On the morning
of Dec. 30, 2009, I listened in disbelief as an NPR "terrorism"
expert disingenuously explained how the suicide bombing that killed
seven CIA employees in Afghanistan was especially hideous, because
the CIA victims were spreading economic development and democracy
through a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).
Lou Panetta issued a statement saying, "Those who fell yesterday
were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that
must be done to protect our country from terrorism.” President Obama
likewise glorified the CIA officers, calling them “part of a long
line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow
citizens, and for our way of life.”
On New Year's
Day, Washington Post staff writers Joby Warrick and Pamela
Constable began to fill in some of the blanks that the initial propaganda
had ignored. Warrick and Constable reported that the seven CIA officers
were "at the heart of a covert program overseeing strikes by
the agency’s remote-controlled aircraft along the Afghanistan-Pakistan
In the past
year, those strikes have killed more than 300 people (perhaps as
many as 700) who are invariably described by the U.S. news media
as suspected insurgents, or militants, or terrorists, or jihadists
— or as collateral damage, people killed by accident. There is never
any distinction made between Afghan nationalists fighting the U.S.
occupation of their country and real terrorists who have inflicted
intentional violence against civilians to achieve a political objective
(the classic definition of terrorism).
U.S. news media describes the Dec. 30 attack on the CIA officers
as "terrorism," although it doesn't fit the definition
since the CIA officers were engaged in military operations and thus
represented a legitimate target under the law of war, certainly
as much so as Taliban commanders far from the front lines.
One such commander,
Jalaluddin Haggani, was said to have ordered the suicide attack
from his base in North Waziristan in retaliation for drone strikes
on his forces. Haggani, a former CIA ally during the Soviet occupation
of Afghanistan, also has close ties to Pakistani intelligence. Curiously,
the bomb used in the suicide attack has been linked to the Pakistani
intelligence service. It is unclear, however, if Haggani arranged
for the bomb to be delivered to suicide bomber Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal
al-Balawi, the Jordanian agent whom the CIA summoned in the belief
that he had information as to the whereabouts of a top Al Qaeda
What is clear
is that Al-Balawi sacrificed his life to help to drive Americans
from Islamic nations like Afghanistan, where they cause so much
death and misery. The mainstream media describes people like Al-Balawi
as irrational "jihadists" with no appreciation for the
fact that Americans are merely "defending" their "interests"
in the region.
In the broadest
sense, Al-Balawi's suicide attack was retaliation for the murder
of thousands of innocent Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, including
ten civilians in Ghazi Khan Village in Narang district of the
eastern Afghan province of Kunar. The ten civilians were executed
during a midnight raid on Dec 27 by what NATO called "non-military"
(meaning CIA) American commandos.
often Green Berets and Navy SEALs hired into the CIA's Special Activities
Division, do not wear uniforms in violation of international rules
of land warfare. Instead they grow long beards and wear traditional
Afghan garb and appear to be civilians. During the post-9/11 "global
war on terror," these teams have engaged in widespread kidnappings
are America's Einsatzgruppen, the notorious Nazi death squads that
hunted and terrorized partisans in the Russian countryside in World
War Two. Other CIA commandos function like the Gestapo, terrorizing
the resistance cells in urban areas. In both cases, their mission
is to terrorize the civilian population into submission.
initially labeled the ten victims in Ghazi Khan as "insurgents"
belonging to a "terrorist" cell that manufactured improvised
explosive devices used to kill occupation troops and civilians.
But later reports from Afghan government investigators and townspeople
identified the dead as civilians, including eight students, aged
11 to 17, enrolled in local schools. All but one of the dead came
from the same family.
Dec. 31 article published by the Times of London, the
CIA death squad flew by helicopter from Kabul, landing about two
kilometers from the village. The commandos snuck up to the residence,
taking the inhabitants by surprise as they slept. The commandos
entered the first room and shot two of their victims — a guest and
a student — then entered the second room and handcuffed seven other
students, whom they executed in cold blood. When the farmer with
whom the students were staying heard the shooting and came outside,
the commandos killed him too.
the killings erupted throughout Kunar Province, where the deaths
occurred, as well as in Kabul. Hundreds of protesters demanded that
American occupation forces leave the country, and that the murderers
be brought to justice.
