The Secret US War in Pakistan
An iinvestigation conducted by The Nation has discovered a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in Karachi, at which members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives. These Blackwater activities include "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan.
According to sources within the US military intelligence apparatus, the Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes.
When the Nation sought confirmation of the story from the White House, the White House did not return calls or email messages. And, Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, "We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature."
A defense official, on background, further specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don't have any contracts to do that work for us. We don't contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services."
According to the Nation account, the Blackwater program is distinct from the CIA assassination program that CIA Director, Leon Panetta, canceled in June 2009. According to military intelligence sources, "This is a parallel operation to the CIA." . "They are two separate beasts."
The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the United States is not supposed to have any active military operations in the country.
Naturally, Blackwater denies the company is operating in Pakistan.
The use of private companies like Blackwater for sensitive operations such as drone strikes or other covert work undoubtedly comes with the benefit of plausible deniability that places an additional barrier in an already deeply flawed system of accountability. When things go wrong, it's the contractors' fault, not the government's. But the widespread use of contractors also raises serious legal questions, particularly when they are a part of lethal, covert actions. "We are using contractors for things that in the past might have been considered to be a violation of the Geneva Convention," said Lt. Col. Addicott, who now runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. "In my opinion, we have pressed the envelope to the breaking limit, and it's almost a fiction that these guys are not in offensive military operations." Addicott added, "If we were subjected to the International Criminal Court, some of these guys could easily be picked up, charged with war crimes and put on trial. That's one of the reasons we're not members of the International Criminal Court."
No wonder why relations with Pakistan are getting strained.