Afghan men walk past by US soldiers in Ghazni province on February 2, 2012 (AFP Photo / Aref Yaqubi)
The Pentagon is reportedly deliberating over putting elite troops and Special Forces in Afghanistan under CIA control. The move would reduce official US presence with a view to meeting Obama’s promise of total withdrawal from the country by 2014.
Top US military sources told Agence France-Presse that the idea had been circulated by senior defense intelligence as a way to reduce US presence in Afghanistan before the 2014 deadline.
It is one of several initiatives currently under discussion in the Pentagon, according to AFP sources. The proposals have not yet been presented to US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
Washington has denied the existence of such a proposal, with Pentagon spokesperson George Little calling the claims “simply wrong.”
If the plan were to go ahead, Washington would be able to say it had no soldiers on the ground, as putting troops under CIA control would re-classify them as spies. As such the US could legitimately maintain its military presence in the war-torn country.
Moreover, the US government would not be obliged to inform the American public over funding or military operations of CIA-controlled troops. Administration would fall to the White House, with top intelligence officials effectively turning it into a covert operation.
In order to be approved, the plan would have to pass through the White House, congressional oversight committees and the Afghan government.
Special Forces under the guise of the CIA were used last year in the operation to raid Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.
US forces currently stationed in Afghanistan work in tandem with local security forces, training Afghan troops and conducting raids on Al-Qaeda stronghold areas. The Obama administration had promised a complete withdrawal of US presence from the country by 2014, and is currently implementing a gradual handover of security to Afghan hands.
The deteriorating relationship between the two cooperating forces has recently been marred by reports of US troops burning Korans. Over 30 people died, including several Western soldiers, in the ensuing protests across the country.