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In the second part of this series, investigative historian Gareth Porter tells Pepe Escobar about the efforts by both the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the CIA clandestine operations not to depend on “special approvals” to launch Special Forces ops inside Pakistani territory in the hunt for Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders. Gen. David Petraeus, about to take over as head of Central Command, is firmly in favor. Although the National Intelligence Council is firmly against it, arguing these ops will dangerously destabilize the Pakistani Army and even the Pakistani government, the Bush administration has authorized US Special Forces to operate inside Pakistan even without the approval of the Pakistani government – in a dangerous escalation of the “war on terror.”

Story Transcript

PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST: Gareth, the National Intelligence Council in August recommended to President Bush that any attack on special US commandos in the Pakistani tribal areas would destabilize not only the Pakistani military but even the Pakistani government. A few weeks after that, the first of what could be many commando raids happened in Waziristan. Why? And who are the players involved? And who pushed for it to happen?

GARETH PORTER, INVESTIGATIVE HISTORIAN, MILITARY POLICY ANALYST: Well, this is the result of more than a year of lobbying by a group of military organizations in the United States, military and paramilitary organizations. First of all, you have Special Operations Command, which has become a major player in the politics of the military establishment, particularly since the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, put his imprimatur behind it. Rumsfeld hated the CIA. He wanted the Special Operations Command to really replace the CIA clandestine operations in carrying out sort of covert operations of the United States. So he increased the budget of Special Operations Command from $5 billion to $8 billion between 2003 and 2007. They are now a powerful lobbying group within the military and paramilitary establishment. They of course wanted the responsibility for going into Pakistan, and they lobbied for that, for that policy, ever since the July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on al-Qaeda, which established that there was a safe haven for al-Qaeda in northwest Pakistan. The second outfit that has been lobbying on behalf of this is the CIA’s clandestine force, the clandestine operations branch of the CIA. And they, of course, have been the ones who have done this in the past. They were the ones who went into Afghanistan first, and they’ve gotten the credit for it. And, of course, based on that credit, they wanted to do it again in Pakistan. And they used some of their allies in the media, such as David Ignatius of The Washington Post, to push for the administration to approve the broader CIA authorization for the use of clandestine operations in Pakistan. Up until last year there were very tight restrictions on what the CIA or anybody else could do within Pakistan. It required a number of approvals. A number of conditions had to be met. And both the CIA and the Special Operations Command were very frustrated by that, and both sides wanted the restrictions removed. Both sides wanted to get it for themselves. So you had both sides really pushing the high policymakers of the Bush administration to give it to them, to give them the authorization to go into Pakistan and carry out commando raids.

BASILONE: What is the role of General David Petraeus in all of this? Because he’s Central Command command [sic] starting now in September. Does he want to apply the same counterinsurgency measures that he applied in Iraq in the Pakistani tribal areas with some possible devastating consequences?

PORTER: Absolutely. David Petraeus was hoping to see the same strategy that he was putting forward in Iraq, in the Sunni region of Iraq (that is, buying off Sunni insurgents, and then giving them training and getting them, therefore, to fight al-Qaeda), to the Pakistani tribal areas. And this, very interestingly, is what the Special Operations Command proposed in their proposal to the administration in November 2007. It actually called for using cash and training with the tribesmen, particularly those which were in the force called the Frontier Corps, which is 80,000 strong, locally recruited. He wanted them to be trained and to be paid off so that they could be suborned to fight al-Qaeda. That, of course, has been turned down by the Pakistani government; they refused to do that. The other part of the SOCOM strategy, though, was of course to go in unilaterally if necessary, if possible to go in with the Pakistani military, but to go in unilaterally if necessary and use commando raids to try to target al-Qaeda. Now, the interesting thing is, of course, that SOCOM was aligning itself with Petraeus in making that proposal by suggesting that they could do what Petraeus did in Iraq. And that was a bid to try to get Petraeus’s influence behind them, because they know that he’s very influential with the White House. So I think you’re seeing there another alliance, political alliance, that could be used to try to lobby on behalf of this policy of raids against supposed al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Gareth Porter is a historian and investigative journalist on US foreign and military policy analyst. He writes regularly for Inter Press Service on US policy towards Iraq and Iran. Author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam.