Setback: Taliban Targeting Shadow Army from US Intelligence, by Pepe Escobar
The Kabul airport bombing shows that there are shadow forces in Afghanistan, ready to disrupt a peaceful transition after US troops leave. But what about the “shadow army” of US intelligence, accumulated during two decades of occupation? Who are they and what is their agenda?
So we have CIA Director William Burns rushing to Kabul to request an audience with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, the potential new ruler of a former satrapy. And it literally begs you to extend a deadline for the evacuation of American assets.
The answer is a definit no”. After all, the August 31 deadline was set by Washington himself. Extending it would only mean the extension of an already defeated occupation.
Mr. Burns goes to the Kabul crossing is now part of the folklore of the cemetery of empires. The CIA does not confirm or deny that Burns met with Mullah Baradar; a delightfully amused Taliban spokesman said he was “not aware” of such a meeting.
We will probably never know the exact terms discussed by the two unlikely participants, assuming the meeting ever took place and is not gross intelligence misinformation.
Meanwhile, Western public hysteria centers, above all, on the urgent need to get all the “translators” and other officials (who were de facto collaborators of NATO) out of the Kabul airport. Yet a thunderous silence envelops what is in fact the real deal: the CIA shadow army he left behind.
The shadow army are Afghan militias created in the early 2000s to engage in “counterinsurgency,” that charming euphemism for search and destroy operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Along the way, these militias practiced, en masse, that proverbial semantic combo that normalizes murder: ‘extrajudicial executions’, usually a sequel to ‘enhanced interrogations’. These operations were always secret according to the classic CIA playbook, ensuring there is never any liability.
Now Langley has a problem. The Taliban have maintained sleeper cells in Kabul since May, and much earlier in certain Afghan government bodies. A source close to the Interior Ministry has confirmed that the Taliban actually managed to get their hands on the full list of operatives from the two main CIA schemes: the Khost Protection Force (KPF) and the National Security Directorate (NDS). These agents are the main targets of the Taliban at the checkpoints leading to the Kabul airport, not helpless and random “Afghan civilians” trying to escape.
The Taliban have established a rather complex and selective operation in Kabul, with many nuances, allowing, for example, the free passage of the Special Forces of selected members of NATO, who went to the city in search of its citizens.
But access to the airport is now blocked for all Afghan citizens. Yesterday’s suicide car bombing has introduced an even more complex variable: the Taliban will need to pool all their intelligence resources, quickly, to fight anything that seeks to introduce internal terrorist attacks into the country.
the RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analysis it has shown how the Taliban have a “more advanced intelligence system” applied to urban areas in Afghanistan, especially Kabul. The “knock on people’s doors” that fuel Western hysteria means they know exactly where to call when it comes to finding collaborative intelligence networks.
It’s no wonder Western think tanks are crying over how weakened their intelligence services will be at the intersection of Central and South Asia. However, the silent official reaction came down to the G7 Foreign Ministers issuing a mere statement announcing that they were “deeply concerned by reports of violent retaliation in parts of Afghanistan.”
Blowback is really a bitch. Especially when you can’t fully recognize it.
From Phoenix to Omega
The latest chapter of the CIA’s operations in Afghanistan began when the 2001 bombing campaign was not even over. I saw it for myself in Tora Bora in December 2001 when Special Forces appeared out of nowhere equipped with Thuraya satellite phones and suitcases full of cash. Later, the role of the “irregular” militias in the defeat of the Taliban and the dismemberment of al-Qaeda was celebrated in the United States as a great success.
Admittedly, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai initially opposed US Special Forces establishing local militias, a fundamental pillar of the counterinsurgency strategy. But in the end, that source of income was irresistible.
A central beneficiary was the Afghan Interior Ministry, and the initial plan was merged under the auspices of the Afghan Local Police. However, some key militias were not under the Ministry, instead reporting directly to the CIA and the US Special Forces Command, later renamed the infamous Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
Inevitably, the CIA and JSOC got into a fight for control of the main militias. That was resolved by the Pentagon lending Special Forces to the CIA under the Omega Program. Under Omega, the CIA was tasked with targeting intelligence, and Special Ops took control of the muscle on the ground. Omega made steady progress under the reign of former US President Barack Obama – it was eerily similar to the Vietnam-era Operation Phoenix.
Ten years ago, the CIA army, called Anti-Terrorist Pursuit Teams (CTPT), already had 3,000 troops, paid and armed by the CIA-JSOC combo. There was nothing “counterinsurgency” about it: they were death squads, much like their previous counterparts in Latin America in the 1970s.
