US private death squads in Afghanistan, Pakistan

This video is called Refugees flee heavy fighting in South Waziristan – 23 Oct 09.

From the New York Times in the USA:

Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants


Published: March 14, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan — Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants, according to military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States.

The official, Michael D. Furlong, hired contractors from private security companies that employed former C.I.A. and Special Forces operatives. The contractors, in turn, gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the officials said.

While it has been widely reported that the C.I.A. and the military are attacking operatives of Al Qaeda and others through unmanned, remote-controlled drone strikes, some American officials say they became troubled that Mr. Furlong seemed to be running an off-the-books spy operation. The officials say they are not sure who condoned and supervised his work.

It is generally considered illegal for the military to hire contractors to act as covert spies. Officials said Mr. Furlong’s secret network might have been improperly financed by diverting money from a program designed to merely gather information about the region.

Moreover, in Pakistan, where Qaeda and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding, the secret use of private contractors may be seen as an attempt to get around the Pakistani government’s prohibition of American military personnel’s operating in the country.

Officials say Mr. Furlong’s operation seems to have been shut down, and he is now is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Defense Department for a number of possible offenses, including contract fraud.

Even in a region of the world known for intrigue, Mr. Furlong’s story stands out. At times, his operation featured a mysterious American company run by retired Special Operations officers and an iconic C.I.A. figure who had a role in some of the agency’s most famous episodes, including the Iran-Contra affair.

The allegations that he ran this network come as the American intelligence community confronts other instances in which private contractors may have been improperly used on delicate and questionable operations, including secret raids in Iraq and an assassinations program that was halted before it got off the ground.

“While no legitimate intelligence operations got screwed up, it’s generally a bad idea to have freelancers running around a war zone pretending to be James Bond,” one American government official said. But it is still murky whether Mr. Furlong had approval from top commanders or whether he might have been running a rogue operation.

This account of his activities is based on interviews with American military and intelligence officials and businessmen in the region. They insisted on anonymity in discussing a delicate case that is under investigation.

Col. Kathleen Cook, a spokeswoman for United States Strategic Command, which oversees Mr. Furlong’s work, declined to make him available for an interview. Military officials said Mr. Furlong, a retired Air Force officer, is now a senior civilian employee in the military, a full-time Defense Department employee based at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Network of Informants

Mr. Furlong has extensive experience in “psychological operations” — the military term for the use of information in warfare — and he plied his trade in a number of places, including Iraq and the Balkans. It is unclear exactly when Mr. Furlong’s operations began. But officials said they seemed to accelerate in the summer of 2009, and by the time they ended, he and his colleagues had established a network of informants in Afghanistan and Pakistan whose job it was to help locate people believed to be insurgents.

Government officials said they believed that Mr. Furlong might have channeled money away from a program intended to provide American commanders with information about Afghanistan’s social and tribal landscape, and toward secret efforts to hunt militants on both sides of the country’s porous border with Pakistan.

Some officials said it was unclear whether these operations actually resulted in the deaths of militants, though others involved in the operation said that they did.

Military officials said that Mr. Furlong would often boast about his network of informants in Afghanistan and Pakistan to senior military officers, and in one instance said a group of suspected militants carrying rockets by mule over the border had been singled out and killed as a result of his efforts.

In addition, at least one government contractor who worked with Mr. Furlong in Afghanistan last year maintains that he saw evidence that the information was used for attacking militants.

The contractor, Robert Young Pelton, an author who writes extensively about war zones, said that the government hired him to gather information about Afghanistan and that Mr. Furlong improperly used his work. “We were providing information so they could better understand the situation in Afghanistan, and it was being used to kill people,” Mr. Pelton said. …

In one example, Mr. Pelton said he had been told by Afghan colleagues that video images that he posted on the Web site had been used for an American strike in the South Waziristan region of Pakistan.

Among the contractors Mr. Furlong appears to have used to conduct intelligence gathering was International Media Ventures, a private “strategic communication” firm run by several former Special Operations officers. Another was American International Security Corporation, a Boston-based company run by Mike Taylor, a former Green Beret. In a phone interview, Mr. Taylor said that at one point he had employed Duane Clarridge, known as Dewey, a former top C.I.A. official who has been linked to a generation of C.I.A. adventures, including the Iran-Contra scandal.

See also here. And here.

Human rights campaigners have accused the Pakistani military of committing hundreds of extrajudicial killings under cover of an offensive against alleged Taliban insurgents: here.

The Obama administration has seized on the failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square on May 1 to insist that the Pakistani military step up its war on Islamic militants and extend its operations into North Waziristan: here.

