The Story of How U.S. Special Forces Infiltrated Pakistan

By Marc Ambinder & D.B. Grady
 
Using special tracking technology and CIA oversight, teams have quietly crossed the border to challenge al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and their supporters in the Pakistani spy service.
 

 U.S. special forces in Afghanistan / AP
In 2005, for example, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake killed 75,000 people in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. After four solid years of war in the region, the United States poured relief services into Pakistan as a show of solidarity with the nominal ally in the war on terror.
The U.S. intelligence community took advantage of the chaos to spread resources of its own into the country. Using valid U.S. passports and posing as construction and aid workers, dozens of Central Intelligence Agency operatives and contractors flooded in without the requisite background checks from the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Al-Qaeda had reconstituted itself in the country’s tribal areas, largely because of the ISI’s benign neglect.

In Afghanistan, the ISI was actively undermining the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, training and recruiting for the Taliban, which it viewed as the more reliable partner. The political system was in chaos. The Pakistani army was focused on the threat from India and had redeployed away from the Afghanistan border region, the Durand line, making it porous once again. To some extent, the Bush administration had been focused on Iraq for the previous two years, content with the ISI’s cooperation in capturing senior al-Qaeda leaders, while ignoring its support of other groups that would later become recruiting grounds for al-Qaeda.

A JSOC intelligence team slipped in alongside the CIA. The team had several goals. One was prosaic: team members were to develop rings of informants to gather targeting information about al-Qaeda terrorists. Other goals were extremely sensitive: JSOC needed better intelligence about how Pakistan transported its nuclear weapons and wanted to penetrate the ISI. Under a secret program code-named SCREEN HUNTER, JSOC, augmented by the Defense Intelligence Agency and contract personnel, was authorized to shadow and identify members of the ISI suspected of being sympathetic to al-Qaeda. It is not clear whether JSOC units used lethal force against these ISI officers; one official said that the goal of the program was to track terrorists through the ISI by using disinformation and psychological warfare. (The program, by then known under a different name, was curtailed by the Obama administration when Pakistan’s anxiety about a covert U.S. presence inside the country was most intense.)
Meanwhile, rotating teams of SEALs from Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) Black squadron, aided by U.S. Army Rangers and other special operations forces, established a parallel terrorist-hunting capability called VIGILANT HARVEST. They operated in the border areas of Pakistan deemed off limits to Americans, and they targeted courier networks, trainers, and facilitators. Legally, these units would operate under the authority of the CIA any time they crossed the border. Some of their missions were coordinated with Pakistan; others were not.

As of 2006, teams of Green Berets were regularly crossing the border. Missions involved as few as three or four operators quietly trekking across the line, their movements monitored by U.S. satellites and drones locked onto the cell phones of these soldiers. (The cell phones were encrypted in such a way that made them undetectable to Pakistani intelligence.) Twice in 2008, Pakistani officials caught wind of these missions, and in one instance, Pakistani soldiers operating in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas fired guns into the air to prevent the approach of drones.

Forward intelligence cells in Pakistan are staffed by JSOC-contracted security personnel from obscure firms with insider names such as Triple Canopy and various offshoots of Blackwater, but it is not clear whether, as Jeremy Scahill of The Nation has argued, the scale of these operations was operationally significant or that the contractors acted as hired guns for the U.S. government. Sources say that only U.S. soldiers performed “kinetic” operations; Scahill’s sources suggest otherwise. The security compartments were so small for these operations (one was known as QUIET STORM, a particularly specialized mission targeting the Pakistani Taliban in 2008) that the command will probably be insulated from retrospective oversight about its activities.

A senior Obama administration official said that by the middle of 2011, after tensions between the U.S. and the Pakistani government became particularly and perhaps dangerously high, all JSOC personnel except for its declared military trainers were ferreted out of the country. (They were easy to find using that same secret cell phone pinging technology.) Those who remained were called Omegas, a term denoting their temporary designation as members of the reserve force. They then joined any one of a dozen small contracting companies set up by the CIA, which turned these JSOC soldiers into civilians for the purposes of deniability.

By the end of 2011, SEALs and the CIA Special Activities Division ground branch were crossing the border to target militants whom Pakistan would not. Presently, Task Force Green (also known as TF 3-10) is the active counterterrorist task force in Afghanistan.
Excerpted from The Command: Deep Inside the President’s Secret Army, available at Amazon and the iBooks store.
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Comments

  • 007  On March 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    It is USA and CIA who brought terrorism across the world. Who backed Al-Qaeda and Osama, it is USA.. who backed Taliban, it is USA… And now after losing war in Afghanistan, they are saying that Taliban are not terrorists. Who did 9-11…. it is USA and the zionists. Who killed more innocent people around the world. It is the same bloody USA.