A NATO spokesman
claimed there was "no direct evidence to substantiate"
the claims of premeditated murder. And yet, the record of American
forces engaging the first degree murder of unarmed people in Afghanistan
and Iraq is a long one, with testimony about premeditated executions
even emerging in U.S. military disciplinary hearings.
of "unilateral" (done without informing any Afghan nationals)
CIA "covert actions" are increasing in frequency with
Obama's surge of 30,000 additional U.S. troops into Afghanistan.
Of course, this ratcheting up of the cycle of violence will only
incite more and more revenge killings. Indeed, the CIA immediately
vowed to avenge the murder of its colleagues. Typically, a public
statement of revenge such as this is an invocation of the notorious
100-to-one rule employed by the Nazis: anytime the partisans killed
a member of the Gestapo or Einsatzgruppen, the Nazis killed 100
innocent civilians as punishment.
In the meantime,
the surviving CIA personnel at Forward Operating Base Chapman have
barricaded themselves inside their compound and are grilling the
Afghan employees who were on duty at the time of the Dec. 30 bomb
attack. Afghans who worked with the CIA on the outside are locked
elevated status and class prerogatives, CIA officers do not perform
menial tasks, and every chauffeur, maid, and vendor will now be
seen as a potential "double agent." This apprehension
will spread (as the suicide bomber and his masters intended) from
the bottom to the top: Afghan officials in the US-backed government
knew little about unilateral CIA operations at FOW Chapman to begin
with, but now, as mutual mistrust reaches unprecedented levels,
they will have less input and the war will enter a bloodier phase
reminiscent of the pacification of Iraq.
of Terrorism — Provincial Reconstruction Teams
of the past week are instructive in explaining how CIA covert operations
are conducted in concert with the U.S. news media.
were aware that FOB Chapman was a CIA base camp. The local Afghans,
however, were well aware of this fact. They also knew that the CIA
used the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) based at Chapman as
a means of gathering — from informants, secret agents, and field
interrogations — intelligence upon which to coordinate super-sophisticated
drone attacks and crude paramilitary operations.
Afghan and US forces, the PRTs have been a foundation stone of the
CIA's secret government in Afghanistan since they were instituted
in 2002 under the imprimatur of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzadin. As
with all the entities the CIA has created in Afghanistan, the PRTs
are entirely funded by the CIA, and staffed with collaborators under
the suicide bombing has cast doubt on the integrity of the intelligence
the PRTs produce for the CIA. Agents of the resistance have infiltrated
the program and the PRTs are certainly going through an internal
review. But they will not be abandoned, and so it is instructive
to know how they are organized and how they operate.
The PRTs provide
CIA agents — usually Afghans working in the PRTs — with a covert
way to recruit and meet sub-agents (informants) in the field. CIA
"officers" run "agents" in the field and these
Afghan agents in turn run "sub-agents" — people in villages
like Ghazi who spy on other people in the villages.
The CIA managers
of the PRTs also rely on interpreters, as well as Afghan "counter-parts"
in the secret police and military to determine if the intelligence
given about "suspects" in a particular village is reliable.
This leap of faith carries considerable risk. If a sub-agent in
a village or an agent in the PRT is a double, a CIA death squad
can easily be misdirected against innocent civilians. Likewise,
a drone strike could be directed against an enemy of Jalaluddin
Haggani's within the resistance.
The PRT "counter-terror"
mission is to identify members of the resistance. The sub-agent
tells the PRT agent where the suspect lives in the village, how
many people are in his house, where they sleep, and when they enter
and leave the house. He also provides a picture, if possible. Other
times a PRT agent will attempt to blackmail the suspect into becoming
an informant, if there is reason to believe that is possible.
The PRT also
has a "foreign intelligence" mission, which involves collecting
intelligence on Taliban leaders and their Al Qaeda contacts in foreign
nations, like Pakistan.
al Qaeda and the Afghan resistance are aware of the CIA's activities,
and this fact casts suspicion on the CIA's interpreters and counter-parts
in the Afghan police and military. All of this puts increasing pressure
on the CIA to separate itself entirely from the untrustworthy, ungrateful
Afghans it has come to liberate.
