Securing the nation and implementing foreign policy
The lines tend to blur these days when you consider securing the nation and implementing foreign policy. It has always been so, though events tend to place more or less emphasis on these different elements along the course of history.
I bring the subject to the forefront promoted by stories about America’s paramilitary engagements in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and basically wherever we are chasing terrorists, and maybe even drug cartels.
The USA is engaged in peacekeeping, peace building, nation building, and warfighting all over the world. Each of these activities depend upon economic investment and force deployments at varying levels determined by the desired outcome and constrained by our capacity to engage.
I have written before that the Department of Defense is home to military services each with its own brand of warfighting. Within each military service are subdivisions that include transportation, air, logistics and specialties of a variety. External to the DOD is the Department of Homeland Security that includes the US Coast Guard and many divisions that have law enforcement responsibilities. Then, there is the Department of State that has various economic development activities and it depends on military services for protection. The Central Intelligence Agency that reports to the President via the Director of National Intelligence and it has a paramilitary branch.
“Who oversees the CIA? Does it act on its own initiative?
Both the Congress and the Executive Branch oversee the Central Intelligence Agency’s activities. In addition, the CIA is responsible to the American people through their elected representatives, and, like other government agencies, acts in accordance with US laws and executive orders. In the Executive Branch, the National Security Council—including the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense—provides guidance and direction for national foreign intelligence and counterintelligence activities. In Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as other committees, closely monitor the Agency’s reporting and programs. The CIA is not a policy-making organization; it advises policymakers on matters of foreign intelligence, and it conducts covert actions only at the direction of the President.”
Paramilitary refers to a group of civilians organized to function like or to assist a military unit, i.e., gathering intelligence. One definition says "'Paramilitary groups' are bodies which act together with the military institution but which at the same time exercise irregular action, deviated, deformed, from the military." A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military force, but which is not regarded as having the same status.
At a time when the US Government needs to be as efficient and effective as possible, and to control costs, should not the Executive and Congress be seeking to reduce redundancy? Every military service has intelligence gathering capability and deploys UAV’s for instance. The US Navy has the Seals akin to the US Army Green Beret. Is not the CIA paramilitary performing the same type of work as these two military units? If warfighting is needed, why is the Government not working through Congress and the President through proper channels and process to deploy it? Even this can be done in secrecy, though the concern is about duplication of effort.
What about the duplication of capabilities among military services? Is this cost effective?
“Paramilitary force is key for CIA
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 23, 2010
On an Afghan ridge 7,800 feet above sea level, about four miles from Pakistan, stands a mud-brick fortress nicknamed the Alamo. It is officially dubbed Firebase Lilley, and it is a nerve center in the covert war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
The CIA has relied on Lilley, part of a constellation of agency bases across Afghanistan, as a hub to train and deploy a well-armed 3,000-member Afghan paramilitary force collectively known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams. In addition to being used for surveillance, raids and combat operations in Afghanistan, the teams are crucial to the United States' secret war in Pakistan, according to current and former U.S. officials.
The existence of the teams is disclosed in "Obama's Wars," a forthcoming book by longtime Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward. But, more broadly, interviews with sources familiar with the CIA's operations, as well as a review of the database of 76,000 classified U.S. military field reports posted last month by the Web site WikiLeaks, reveal an agency that has a significantly larger covert paramilitary presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan than previously known.
The operations are particularly sensitive in Pakistan, a refuge for senior Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders where U.S. units are officially prohibited from conducting missions.
The WikiLeaks reports, which cover the escalation of the Afghan insurgency from 2004 until the end of 2009, include many descriptions of the activities of the "OGA" and "Afghan OGA" forces. OGA, which stands for "other government agency," is generally used as a reference to the CIA.
In clipped and coded language, the field logs provide glimpses into the kinds of operations undertaken by the CIA and its Afghan paramilitary units along the Pakistani border. In addition to accounts of snatch-and-grab operations targeting insurgent leaders, the logs contain casualtyreports from battles with the Taliban, summaries of electronic intercepts of enemy communications and hints of the heavy firepower at the CIA's disposal.
The CIA declined to comment on the Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams. A Pakistani official said the government will not comment on Woodward's book until after it is released.
A U.S. official familiar with the operations, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described the teams as "one of the best Afghan fighting forces," adding that they have made "major contributions to stability and security."
The official said that the teams' primary mission is to improve security in Afghanistan and that they do not engage in "lethal action" when crossing into Pakistan. Their cross-border missions are "designed exclusively for intelligence collection," the official said.
In addition to Firebase Lilley, in Paktika province, the WikiLeaks logs reveal the existence of an "OGA compound"at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E, another U.S. military installation in Paktika.
The field reports show that casualties are common for Afghan paramilitary forces training and operating there.
On Oct. 6, 2009, for example, an "OGA-trained" fighter was ambushed near Orgun-E while off duty, according to one log; he was treated on the base for gunshot wounds to the face, lower leg and hand.”
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Arlington, Virginia, United States