on covert operations, while JSOC has traditionally operated outside the purview of Congressional oversight. “This allows the JSOC/Special Mission Units more freedom to expand or absorb traditionally CIA missions,” he says.