    • sturkman  On March 12, 2012 at 3:18 am

      That’s right. 17,000 Sneak Attacks all around the world since 9/11 and USA is responsible though not a single American, Non Moslim or Jew have been caught. Americans are Magicians also. They convert themselves in to Moslims before starting a Sneak Attack.

  • Carol Mason  On March 10, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I agree that US and CIA have created a great deal of terror and saw the impact on lives around the world many times during my travels… there is great hypocrisy frm US…

  • Web Development London UK  On March 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm

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  • Emma Raven  On March 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Mr.Khan, if you recite that enough times you’ll probably convince yourself that it’s all true. We know it’s not though, don’t we? Undeniably the powers that be have made awful strategic mistakes and have negatively affected many lives, some they have devastated. I would argue that the USA (AS A WHOLE) that is, it’s relief agencies, charities and it’s citizens have contributed more to the comfort and well-being of peoples globally than just about any nation on the planet. I would argue that government agencies do not deliberately target innocent individuals, Why would they? There is evidence of some military/political decisions being made for reasons of greed and commerce and no right minded balanced person could ever condone such action but let’s be realistic. Isn’t it the truth that most of the the atrocities against innocent people come from misguided followers of bigoted organisations such as Al-Qaeda who have an agenda of religeous cleansing and a blind meaningless faith in a myth?

  • Shahid  On March 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Nations who want to go about their interests seriously,do comprehensive homework and ensure all stops are covered.Compare this with our Kargil or Gibraltar operations.
    Sad,indeed,
    SR.

  • Jimmy Jamshed  On March 12, 2012 at 1:58 am

    So big deal. What’s so great about it??!! A BULLY Super-Power can do anything…………nobody to stop it. What’s so fantastic about a Super-Powers forces breaking in & entering a weak, third world Country??!!

    • sturkman  On March 12, 2012 at 3:23 am

      Moslims complain to Allah instead of bitching at USA. Why He let USA become a Super Power?
      Why He let you become so backwards, illiterate and poor that you live off Charity of Non Moslim Countries and even your Nmak Hraam Jimmies live in USA.

    • Avataar  On March 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      No nation has the right to attack another – overtly or covertly, be it a super power or a minion state.BY the same token no nation has the right to sponsor directly or indirectly any terrorist organization that poses a threat to the citizens or soldiers of another country.

      Pakistan has been doing it for a long time, in the 1970’s and ’80’s at the behest of CIA when it trained, equipped and transported Mujaheddin to destabilize Afghanistan and even earlier than that in India. Who knos better that Pakistan’s mentor USA?

      Now when the tables got turned against USA because their former protege/vassal Pakistan started using the same apparatus against it, USA had to take an action. It can not allow Pakistan to kill directly or indrectly its soliders in Afghanistan or within Pakistan if they are there under some kind of an agreement.

      The problem is not as you put it, that is over-simplification. The problem is not being a super-power or a junior power. The problem is

      Who is engaged in violent offensive against who?
      Who started threatening who first?
      When Pakistan shelters OBL within its military compound for 6-7 years and gets caught, the whole gambit gets exposed. Do you think the world gives a shit about the breach of Pakistan’s sovereignity when it is used against NATO forces in Afghanistan which is not just the US but but other nationals.
      When Pakistan facilitates the Al Qaida operatives to escape in 2003 via one of its ports, it is covertly engaging in a hostile act against its partner USA.
      When Pakistan sponsors violent acts via the Haqqani group, do you think there will be no retaliation.

      It is not Pakistan’s sovereignty that is being challenged, it is Pakistan’s right to sponsor violence against an international force.

      If Pakistan wants to declare war on Afghanistan, it can do so but if it chooses to fight a war and still maintain the posture of a friend, that gimmick would not go far.

      PAKISTAN IS CAUGHT NOW IN ITS OWN NET, DAMNED IF THEY KILL THEIR FORMER TERRORISTS FREIND AND DAMNED IF THEY DO NOT.

      USA and the NATO forces have full right to eliminate all danger and risk of loss of life of its soldiers, be it directly by Pakistan or by its sponsored terrorists if they are stationed in Pakistan, they will be attacked – period. Fuck the sovereignty.

      Avataar

  • mabbaskhan  On March 12, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Where was Pakistan Army when they were doing all this

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