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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Special Forces Enter CIA Territory With a New Weapon

The Pentagon gains the power to let elite troops give millions in cash or arms to foreign fighters.

By Greg Miller, Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Moving into an area of clandestine activity that has traditionally been the domain of the CIA, the Pentagon has secured new authority that allows American special operations forces to dole out millions of dollars in cash, equipment and weapons to international warlords and foreign fighters.

Under the new policy, the U.S. Special Operations Command will have as much as $25 million a year to spend providing "support to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups or individuals" aiding U.S. efforts against terrorists and other targets. Previously, military units were prohibited from providing money or arms to foreign groups. Pentagon officials said the new capability was crucial in the war on terrorism, enabling America's elite soldiers to buy off tribal leaders or arm local militias while pursuing Al Qaeda operatives and confronting other threats.

But the idea of entrusting soldiers with a job traditionally reserved for spies has raised concerns that the program might lead to abuse. Even those who support it say they worry that it could be used to fund and arm unsavory foreign elements that might later use their U.S.-provided weapons and equipment against American interests.

"In the right circumstances, like Iraq and Afghanistan, this makes sense," said one congressional official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "In the wrong circumstances it could lead us into some pretty bad stuff."

Current and former intelligence officials noted that military units were not subject to the same requirements as the CIA, which typically must secure a presidential directive before providing aid or arms to foreign groups. They also expressed concern that the measure could be a first step toward a more aggressive encroachment on CIA turf by the secretary of Defense and the military.

"If this plugs holes to meet valid national security concerns or problems, that comes first," said Jim Pavitt, who retired in August as director of operations at the CIA.

"If it's the first step in an effort to duplicate what already exists in the [CIA's] clandestine service, I don't think we as a nation need it, and I don't think we can afford it."

The new authority is contained in a little-noticed provision in the Defense Department authorization bill that was signed by President Bush on Friday.

The changes are designed to make Special Forces units less dependent on the CIA in securing the support of — and supplying arms to — individuals and militias, including those not controlled by foreign governments.

The Pentagon had been lobbying for the changes since the aftermath of the war in Afghanistan, where the military's extensive reliance on the CIA became a source of frustration to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and special operations commanders.

Senior military officials praised the changes, saying they would strengthen the U.S. Special Operations Command — known as SOCOM — based at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.
"We think it's very significant," said one defense official involved in special operations policy. "This would improve SOCOM's ability to carry out one of its key missions: unconventional war."
The new authority is in keeping with Rumsfeld's decision nearly two years ago to give special operations forces the leading role in the military's counter-terrorism mission.

The $25 million set aside for the program is a fraction of the Pentagon's annual budget of about $450 billion. But military officials said the activities envisioned for Special Forces — the elite military units that include Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs — did not require large budgets.

"For the kind of stuff they want to do — buy AK-47s, pickup trucks, stuff like that — this is a lot of money," said retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing, the former commander in chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command. "If they can slip someone $100,000 to buy information or buy support [from foreign individuals or groups], then that would be very useful."

Several military officials said such capability would have been particularly useful in Afghanistan, where the CIA passed out an estimated $70 million in cash, equipment and arms to the
Northern Alliance and other allied groups. Special Forces could not do the same. Although CIA officers were often working alongside U.S. commando teams, there were breakdowns when the intelligence agency was not immediately on hand.

Col. Kathryn Stone, who was the senior legal advisor to commanders of the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan during the early part of the war, described one case in which a local warlord was making demands that the military couldn't meet.

The warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, had captured thousands of prisoners at Mazar-i-Sharif, and was willing to let U.S. forces screen them. In exchange, he wanted the U.S. to pay for cold-weather clothing and other gear for his soldiers, and for food for the prisoners.

When a special operations officer asked if the military could cut such a deal, "I had to tell this officer that we didn't have the fiscal authority to do that," Stone said. "I said, 'You need to go find your other government agency and see if they can help you out here.' " The term "other government agency," or OGA, commonly refers to CIA.

Stone said the Special Forces' new authority was "a great tool," but pointed to problems that had cropped up when the United States armed foreign groups in the past. American forces in Afghanistan confronted Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters who had been armed by the CIA during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, she said.

Stone warned that warlords would undoubtedly try to double dip — seeking payoffs from the CIA and Special Forces at the same time. She also questioned who would serve as referee in situations when the CIA and special operations commanders disagreed on whether a foreign fighter or irregular militia should get U.S. support.

Michael Vickers, a military analyst who served as a CIA operative and a Special Forces officer, said the new authority would fix a serious flaw in U.S. capabilities. Previously, he said, the only way to get arms to foreign groups was through the CIA or a separate, "ridiculously cumbersome" program managed by the State Department.

