- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2002

American commandos hunting Taliban and al Qaeda guerrillas in Afghanistan have gained permission to employ new clandestine tactics that typically are confined to the CIA in the shadows of war.
Administration and military sources said that in recent weeks the covert warriors received authority from commanders in the United States to conduct "source operations," a special-operations term for a number of classified war tactics.
Source operations generally refer to recruiting and maintaining spies within the enemy's camp. In Afghanistan, it will mean finding Afghans and Arabs, possibly within the Taliban and al Qaeda network, who would supply intelligence to U.S. special-operations forces.
But source operations also refers to a number of other classified tactics that can be employed in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. The U.S. military estimates there may be 1,000 or more of Osama bin Laden's terrorists still on the loose in the region.
The authorization is part of a much broader plan to toughen the war against terrorists by allowing commandos to do more clandestine missions in more places overseas.
In July, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., to accelerate the war against al Qaeda and other terror groups by devising a new war plan. Mr. Rumsfeld, who wants al Qaeda members captured or killed at a faster rate, desires a mechanism for the United States to identify and locate terrorists, then dispatch covert warriors in a matter of hours, not days or weeks.
"They are going to use some special-forces-unique skills to track them down," said a military officer involved in war planning who asked not to be named. "There are certain skills and capabilities that are not publicly associated with special forces."
An administration source said, "There are some initiatives that are very, very sensitive."
Source operations may involve finding spies or using a released detainee to spread disinformation.
A second military officer said in an interview that source operations mean that Army Special Forces soldiers, the Green Berets, will shift from informal contacts with local informants to a more structured relationship that could involve exchanging money for information and regular meeting times and places.
"It's making friends and giving them a tip for a tip," the officer said.
Any significant information would be turned over to the CIA, which has officers and paramilitary people deployed throughout the region.
Commandos in Afghanistan are part of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force that has headquarters near Bagram air base north of Kabul, with camps near Kandahar in the south and Khost in the east.
The task force is a combined force of Army Green Berets, Delta Force and Navy SEALs, including its crack counterterrorism unit, the naval special-warfare development group that used to be known as SEAL Team Six. Foreign nations, including New Zealand and Australia, also assigned some of their best "hunters and killers" to the group.
Some units have complained they are not getting good intelligence on al Qaeda and Taliban locations from either the CIA or the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency.
Sources say the source operations approval is an attempt to improve the intelligence take.
Units are also wary of "walk-ins," locals who provide information but sometimes have an ax to grind with a rival and want the special operators to do their dirty work.
Much of the hunting for senior Taliban and al Qaeda members is being conducted by a unit called Task Force 11, composed mostly of Delta Force soldiers and SEALs.
The warriors are based at Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) which is commanded by Army Maj. Gen. Del Dailey and located at Fort Bragg, N.C., home of the Green Berets and the 82nd Airborne Division.
A 2000 U.S. Special Operations Command posture statement says JSOC is "designed to study special-operations requirements and techniques" and "plan and conduct joint special-operations exercises and training; and develop joint special-operations tactics."
Those benign-sounding words mask the command's role as headquarters for super-secret elite units, such as Delta, that specialize in quick raids and deadly tactics.
Special Operations Command is requesting a big budget increase and 9,000 personnel, in addition to the current 47,000, during the next five years to carry out what Mr. Rumsfeld says will be a long war.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide