CIA Falls Back in Afghanistan
The Daily Beast 05.04.14
The CIA is dismantling its frontline Afghan counterterrorist forces in south and east Afghanistan, leaving a security vacuum that U.S. commanders fear the Taliban and al Qaeda will fill—and leaving the Pakistan border open to a possible deluge of fighters and weapons.
"The CIA has started to end the contracts of some of those militias who were working for them," said Aimal Faizi, spokesman for outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a longtime critic of the CIA’s Afghan operatives. "Some of them were in very important locations, so we deployed our troops there."
U.S. and Afghan military commanders tell The Daily Beast that Afghan forces are stretched too thin to replace many of those departing CIA paramilitaries. Thousands more CIA-trained operatives are about to get the boot ahead of what already promises to be a bloody summer fighting season. That could mean spectacular attacks against U.S. and Afghan targets just as the White House is weighing its long-term commitment to Afghanistan. And it could give the now-small al Qaeda movement inside the country more freedom to grow and eventually hatch new plots more than a decade after the invasion meant to wipe out the perpetrators of the Sept. 11th attacks.
Senior U.S. officials said the slow dismantling of the CIA’s forces has also alarmed U.S. lawmakers, who had assumed those forces would remain in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban after U.S. troops withdrew.
But CIA officials told lawmakers this past week that with U.S. troops slowly closing bases across the country, the intelligence agency’s footprint also has to shrink. The CIA doesn’t want to face another high-risk situation like Benghazi, Libya.
The CIA started recruiting and training these Afghan paramilitary groups only months after the intelligence agency first entered the country in 2001 ahead of invading U.S. troops, according to current and former U.S. and Afghan officials. They described the top-secret force in detail on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. (The CIA declined to comment for this story.)
The elite Afghan teams have built a fearsome reputation for their U.S. special operations-like targeting of terrorist suspects, guided by a handful of CIA paramilitary officers on most missions.
The forces now facing the chopping block are 750 members of the Counterterrorist Pursuit Teams in the Kunar region—home to the elusive Afghan al Qaeda leader Farouq al-Qahtani al-Qatari—and the entire 3,500-strong Khost Protection Force.
The Khost and Kunar-based units "are instrumental in blocking the Haqqani/al Qaeda mix that are responsible for spectacular attacks," said one senior U.S. military official. "It’s not clear what will happen to either unit; there is no plan so far to absorb them."
One of the first major CIA-trained units to be disbanded was the 900-man Counterterrorist Pursuit Team in the town of Shkin, in Paktika province next to Khost. A former senior Afghan intelligence official said the men were fired with no notice, given a severance payment, two rifles and told to leave. The soon-vacated site was then overrun by Taliban forces, who had to be driven out roughly a month later by the Afghan army.
Karzai’s spokesman Faizi said the Afghan government had no advance notice of the firings, but later tried to recruit the Shkin forces into the ranks of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, in hopes of keeping them from selling their skills to the Taliban or someone else."We tried to hire those militia for the same pay as the CIA," he said. "But only a 100 or so said yes."
U.S. releases 10 Pakistanis from Afghanistan's Bagram
May 15, 2014 (Reuters)
U.S. authorities have quietly released 10 Pakistani detainees from Bagram Prison in Afghanistan, lawyers said on Thursday, after the men had spent years in prison without trial. One had been held for 10 years after being captured by British forces in Iraq and transferred to Afghanistan, said legal charity Reprieve. U.S. authorities say that the detentions are necessary to keep potentially dangerous men off the battlefield. It was not immediately clear where the 10 released men had been taken.
Foreign prisoners at Bagram, sometimes dubbed "Afghanistan's Guantanamo Bay", face review boards staffed by U.S. military officers but are not allowed to know all evidence against them or be represented by a lawyer of their choice. The boards evaluate the evidence and whether the detainees might pose a future threat to U.S. forces.
Russian Official Blames Afghan Heroin For 500,000 Deaths
May 15, 2014
The director of Russia's Federal Drug Control Service says the use of Afghan heroin has killed at least 500,000 Russian citizens in the past 13 years.
Viktor Ivanov made the comment at an international antidrug conference in Moscow on May 15. He said there had been more than 1 million deaths in the whole of Eurasia caused by the use of Afghan heroin since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.
Ivanov said the "intense transit" of drug products from Afghanistan is estimated at some $100 billion a year, contributing to instability and violence in the region.
Afghan heroin is routinely smuggled into Russia through Central Asia. Ivanov has repeatedly criticized NATO and the United States for not doing enough to fight drug trafficking in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan Asks Pakistan For Security Help With Vote
May 19, 2014
Afghan officials have asked neighboring Pakistan to help provide security during the second round of the country's presidential election in June. Security cooperation was on the agenda of a trilateral meeting in Kabul between the Afghan Army Chief of Staff Sher Mohammad Karimi and his Pakistani counterpart, Raheel Sharif, as well as representatives from the NATO-led international forces.
During the meeting on May 19, Afghan officials urged Pakistan to cooperate in strengthening security in border areas between the two countries. Afghanistan also asked Islamabad to stop firing missiles from Pakistani soil onto Afghan territory.