The CIA's Provincial
Reconstruction Teams are at the center of this dilemma. Although
it bills the PRTs as a means of spreading economic development and
democracy, the CIA is not a social welfare program: its job is gathering
intelligence and using it to capture, kill or turn the enemy into
agents. The PRTs are a means to achieve these goals — but only as
long as the CIA can plausibly deny that it does so. Thus, the two
main purposes of PRTs are 1) maintaining the fiction that the US
is a force for positive change and 2) providing the CIA with cover
for its dirty business.
As the CIA
tightens its security measures, and as the Obama administration
moves to reactivate some of the most brutal and corrupt warlords
who fought the Soviets in the 1980s, the PRTs and their "community
defense forces" will become increasingly reliant on criminals
and sociopaths — agents who have no compunctions about pursuing
unilateral CIA policies and goals that are antithetical to Afghanistan's
national interests. And that spells trouble for the CIA.
of PRTs in Vietnam
Much of this
bloody strategy was tested during the Vietnam War. In the early
1960s in South Vietnam, the CIA's Covert Action Branch developed
the programs that would, in 1965, be grouped within its Revolutionary
Development Cadre program. The standard Revolutionary Development
Team was composed of North Vietnamese defectors and South Vietnamese
collaborators advised by U.S. military and civilian personnel under
the management of the CIA.
model, known as a Political Action Team, was developed by CIA officer
Frank Scotton. The original PAT consisted of 40 men: as Scotton
told me, "That’s three teams of twelve men each, strictly armed.
The control element was four men: a commander and his deputy, a
morale officer, and a radioman."
are commando teams,” Scotton stressed, “displacement teams. The
idea was to go into contested areas and spend a few nights. But
it was a local responsibility so they had to do it on their own.”
split out of this,” Scotton added. First was pacification. Second
was counter-terror. As Scotton noted, "The PRU thing directly
evolves from this.”
The PRU, for
Provincial Reconnaissance Unit, was the name given in 1966 to the
CIA's "counter-terror" teams, which had generated a ton
of negative publicity in 1965 when Ohio Sen. Stephen Young charged
that they disguised themselves as Vietcong and discredited the Communists
by committing atrocities, including murder, rape and mutilation.
like Mark Moyar, a professor of national security affairs at the
Marine Corps University, advocate for the expansion of PRU-style
counter-terror teams in Afghanistan. [See Consortiumnews.com's "A
Bad Vietnam Lesson for Afghanistan."]
a crucial element of this "political action" strategy,
and to this end Scotton developed a "motivational indoctrination"
program, which is certainly used today in some form in Afghanistan
and Iraq. Scotton's motivational indoctrination program was modeled
on Communist techniques, and the process began on a confessional
first day,” according to Scotton, “everyone would fill out a form
and write an essay on why they had joined.” The team's morale officer
“would study their answers and explain the next day why they were
involved in a special unit. The instructors would lead
them to stand up and talk about themselves.” The morale officer’s
job, he said, “was to keep people honest and have them admit mistakes.”
Not only did
Scotton co-opt Communist motivational techniques, but he also relied
on Communist defectors as his cadre. “They could communicate doctrine,
and they were people who would shoot,” he explained, adding, “It
wasn’t necessary for everyone in the unit to be ex-Vietminh, just
Vietnamese officer in charge of Scotton’s PAT program, Major Nguyen
Be, had been party secretary for the Ninth Vietcong Battalion before
In 1965, Scotton
was transferred to another job, and Major Be, with his new CIA advisor,
Harry "The Hat" Monk, combined CIA “mobile” Census Grievance
cadre, PATs, and Counter-Terror Teams into the standard 59-man Revolutionary
Development (RD) team.
Teams were the primary way RD agents contacted sub-agents in the
villages — by setting up a portable shack in which civilians could
privately complain about the government. The PRTs very likely have
this Census Grievance element in their intelligence unit.
59-man Revolutionary Development teams were called Purple People
Eaters by American soldiers, in reference to their clothes and terror
tactics. To the rural Vietnamese, the RD teams were simply “idiot
the RD Cadre Program was officially launched and teams were sent
across South Vietnam. With standardization and expansion came the
need for more advisers, so Thomas Donohue, the CIA officer in charge
of Covert Action in South Vietnam, began recruiting military men.
Most came from US Special Forces, though the regular army, navy
and marines also provide support personnel as "detailees"
to the CIA.