Freelance killing in Afghanistan: here.

The New York Times reported May 15 that the US military was continuing “to rely on a secret network” of spies and assassins in Afghanistan and Pakistan, two months after the newspaper first brought the unit to public attention: here.

Despite a directive calling for more caution, US special forces operations are continuing to terrorise and kill civilians in Afghanistan: here.

Army contractor’s use of a cover name for Blackwater angers Sen. McCaskill: here.

CIA drone attacks produce America’s own unlawful combatants: here.

Legal experts have warned US legislators that the shadowy CIA drone assassination programme in Pakistan is a “clear violation of international law” that exposes drone pilots to the risk of prosecution: here.

A family whose members were killed in a botched night raid in eastern Afghanistan have rejected “blood money” from the Government and vowed to carry out suicide attacks unless the perpetrators are brought to justice: here.

Afghanistan: German forces now ordering airstrikes: here.

U.S. Army officer reveals ethnic cleansing in Afghanistan: here.

An Afghan woman’s case against the US war: here.

Afghanistan violence escalates as US forces prepare Kandahar assault: here.

Karzai faces anger in Marjah: here.

Militants are regaining control of Marjah, residents have reported, less than a month after Western military officials claimed to have seized the Afghan town from the Taliban: here.

Arms corporations are cashing in on a weapons bonanza after sales rocketed 22 per cent over the past five years, a leading peace research group has warned: here.

Britain: ‘Heartless MoD lost my boy’s goodbye letter’: Mother’s fury after teenage son dies in Afghanistan: here.

George Bush left a big problem in the shape of Guantánamo. The solution? Don’t capture bad guys, assassinate by drone: here.

5 thoughts on “US private death squads in Afghanistan, Pakistan

  1. PM, justice minister contradict each other on Afghan documents, say Liberals

    As of Friday, Cabinet has not yet passed an order giving Frank Iacobucci the legal
    authority to review government’s documents.


    Published March 15, 2010

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson have contradicted each other over the extent of secret federal information a former Supreme Court judge will review in the controversy over detainee transfers by Canadian troops in Afghanistan, the opposition says.

    But the terms of references passed by Cabinet and released by Mr. Nicholson over the weekend shows the work by retired judge Frank Iacobucci – appointed as a special adviser to Mr. Nicholson – extends beyond the scope Prime Minister Mr. Harper described last week in the Commons. His fee will be between $500 and $650 an hour.

    But Prime Minister Harper has subsequently told the House Mr. Iacobucci’s review will be limited to documents that have already been released, either at a Commons inquiry into the affair, Federal Court, or possibly a Military Police Complaints Commission inquiry into allegations the detainees may have been tortured after Canadians transferred them to Afghan police.

    The confusion, and apparently contradictory positions taken by the justice minister and the Prime Minister, stemmed from the fact that the government had failed to formally appoint Mr. Iacobucci a full week after Mr. Nicholson announced on March 5 that the government had “engaged” the retired judge to review documents.

    “They’re very conflicting,” Liberal MP Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Ont.) said. “The biggest conflict was on Wednesday when Harper referred to a thorough inquiry and on the very same day, Nicholson said there will be no inquiry.”

    The motion demanding documents relating to allegations of torture in Afghanistan that was tabled on Dec. 10 was sweeping. It calls for uncensored copies of “all documents” related to diplomat Richard Colvin’s allegations of suspected torture and his subsequent suggestion of a cover-up within government, uncensored versions of all redacted documents the government produced at a Federal Court case on detainee transfers and all documents provided to Military Police Complaints Commission investigation and inquiry into the transfers, as well as every document related to a statement Chief of Defence Staff General Walter Natynzyk gave to the special Commons committee on Afghanistan.

    When Mr. Nicholson announced Mr. Iacobucci would review the documents, he set it in the wide context of the opposition motion, referring to “information that is proposed to be withheld from release.” Mr. Nicholson said his statement was specifically related to the December motion and that Mr. Iacobucci would report to him on whether the “proposed redactions” genuinely relate to information that would be “injurious to Canada’s national security, national defence or international interests.”

    Mr. Nicholson added that Mr. Iacobucci’s internal report would recommend whether the information or a summary should be disclosed and the form or limits of the disclosure. All of the elements from the opposition motion last December are covered in the terms Mr. Nicholson subsequently announced, with the addition of “relevant” documents from 2001 to 2005 under the previous Liberal government.