In 2015, the CIA enlisted its Afghan sister unit, the National Security Directorate (NDS), to establish new paramilitary teams to, in theory, fight ISIS, which was later identified locally as ISIS-Khorasan. In 2017, then-CIA chief Mike Pompeo put Langley in an Afghan overdrive, targeting the Taliban but also al Qaeda, which at the time had been down to a few dozen operatives. Pompeo promised that the new concert would be “aggressive”, “relentless” and “relentless”.
Those dark ‘military actors’
Arguably the most accurate and concise report on US paramilitaries in Afghanistan is by Antonio de Lauri, Principal Investigator at the Chr. Michelsen Institute and Astrid Suhrke, Senior Researcher Emeritus also at the Institute.
The report shows how the CIA army was a two-headed hydra. The oldest units date back to 2001 and were very close to the CIA. The most powerful was the Khost Protection Force (KPF), based at the CIA Camp Chapman in Khost. KPF operated entirely outside of Afghan law, not to mention the budget. Following an investigation by Seymour Hersh, I have also shown how the CIA financed its covert operations through a heroin rat line, that the Taliban have now vowed to destroy.
The other chief of the hydra was the NDS’s own Afghan Special Forces: four main units, each operating in its own regional area. And that’s all that was known about them. The NDS was funded by none other than the CIA. For all practical purposes, the operatives were trained and armed by the CIA.
Therefore, it is not surprising that no one in Afghanistan or the region knew anything definitive about their operations and command structure. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), with an infuriating bureaucracy, defined the operations of the KPF and the NDS as apparently “coordinated with international military actors (emphasis mine); that is, outside the normal chain of command of the government. “
By 2018, the KPF was estimated to host between 3,000 and more than 10,000 officers. What few Afghans really knew is that they were properly armed; well paid; worked with people who spoke American English, using American vocabulary; participates in night operations in residential areas; and, more importantly, they were able to call air strikes, carried out by the US military.
A 2019 UNAMA report highlighted that there were “ongoing reports of the KPF committing human rights abuses, intentionally killing civilians, illegally detaining people, and intentionally damaging and burning civilian property during search operations and night raids” .
Call it the Pompeo effect: “aggressive, relentless and relentless”, whether through raids to kill or capture, or drones with Hellfire missiles.
Awakened Westerners, now losing sleep over the ‘loss of civil liberties’ in Afghanistan, may not even be vaguely aware that their NATO-led ‘coalition forces’ excelled in preparing their own kill or kill lists. capture, known to the semantic insane. denomination: Joint list of prioritized effects.
The CIA, for its part, doesn’t give a damn. After all, the agency was always totally outside the jurisdiction of Afghan laws that regulate the operations of “coalition forces.”
The drone of violence
In recent years, the CIA’s shadow army merged into what Ian Shaw and Majed Akhter memorably described as The drone of state violence, a seminal article published in the journal Critical Asian Studies in 2014 (downloadable here).
Shaw and Akhter define the alarming and ongoing drone process as: “the relocation of sovereign power from the uniformed military to the CIA and Special Forces; techno-political transformations carried out by the Predator drone; the bureaucratization of the chain of death; and the individualization of the objective “.
This amounts, the authors argue, to what Hannah Arendt defined as “no one’s government.” Or, actually, by someone who acts beyond the rules.
The toxic end result in Afghanistan was the marriage between the CIA’s shadow army and droneness. The Taliban may be willing to extend a general amnesty rather than take revenge. But forgiving those who made a murderous rampage as part of the marriage arrangement may be a step too far for the Pashtunwali code.
The February 2020 Doha agreement between Washington and the Taliban says absolutely nothing about the CIA’s shadow army.
So the question now is how the defeated Americans will be able to maintain intelligence assets in Afghanistan for their proverbial “counterterrorism” operations. A Taliban-led government will inevitably take over the NDS. What happens to the militias is an open question. They could be completely controlled by the Taliban. They could part ways and eventually find new sponsors (Saudis, Turks). They could become autonomous and serve the highest-ranked paying warlord.
The Taliban can essentially be a collection of warlords (jang salar, in dari). But what is certain is that a new government simply will not allow a militia scenario in a wasteland similar to Libya. Thousands of mercenaries need to be tamed with the potential to become a substitute for ISIS-Khorasan, which threatens Afghanistan’s entry into the Eurasian integration process. Burns knows it, Baradar knows it, while Western public opinion knows nothing.