Tags: Afghanistan | CIA | jihadists

Daily Beast: Jihadists Bide Time as CIA Dismantles Afghan Force

By    |   Tuesday, 06 May 2014 05:50 PM

The CIA is dismantling key anti-terrorist units in Afghanistan, raising alarm about the creation of a huge security hole that al-Qaida and the Taliban will fill, U.S. and Afghan military commanders tell The Daily Beast.

The loss of these forces in the southern and eastern regions of the country could also damage U.S. counterterrorism and anti-nuclear proliferation efforts in neighboring Pakistan, which depends on American forces in Afghanistan for logistical support, Obama administration officials have said. 

The commanders paint a bleak picture of what may lie ahead in Afghanistan, saying Afghan forces are stretched too thinly to replace local CIA paramilitary soldiers being let go by Washington.

The loss of the paramilitary soldiers – among them some of the best Afghan fighters on Kabul's side – could be a major blow to the Western-backed government's effort to survive.

U.S. and Afghan officials want to prevent a scenario in which government forces are weakened, setting the stage for an upsurge in suicide bombings and other mass-casualty attacks targeting American and Afghan personnel at the very time President Obama is deciding on the extent of Washington’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan.

Senior U.S. officials said the potential dismantling of the CIA-backed forces there has also troubled lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who had assumed they would remain in the fight against the militants  after U.S. troops pulled out.

But CIA officials say that, with the U.S. military shutting down bases across Afghanistan, the intelligence agency’s “footprint” there has to shrink. The thinking is that failure to take this step  could result in a “Benghazi-type scenario” in which the U.S. troop presence remaining in the country is inadequate to provide logistical support and protection  especially for forces operating from remote bases in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

The CIA started recruiting and training these Afghan paramilitary groups in 2001, shortly before U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan following 9/11. These elite Afghan teams have built an impressive reputation for their work in targeting terrorist suspects.

The forces that may now be in budgetary jeopardy include 750 members of the Counterterrorist Pursuit Teams in the Kunar region – long a hotbed of al-Qaida activity – and the entire Khost Protection Force, which has 3,500 members.

The Khost fighters have helped patrol the jihadist-heavy region along the border with Pakistan’s infamous Waziristan province, an area heavily populated by the Taliban and the Haqqani Network and a frequent target of CIA drone strikes.

In January, Obama administration officials expressed concern that a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan would cost the American military airbases needed for drone strikes against al-Qaida and for responding to a crisis involving Pakistan’s troubled nuclear program.

President Obama has expressed support for keeping about 10,000 troops (most of them American) in Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal, but Washington and Kabul have not agreed on a future force level.

The Khost and Kunar-based units “are instrumental in blocking the Haqqani/al Qaeda mix that are responsible for spectacular attacks,” one senior U.S. military official told The Daily Beast’s Kimberly Dozier. “It’s not clear what will happen to either unit; there is no plan so far to absorb them.”

Khost province is also the site of one of the most catastrophic attacks in CIA history, when an al-Qaida double agent blew himself up at Forward Operating Base Chapman on Dec. 30, 2009, killing seven CIA employees involved in anti-terror operations there and wounding six more.

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The CIA is dismantling key anti-terrorist units in Afghanistan, raising alarm about the creation of a huge security hole that al-Qaida and the Taliban will fill, U.S. and Afghan military commanders tell The Daily Beast.
Afghanistan, CIA, jihadists
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2014-50-06
Tuesday, 06 May 2014 05:50 PM
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