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Vol. 75/No. 34      September 26, 2011

CIA and Pentagon join forces
in ‘hunter-killer’ operations
(front page)
Gen. David Petraeus’s swearing in as CIA director September 6, after a 37-year military career, highlights the agency’s growing collaboration with the U.S. armed forces in combined spying and “hunter-killer” operations. The CIA is expanding its use of armed aerial drones and deploying ground forces that work closely with the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command.

“You’ve taken an agency that was chugging along and turned it into one hell of a killing machine,” an unnamed former CIA official told the Washington Post. “Blanching at his choice of words he quickly offered a revision,” the paper noted. “Instead, say ‘one hell of an operational tool,’” he requested.

Since Barack Obama took office in January 2009, drone attacks in Pakistan have killed more than 2,000 people, including hundreds of civilians. Last year the CIA launched 118 drone assaults, double those in 2009 and more than all prior years combined.

The CIA is expanding drone killings in Yemen, building a secret base in a nearby unnamed country in the Arabian Peninsula. Unlike the Pentagon command, which has flown drones over Yemen for the past year with its government’s “acquiescence,” noted the Post, the “CIA is in a better position to keep flying even if that cooperation stops.” The military also carries out drone attacks in Somalia and Libya.

According to the Post, 20 percent of “CIA analysts” now work as “targeters.” The CIA has greatly expanded its Counterterrorism Center, which directs drone assassination hits. The agency’s Pakistan-Afghanistan Department (and there is now one for Yemen and Somalia) “serves as the anchor of an operational triangle that stretches from South Asia to the American Southwest,” says the Post. “The CIA has about 30 Predator and Reaper drones all flown by Air Force pilots from a U.S. military base” in the U.S.

The agency deploys its own special forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan and maintains secret bases there. It worked closely with U.S. Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May. “The assault was the most high-profile example of an expanding collaboration between the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command,” noted the Post.

In Afghanistan the Special Activities Division, the agency’s paramilitary branch, trains Afghan special forces units with the objective of “more kill-capture” than capture-kill, an unnamed U.S. military official told the paper.

When the appointments of former CIA director Leon Panetta to secretary of defense and Petraeus to the CIA were first announced, Atlantic magazine noted that this means “an ever-closer joint military and intelligence force that is increasingly secretive and assertive.”

During Petraeus’s retirement ceremony from the U.S. Army August 31, he emphasized that the U.S. government “will need to maintain the full-spectrum capability that we have developed over this last decade of conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.” This includes the U.S. troop “surge” in 2007 that helped consolidate the current imperialist-backed regime in Iraq.

As for Afghanistan, a report issued by the CIA in July said the war is heading toward a stalemate, a view Petraeus and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Michael Mullen disagree with, writes Post columnist David Ignatius. “Petraeus has his own strong views about the war and has made clear that he will continue to say what he thinks,” says Ignatius. “But if the analysts are taking a different view from the boss, there’s bound to be tension.”  
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