“We got to
the point,” Donohue told me, “where the CIA was running a political
program in a sovereign country where they didn’t know what the hell
we were teaching. But what kind of program could it be that had
only one sponsor, the CIA, that says it was doing good? It had to
be sinister. Any red-blooded American could understand that. What
the hell is the CIA doing running a program on political action?
“So I went
out to try to get some cosponsors for the record. They weren’t easy
to come by. I went to [USIS chief] Barry Zorthian. I said, `Barry,
how about giving us someone?’ I talked to MACV about getting an
officer assigned. I had AID give me a guy.”
But all of
it, Donohue said, “was window dressing. We [the CIA] had the funds;
we had the logistics; we had the transportation.”
The same can
undoubtedly be said for the PRTs in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The CIA's RD
Cadre program in Vietnam has been cloned into the Provincial Reconstruction
Teams in Afghanistan and Iraq. The PRT program started in Afghanistan
in 2002 and migrated to Iraq in 2004.
of anywhere between 50 and 100 civilian and military specialists.
The standard PRT has a military police unit, a psychological operations
unit, an explosive ordinance-demining unit, an intelligence team,
medics, a force protection unit, and administrative and support
teams in South Vietnam, they conduct terror, political, and psychological
operations, under cover of fostering economic development and democracy.
Long ago the American people grew weary of the heavily censored
but universally bad news they got about Iraq, and are now quiet
happy to believe that PRTs have put Iraq back on its feet. Americans
are quite happy to forget about the devastation they wrought.
But few Iraqis
are fooled by the "war as economic development" shell
game, or by the deceitful standards the US government uses to measure
the success of its PRT program.
In his correspondence
with reporter Dahr Jamail, one Iraqi political analyst from Fallujah
(a neighborhood that was destroyed in order to save it) put
it succinctly when he said: "In a country that used to
feed much of Arab world, starvation is the norm."
another of Jamail's correspondents, Iraqis "are largely mute
witnesses. Americans may argue among themselves about just how much
“success” or “progress” there really is in post-surge Iraq, but
it is almost invariably an argument in which Iraqis are but stick
figures — or dead bodies."
In a publication
titled "Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience,"
the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction describes
its mission as the largest overseas rebuilding effort in U.S. history.
In some places
in Iraq unemployment is at 40–60 percent. Repairing war damage was
the policy goal, but little connection was made between how the
rebuilding would – or even could – bring about a democratic
transition. As in Iraq, the PRTs in Afghanistan are a gimmick to
make Americans feel good about the oppressive occupations conducted
for their benefit. The supposed successes of the PRTs are cloaked
in double-speak and meaningless statistics.
achieving statistical progress is not hard in nations whose infrastructures
were destroyed by invasion and occupation, and where entire neighborhoods
have been leveled in the name of security. The hard truth is that
the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq always have been less about
combating Islamic "terrorism" and "protecting the
homeland" than about projecting the dark side of the American
the People from the Knowledge of CIA Terrorism
Americans from any knowledge of the horror their government inflicts,
is the job of the mainstream media. Its propagandists will not tell
you that the CIA has a policy of targeting civilians for recruitment
as agents and informants, or that it intentionally detains, without
charge, and interrogates civilians as a means of coercing information
from them about the Islamic resistance to American aggression. Civilians
are knowingly killed and maimed in drone attacks, as well as raids
by CIA commandos, as a means of terrorizing the people from associating
in any way with the resistance.
It is the job
of mainstream propagandists to disguise this policy and characterize
these civilians as either members of the enemy infrastructure, or
jihadists, and thus legitimate military targets.
you will not read about is the accommodation that normally exists
between the opposing elites in any war. This accommodation exists
in the twilight zone between reality and imagination, in the fog
of war. It is why officers are separated from enlisted men in POW
camps and given better treatment. It is why officers of opposing
armies have more in common with one another than they have with
their own enlisted men.
trained to think of the lower ranks as canon fodder. Officers know
when they send a unit up a hill, some men will be killed. That is
why they do not fraternize with the lower ranks. This class distinction
exists across the world, and is the basis of the accommodation.