"If you send me in to do guerrilla warfare and you have no mechanism to give the guerrillas weapons, you've got a [flawed] system," Vickers said.

However, the history of misdeeds by the CIA, including botched attempts to assassinate foreign leaders dating back 40 years, have fueled concerns.

"The danger is when you're doing this stuff in peacetime — as the CIA does — and you get out ahead of your political masters either in the executive branch or, more importantly, in Congress," Vickers said.

A former overseas CIA officer added a further caution. "If there is a disaster, a dust-up, a whole bunch of people do something really stupid, this will come and bite somebody," he said.
Anticipating concerns, Congress included language in the bill warning that it did "not constitute authority to conduct a covert action," meaning the Pentagon could not use the money for CIA-style operations in which the U.S. sought to deny involvement.

Lawmakers also built in certain safeguards: The authority will expire in September 2007 unless Congress votes to extend it; the Pentagon's request for $50 million a year was cut in half; and the secretary of Defense is required to notify Congress within 48 hours whenever the authority is used.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Rumsfeld and CIA leaders have frequently praised the cooperation between the military and the agency. But there has also been friction between the two sides, and considerable jostling over resources and assignments.

The Pentagon set up its own intelligence analysis unit when military policymakers became frustrated with CIA assessments that they considered too cautious on Baghdad's ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Many of the Pentagon unit's claims have been disputed or discredited.

More recently, the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks recommended that responsibility for covert paramilitary operations should be taken away from the CIA and given to the Defense Department.

CIA officials have opposed the idea, arguing that the CIA's special activities division is more nimble than the military's Special Forces and is designed for covert missions in which the United States never wants to acknowledge a role.

Under Rumsfeld, the Pentagon has coveted the CIA's spying capabilities, with some officials saying that Rumsfeld would like to create his own cadre of overseas spies.

A former U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity said he had seen such ideas outlined in slides during military briefings in recent years. However, when the CIA called attention to the particular slide in the briefing, Pentagon officials downplayed it, quickly moving to the next image.

Rumsfeld's office recently drafted a directive — a copy of which was obtained by The Times — that urged expanding the military's role in intelligence gathering.

The directive called for a "transformation of Defense human intelligence capabilities to provide sustained coverage and deep penetration" in nations where the U.S. might conduct future military operations.

Another stated Pentagon goal was to "reduce the reliance" on the CIA's practice of rapidly deploying case officers to war zones like Afghanistan by developing a similar capability within the military.

Times staff writer Mark Mazzetti in Washington contributed to this report.

Interview with Yusuf Al-Qaradawi

Reform according to Islam--------- http://english.aljazeera.net/
Thursday 20 May 2004, 16:11 Makka Time, 13:11 GMT

Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi is also an author

Does reform contradict Islamic teachings?

Is Islam capable of introducing its own version of reform without the need for outside interference? What are the conditions that must be made available prior to the implementation of reforms?

Aljazeera.net put these and other questions to renowned Muslim scholar Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the head of the European Council on Fatwa and Research.
Qaradawi was born in Egypt and studied at the famous al-Azhar theological seminary in Cairo.
Also a poet and intellectual, his best known books include The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, The Tyrant and the Scholar, and Laws of the Obligatory Charity.
He is currently the dean of the sharia (Islamic law) college at Qatar University and appears regularly on Aljazeera television, in the highly influential debate and phone-in show, The Sharia and Life.

Aljazeera: How is reform defined in Islam?

Al-Qaradawi: Reform is turning the thing that is corrupt into something upright. It touches every aspect of society.
A person can be reformed, so can a society and even a whole nation. This is why as Muslims we welcome reforms."Muslims are urged to embrace reforms and to discard what is vice"
Muslims are urged to embrace reforms and to discard what is vice. In the Holy Quran, there are many narrations of God punishing nations that brought harm and vice to the world.

Aljazeera: So reform is prescribed as an antidote to corruption. Can you elaborate on this?

Al-Qaradawi: There are various kinds of corruptions which stand opposite to reform.
First there is political corruption, the deceiving of the masses to serve authority; an example would be a journalist who uses his pen to tout for a leader, or an occupier who invades a country and revamps its political structure to serve his interest.
The Quran addresses the issue of economic corruption
You also have economic corruption, a subject that the Quran has addressed as well. Those who misuse public funds for their own purposes while their people are undergoing extreme poverty are an illustration of this.
Moral corruption is another problem that must be confronted and reformed. It can extend to engulf an entire society turning it into a nepotistic, nihilist and morally loose one.
There are also other forms of corruption that would include environmental corruption, the destruction of the beautiful Earth that God has created, and so on.

Aljazeera: So, according to Islam, what is the individual Muslim's duty to combat corruption?

