|In his latest article in the New Yorker, Pulitzer
Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh writes:
“The Bush Administration has authorized a major escalation
of the Special Forces covert war in Iraq. In interviews over the
past month, American officials and former officials said that
the main target was a hard-core group of Baathists who are
believed to be behind much of the underground insurgency against
the soldiers of the United States and its allies. A new Special
Forces group, designated Task Force 121, has been assembled from
Army Delta Force members, Navy seals, and C.I.A. paramilitary
operatives, with many additional personnel ordered to report by
January. Its highest priority is the neutralization of the
Baathist insurgents, by capture or assassination.
“The revitalized Special Forces mission is a policy victory
for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who has struggled for
two years to get the military leadership to accept the strategy
of what he calls ‘Manhunts’ — a phrase that he has used
both publicly and in internal Pentagon communications. Rumsfeld
has had to change much of the Pentagon’s leadership to get his
way. “Knocking off two regimes allows us to do extraordinary
things,” a Pentagon adviser told me, referring to Afghanistan
“One step the Pentagon took was to seek active and secret
help in the war against the Iraqi insurgency from Israel,
America’s closest ally in the Middle East. According to
American and Israeli military and intelligence officials,
Israeli commandos and intelligence units have been working
closely with their American counterparts at the Special Forces
training base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in Israel to
help them prepare for operations in Iraq.”
- Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist
for the New Yorker. His latest piece is titled "Manhunt
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Trains US Assassination Squads in Iraq
By Julian Borger in Washington
December 09, 2009 "The Guardian" -- Israeli advisers are
helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency
operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads
against guerrilla leaders, US intelligence and military sources
The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare
specialists to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US
special forces, and according to two sources, Israeli military
"consultants" have also visited Iraq.
US forces in Iraq's Sunni triangle have already begun to use
tactics that echo Israeli operations in the occupied
territories, sealing off centres of resistance with razor wire
and razing buildings from where attacks have been launched
against US troops.
But the secret war in Iraq is about to get much tougher, in the
hope of suppressing the Ba'athist-led insurgency ahead of next
November's presidential elections.
US special forces teams are already behind the lines inside
Syria attempting to kill foreign jihadists before they cross the
border, and a group focused on the "neutralisation" of guerrilla
leaders is being set up, according to sources familiar with the
"This is basically an assassination programme. That is what is
being conceptualised here. This is a hunter-killer team," said a
former senior US intelligence official, who added that he feared
the new tactics and enhanced cooperation with Israel would only
inflame a volatile situation in the Middle East.
"It is bonkers, insane. Here we are - we're already being
compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we've just confirmed
it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination
"They are being trained by Israelis in Fort Bragg," a
well-informed intelligence source in Washington said.
"Some Israelis went to Iraq as well, not to do training, but for
The consultants' visit to Iraq was confirmed by another US
source who was in contact with American officials there.
The Pentagon did not return calls seeking comment, but a
military planner, Brigadier General Michael Vane, mentioned the
cooperation with Israel in a letter to Army magazine in July
about the Iraq counter-insurgency campaign.
"We recently travelled to Israel to glean lessons learned from
their counterterrorist operations in urban areas," wrote General
Vane, deputy chief of staff at the army's training and doctrine
An Israeli official said the IDF regularly shared its experience
in the West Bank and Gaza with the US armed forces, but said he
could not comment about cooperation in Iraq.
"When we do activities, the US military attaches in Tel Aviv are
interested. I assume it's the same as the British. That's the
way allies work. The special forces come to our people and say,
do debrief on an operation we have done," the official said.
"Does it affect Iraq? It's not in our interest or the American
interest or in anyone's interest to go into that. It would just
fit in with jihadist prejudices."
Colonel Ralph Peters, a former army intelligence officer and a
critic of Pentagon policy in Iraq, said yesterday there was
nothing wrong with learning lessons wherever possible.
"When we turn to anyone for insights, it doesn't mean we blindly
accept it," Col Peters said. "But I think what you're seeing is
a new realism. The American tendency is to try to win all the
hearts and minds. In Iraq, there are just some hearts and minds
you can't win. Within the bounds of human rights, if you do make
an example of certain villages it gets the attention of the
others, and attacks have gone down in the area."
The new counter-insurgency unit made up of elite troops being
put together in the Pentagon is called Task Force 121, New
Yorker magazine reported in yesterday's edition.
One of the planners behind the offensive is a highly
controversial figure, whose role is likely to inflame Muslim
opinion: Lieutenant General William "Jerry" Boykin.
In October, there were calls for his resignation after he told a
church congregation in Oregon that the US was at war with Satan,
who "wants to destroy us as a Christian army".
"He's been promoted a rank above his abilities," he said. "Some
generals are pretty good on battlefield but are disastrous
nearer the source of power."
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2009
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