U.S. Military Espionage – Directive for Global Operation

May 30, 2010

By Padmini Arhant

According to the latest news reports obtained from the defense officials and military documents, an extensive clandestine military operation is ordered by the Middle East top U.S. commander to intercept militant groups or threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other African countries.

Courtesy – The New York Times report, May 25, 2010 – By Mark Mazzetti titled:

“U.S. Oks secret war on terror by military – Iran among likely targets of special operations order”

Washington -“The secret directive, signed in September by Gen.David Petraeus authorizes the sending of U.S. special operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces.

Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate.

While the Bush administration had approved some clandestine military activities far from designated war zones, the new order is intended to make such efforts more systematic and long term, officials said.

Its goals are to build networks that could “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” al-Qaida and other militant groups, as well as to “prepare the environment” for future attacks by U.S. or local military forces, the document said. The order, however, does not appear to authorize offensive strikes in any specific countries..

In broadening its secret activities, the U.S. military also has sought in recent years to break its dependence on the CIA and other spy agencies for information in countries without a significant U.S. troop presence.

Petraeus’ order is meant for use of small teams of U.S. troops to fill intelligence gaps about terror organizations and other threats in the Middle East and beyond, especially emerging groups plotting attacks against the United States.

But some Pentagon officials worry that the expanded role carries risks.

The authorized activities could strain relationships with friendly governments like Saudi Arabia or Yemen, or incite the anger of hostile countries like Iran and Syria.

Many in the military also are concerned that as U.S. troops assume roles far from traditional combat, they would be at risk of being treated as spies if captured and denied the Geneva Convention protections afforded military detainees.

The precise operations that the directive authorizes are unclear, and what the military has done to follow through on the order is uncertain.

The document, a copy of which was viewed by The New York Times, provides few details about continuing missions or intelligence-gathering operations.

Several government officials who described the impetus for the order would speak only on condition of anonymity because the document is classified.

Spokesmen for the White House and Pentagon declined to comment.

The Times, responding to concerns about troop safety raised by an official at U.S. Central Command, the military headquarters run by Petraeus, withheld some details about how troops could be deployed in certain countries.

The seven-page directive appears to authorize specific operations in Iran, most likely to gather intelligence about the country’s nuclear program or identify dissident groups that might be useful for a future military offensive.

The Obama administration insists that, for the moment, it is committed to penalizing Iran for its nuclear activities only with diplomatic and economic sanctions.

Nevertheless, the Pentagon has to draw up detailed war plans to be prepared in advance, in the event that, Obama authorized a strike.

“The Defense Department can’t be caught flat-footed,” said one Pentagon official with knowledge of Petraeus’ order.

The directive, the Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order, signed Sept. 30, also may have helped lay a foundation for the surge of U.S. military activity in Yemen that began three months later.

Special operations troops began working with Yemen’s military to try to dismantle al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, an affiliate of Osama bin Laden’s terror network based in Yemen.

The Pentagon has carried out missile strikes from Navy ships into suspected militant hideouts and plans to spend more than $155 million equipping Yemeni troops with armored vehicles, helicopters and small arms.

Officials said that many top commanders, Petraeus among them, have advocated an expansive interpretation of the military’s role around the world, arguing that troops need to operate beyond Iraq and Afghanistan to better fight militant groups.”

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant


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