It is why the Bush family flew the bin Laden family, and other Saudi
Royals, out of the United States in the days after 9-11. If anyone
was a case officer to the 9-11 bombers, or had knowledge about the
bombers or any follow-up plots, it was these "protected"
too are among the Protected Few. Blessed with false identities and
bodyguards, they fly in private planes, live in villas, eat fancy
food and enjoy state-of-the-art technology. CIA officers tell army
generals what to do. They direct Congressional committees. They
assassinate heads of state and innocent children with equal impunity
they manage the drug trade from their hammocks in the shade. They
know the Taliban tax the farmers growing the opium, and they know
that Karzai's warlords convert the opium into heroin and fly it
to the Russian mob. They are amused by the antics of earnest DEA
agents, who, in their patriotic bliss, cannot believe such an accommodation
are trained to exist in this moral netherworld, for the simple reason
that the CIA in every conflict has a paramount need to keep secure
communication channels open to the enemy. The CIA, as part of its
mandate, is authorized to negotiate with the enemy, but it can only
do so as long as the channel is secure and deniable. The mainstream
media makes sure that no proof will ever exist, so the American
public can be deceived.
But every once
in a while, something disrupts the accommodation. Take Iran Contra,
when President Reagan publicly vowed never to negotiate with terrorists,
then secretly sent a team of spies to Tehran to sell missiles to
the Iranians and use the money to buy guns for the drug dealing
There are stated
and unstated policies, and the CIA exists to pursue the government's
unstated policy. And without an accommodation in Afghanistan, the
CIA would not have a secure channel to the resistance to negotiate
on simple matters like prisoner exchanges.
of British journalist Peter Moore for an Iraqi in CIA custody is
an example of how the accommodation works in Iraq. Moore was held
by a Shia group allegedly allied to Iran, and his freedom depended
entirely on the CIA communicating secretly and in good faith with
America's enemies in the Iraq resistance. The details of such prisoner
exchanges are never revealed by complicit assets in thee media,
but the same channels of communication are used to discuss issues
of strategic importance vital to any eventual reconciliation.
want reconciliation. Apart from US policy, Karzai and his clique
at every level have filial relations with the resistance. And no
matter how powerful the CIA and its doppelgangers in al Qaeda are,
they cannot overcome that.
Ed Brady, an
Army officer detailed to the CIA in Saigon in 1967 and 1968, explains
how the accommodation worked in Vietnam.
and his Vietnamese counterpart Colonel Tan were lunching at a restaurant
in Dalat, Tan pointed at a woman eating noodle soup and drinking
Vietnamese coffee at the table next to them. He told Brady that
she was the Viet Cong province chief's wife. Brady, of course, wanted
to grab her and use her for bait.
Tan said to him: "You don't understand. You don't live the
way we live. You don't have any family here. You're going to go
home when this operation is over. You don't think like you're going
to live here forever. But I have a home and a family and kids that
go to school. I have a wife that has to go to market…. And you want
me to go kill his wife? You want me to set a trap for him and kill
him when he comes in to see his wife? If we do that, what are they
going to do to our wives?"
didn't run targeted operations against them either," Brady
explains. "There were set rules that you played by. If you
went out and conducted a military operation and you chased them
down fair and square in the jungle and you had a fight, that was
okay. If they ambushed you on the way back from a military operation,
that was fair. But to conduct these clandestine police operations
and really get at the heart of things, that was kind of immoral
to them. That was not cricket. And the Vietnamese were very, very
leery of upsetting that."
The CIA relies
on such clandestine operations in Afghanistan, but only among working
and middle class families, in an effort to rip apart the fabric
of Afghan society, until the Afghan people accept American domination,
through its ruling class. And that, ultimately, is why CIA officers
were targeted. It has played a double game, violating the accommodation
on the one hand, and exploiting it on the other.
The CIA is
utterly predictable. As programmed, it will go on a killing spree
until its vengeance is satisfied. But at the end of the day, the
Afghan people will only hate the Americans more. And that spells
defeat for the CIA and America.
Valentine [send him mail]
the author of four previously published books: The Hotel Tacloban
(Lawrence Hill, 1984), The
Phoenix Program, (William Morrow, 1990), TDY
(iUniverse.com, 2000), and The
Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America's War on Drugs
(Verso, 2004). His latest book is The
Strength of the Pack (TrineDay, 2009). For more information
about the author and his works, please visit his websites at www.douglasvalentine.com