Elite operations troops could be placed under CIA control after the 2014 pullout. PHOTO: REUTERS/ FILE
Officials in the Pentagon are discussing the possibility of putting elite special operations troops under CIA control in Afghanistan after the 2014 pullout, the Associated Press reported on Saturday.
Once SEALS, Rangers, and other elite unites are assigned to CIA control they are considered to be spies.
Under the plan, therefore, the US could technically claim there are no more troops on the ground in Afghanistan.
The idea was presented by senior defence intelligence officials and comes as US defence chiefs are trying to figure out ways to meet the White House’s promised pullout deadline of 2014.
The Pentagon has already put forward a plan to hand over the fighting to special-operations. The current idea being floated around would take that plan even further, and shrink US presence to less than 20,000 troops after 2014 according to multiple US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Sources added though that the plan has not yet been presented to US secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the White House or Congress.
Pentagon spokesperson, George Little, however, denied any discussion is taking place on the matter.
“Any suggestion that such a plan exists is simply wrong,” he said on Saturday.
Reducing troop presence faster in Afghanistan, albeit cosmetically, could prove to be advantageous for both the White House and the Afghan government, given raw Afghan sentiment over recent incidents ranging from civilian casualties to the burning of the Holy Quran at a military base.
The plan is not novel, nor without glitches. Elite-special operations units have been assigned to the CIA for missions where the US wants total deniability and works without the local government’s permission.
This included the Abbottabad raid of Osama bin Laden’s house in Pakistan.
A CIA run war would also mean the US public would not be informed about funding or operations.
Oversight of the war would be in the hands of intelligence officials, the White House and a few congressional committees.
Meanwhile, senior special operations commanders also like to keep their troops under legal parameters.
If troops were captured while working with the CIA, they would be treated like spies, and not protected by the Geneva Conventions, which govern the treatment of prisoners of war.
Published in The Express Tribune