    A prominent Ottawa lawyer who specializes on Supreme Court issues told the Hill Times a cabinet order would be required to authorize Mr. Iacobucci access to the secret information, as has been done in all similar inquiries, including Mr. Iacobucci’s internal inquiry into the indirect involvement of Canadian security officials in the detention and torture of Abdullah Almalki and two other Canadian citizens in Syria.

    Mr. Nicholson’s office last Friday, told The Hill Times that the government intended to release a second full description of Mr. Iacobucci’s assignment, despite the description given by Mr. Nicholson on March 5. That move came after opposition MPs said they were concerned the government might have simply retained Mr. Iacobucci, who practises law with the prominent Toronto firm of Torys LLP, to conduct an internal review.

    “Once the terms of reference are released, the specific details of Justice Iacobucci’s appointment will be made available,” Mr. Nicholson’s press secretary, Pamela Stephens, told The Hill Times.

    Prime Minister Harper told the House of Commons last week that Mr. Iacobucci’s review would be limited to documents the government has already released.

    “We are asking Justice Iacobucci to look at all of the documents that have been previously reviewed by public servants in terms of access to information,” he said last Wednesday in question period. “Justice Iacobucci will conduct a thorough inquiry on those documents and he will report according to his terms of reference.”

    There was no hint that day from Mr. Nicholson or Prime Minister Harper that a second version of Mr. Iacobucci’s duties would be forthcoming, and it appeared Mr. Nicholson’s position on the extent of documents to be reviewed had modified as well. “These are documents already reviewed by non-partisan public servants, but to add to the comfort level that possibly (Liberal MP Mark Holland) could have, Mr. Justice Iacobucci will have a look at this. He will work as expeditiously as possible, but it is a big job. We should let Justice Iacobucci do his work.

    The Hill Times


  2. What our military isn’t telling us

    Last Updated: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 | 12:10 PM ET

    By Brian Stewart, special to CBC News

    To the old philosophical question about a tree falling in the forest, you might want to add the modern Canadian military equivalent.

    When a Taliban rocket is fired into the large Canadian military base in Kandahar and no one mentions it, has an attack actually happened? Or is it merely a phantom of war?

    I stretch a point to make one. But it is a fact that the Canadian military regularly airbrushes certain acts of war right out of his media releases.

    What’s more, it also demands that Canadian reporters embedded with its troops accept an unyielding cone of silence over these events.

    On a recent visit to the sprawling Kandahar Airfield base in southern Afghanistan, I quickly joined everyone in a crowded briefing room in dropping to the floor when the sirens wailed to announce the approach of Taliban rockets, these “phantoms” of war.

    The rockets are real enough. Sometime they land with a jarring whump. What makes them phantoms is the military’s insistence that journalists never mention these attacks in their reports.
    A new belligerence

    These rockets rarely seem to cause any damage, but the attempts themselves say something important about Taliban tactics — and their tenacity and freedom to move about so close to the Canadian base.
    A rare look at Canadian military personnel taking cover in a bunker outside their offices after a rocket attack alarm sounded at Kandahar Airfield in June 2009. The vast majority of these attacks are not allowed to be reported by the media. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)A rare look at Canadian military personnel taking cover in a bunker outside their offices after a rocket attack alarm sounded at Kandahar Airfield in June 2009. The vast majority of these attacks are not allowed to be reported by the media. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

    On some days, five rockets have been fired at our base, but the public at home never hears about it.

    On an earlier visit three years ago, the military boasted that the rocket attacks had essentially ended because of aggressive counter-rocket patrols.

    Well, they’re more numerous of late, but I would never have known that had I not been there to hit floor as they came in.

    In this case, the noticeable increase in rocket attacks recently may be seen as a Taliban attempt to pre-empt NATO’s much heralded offensive that it is planned for the summer.

    But for those of us on the outside, it is as if these rockets — and the Taliban’s new belligerence — never occurred.


  3. US troops leave Afghan border to “crook”

    Published: 9:57PM Thursday March 18, 2010

    Source: Reuters

    General Stanley McChrystal (R), commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, receives a briefing from Afghan border police commander Colonel Abdul Razziq

    One of the most important trade routes in Asia was closed last week while a boyish-looking man everyone calls “the general” showed around the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

    General Stanley McChrystal clambered to the top of a roof, where “the general” – officially a colonel in the Afghan Border Police – pointed out the area where NATO forces plan to build a new $27.98 million ($US20 million) border station.

    US forces are not allowed near the teeming border when it is open, so they have never seen quite how Colonel Abdul Razziq, the 30-something Afghan border police boss in Spin Boldak, single-handedly rules over billions in international trade.

    They say he has done a good job keeping the border moving and secure. They also believe he is, as one senior military official put it, “a crook”.

    Or, as Lieutenant-Colonel Pat Keane, head of a NATO unit trying to improve Afghanistan’s border controls, put it more delicately: “He keeps the peace down here. Trucks flow, commerce flows. At the same time, he is getting additional incomes.”

    McChrystal’s visit to Razziq – at least his second so far this year – shows the tough choices US officials face trying to fight corruption in Afghanistan, while relying on officials they believe are themselves corrupt.

    For now Razziq is the Americans’ man in Spin Boldak, where US forces expect him to help them dramatically increase their own shipments of supplies for their growing military presence.

    Razziq, a leader of one of the two main tribes in the border area of Kandahar province, commands a few thousand local policemen in blue-grey uniforms at the frontier, one of only two legal highway crossing points between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    A man with an easy smile and a friendly air who denies illegal activity, Razziq beamed beside the US commander as McChrystal praised him in front of local television cameras.

    “Colonel Razziq is trying to make some changes that allow traffic to move more smoothly,” McChrystal said. “I am very optimistic that with the plans that I’ve heard, we can increase efficiency and decrease corruption.”

    “Total” corruption

    Just how much profit Razziq makes from his total control of the border is impossible to gauge. About 700 trucks cross the frontier each day, linking Pakistan with southern Afghanistan, Iran and central Asia beyond.

    During a briefing with McChrystal and his top aides before the trip to meet Razziq, the head of Afghan customs, Bismullah Kammawie, told the American officers that corruption at Razziq’s border post was “total”.

    The Afghan government collects about $55.93 million ($US40 million) in customs revenue in Kandahar Province per year, about a fifth of what it should collect, Kammawie told Reuters, adding that the target was just an estimate since nobody really knows what comes in.

    Razziq and his men control one of the main outgoing routes from the southern Afghan agricultural heartland that produces nearly all the world’s illegal opium.

    A 7,500 word investigative story in Harper’s Magazine last year, which included interviews with Pashtun drug traders and smugglers on both sides of the frontier, described Razziq as controlling an empire worth millions in annual kickbacks.

    It described his own lavish compound, filled with armoured vehicles, and said he runs a network of private prisons for those who cross him. According to the Washington Post, the Harper’s story is being used to teach US intelligence agents about the reality on the ground in Afghanistan.

    Yet despite their clear suspicions, US forces have so far agreed essentially to give Razziq a free hand. Under a deal reached on the ground, US troops in the area have pledged not to visit the border when it is open.

    One of the aims of McChrystal’s visit was to sign a document that would allow his troops unfettered access. No luck.

    After a two-hour meeting full of speeches on the importance of cooperation, Razziq and his boss from Kabul, border police commander Mohammad Younus Noorzai, politely declined to sign in the absence of two cabinet ministers.

    With 30,000 additional US troops arriving as part of President Barack Obama’s escalation strategy this year – most to Kandahar and neighbouring areas – NATO will need to double its own supply traffic through Spin Boldak in coming months. They need Razziq to keep the border open longer so more traffic can pass.

    They will also have to deal with other officials they say they have questions about, above all the head of Kandahar’s provincial council, President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother Ahmad Wali Karzai, considered the most powerful man in the province.

    Ahmad Wali Karzai has long denied Western media reports that he is involved in the drug trade. The New York Times also reported last year that he was on the CIA’s payroll.

    Being so closely allied to officials they suspect of graft makes military commanders uncomfortable, but they are wary of disrespecting the Afghan authorities they are there to protect.

    Last week, NATO officials made clear they would not intervene despite learning that the man chosen to run Marjah, a town US Marines fought for last month, may have spent four years in a German prison for attempting to stab his step-son to death.

    In an interview after meeting Razziq, McChrystal said fighting corruption is crucial because it is what drives Afghans into the arms of insurgents. But he declined to address specific accusations against Razziq and Ahmad Wali Karzai.

    “To the degree that (corruption) is one of the causes of the insurgency, it worries me more than the insurgency itself,” McChrystal said. “We can fight the insurgency: we can defeat the forces of the insurgency, the ground forces and whatnot. But if we don’t have effective governance, credible governance, than you don’t defeat the cause of the insurgency.”

    Before his trip to see Razziq, McChrystal listened as staff described plans for the new $27.98 million ($US20 million) customs depot.

    “This is what we’re good at: building stuff and projects,” McChrystal said. “We’re not so good at the cultural stuff.”


  4. Pingback: NATO kills Afghan civilians | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: US oil and corruption in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.