Qaradawi: We Muslims loathe corruption. We are urged to fight vice. This is why we should be the first to embrace reform, starting with ourselves.
We cannot possibly envisage a brighter future if we do not shake off the constraints of corruption that are damaging our societies.

Aljazeera: Is there any reform mechanism that you envision?

Qaradawi: We must be clear on this; there is a crippling feeling of disunity and paralysis that overwhelms Muslim nations.
However, it should be made equally clear that a nation is responsible for reforming itself rather than having others reform it.
"There is a crippling feeling of disunity and paralysis that overwhelms Muslim nations"
If a nation reforms itself, it will do so while keeping its own interests in mind. That is to say, an outsider is only interested in reforms that would further his own agenda.

Aljazeera: The US government has been unyielding in its insistence on implementing reforms in what it now calls the Greater Middle East Initiative. What is your view on this?

Qaradawi: First, any genuine reform should reflect the conscience of a nation, but the nation has to have a conscience to begin with.
We must ask questions, who we are? What is the mission of our civilisation? Are we intruders in this world? Do we have a message, history and value?
If we can only realise the great responsibility that has been entrusted in us and what it takes to fulfil these responsibilities, then we will become very adamant in reforming our nations. But our medicine can only be found in our pharmacy, as prescribed by our own doctors and this, I believe, is the key.

Qaradawi: 'US-envisaged reform will only serve US interests'
The US government wants us to reform ourselves. There is no doubt, however, that an US-envisaged reform will only serve US championed interests.
Is there any doubt that reforming according to the US way would guarantee us a role in the back of the caravan to always trail behind as a nation that is weak, ignorant and fragmented?
The US is seeking Muslims who only know how to say "yes", obedient, unarmed and unable to fend for themselves, whether militarily, politically or culturally.

Aljazeera: But there are those in the Arab and Muslim world who find such reforms, even if US-imposed, justifiable?

Qaradawi: Some Arab and Muslim seculars are following the US government by advocating the kind of reform that will disarm the nation from its elements of strength that are holding our people together.
They want us to embrace a culture that is not ours so that you have a Muslim man who dresses in a traditional gown but underneath the gown he is no longer an Arab.
They seek a Muslim woman who dresses, walks and talks like a westerner, with no regard to her tradition or values, all under the guise of reform and modernisation.

Aljazeera: Are we here talking about limited reform, provisional reform, or an all-encompassing change?

Qaradawi: We call for the revival of Muslim nations who should fight the crippling state we are in. Renewal for us is not only a demanding necessity, it is a religious obligation.
"Renewal for us is not only a demanding necessity, it is a religious obligation"
We are not against the revival of the nation but when we think revival we must ask ourselves in what capacity and to what end?
We can only reform the tools and strategies we use to achieve our objectives, but the objectives themselves must not be reformed.
Some of those who advocate reforms in the Muslim world want to revamp everything indiscreetly. It reminds me of a Muslim intellectual's remark: "They want us to rebuild the Kaaba using European stones."
We must be very clear on this: What we seek is for the nation to be renewed from within, to stand up on its own feet, to carry its own message and achieve its own objectives.
In short, our main goal of reform is to take the nation back to its soul, to feed it the values of virtue, not in a provisional kind of way but in the most fundamental sense.
Reforms shouldn't be a painkiller for a very sick person; you either extract the causes of the ailment altogether, or you don't.
The principles of Islam must beadhered to

Aljazeera: You often advocate that, in order for any reform initiative to be successful, a few prerequisites are imperative. What are some of these conditions?

Qaradawi: First, the principles of Islam, which have been and will always remain the core of any Muslim nation, must not be discarded.
The principles of Islam must be utilised to fulfil and serve the interests of Muslims everywhere, not imported principles forged without the interests of Muslims in mind.
Another condition is that the reform methodology should be inscribed by the Muslim scholars and people of knowledge, who correspond to the pain and needs of their people, not other considerations.
A third is that reform has to be implemented with the will of the people and by the people themselves, because it is them, in the final analysis, who covet reform and have to be satisfied with it once implemented and live up to its demands and responsibilities.
We want reform to start from the people, not to impose reforms on them.
The public must be educatedregarding their rights
This is why we must educate the public about their rights, make the people more aware of their responsibilities and convince them that they and only they have the right to choose, monitor and reprimand their leaders.
A fourth condition is that, as I stated earlier, reforms must come from within, must reflect the people's consciences and correspond to their needs.
A final condition is the need for gradualism while implementing reforms.
God has created the world in six periods. He could have done it in a moment, but he wanted to teach us a lesson of patience and gradualism. Muslims are just as capable of carrying this great message of humanity to the world.
They are equipped with the holy book, the teachings of the prophets and the urgent attention their plight demands.