Strategic Planner and Technology Integration Adviser, Joint Information Operations Warfare Command. He diverted money from an official budget to pay private contractors for identifying targets for assassination.

General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, is worried: the Special Operations Forces are "responsible for a large number of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan and operate by their own rules" [1].

One of the latest uncovered incidents took place in a village in Paktia Province, where a squad of Special Operations Forces (without uniform) raided a house late at night looking for two Taliban suspects. They didn’t find them, and instead killed a local police chief and a district prosecutor. Three women who came to their aid were also killed. According to several witnesses, the women were discovered bound and gagged, showing signs of slashing wounds from a knife.

But none of this is new to McChrystal: from 2003 to 2008, he was Commander, Joint Special Operations Command. According to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (Pulitzer Prize), he headed an assassination unit, called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), that reported to Cheney and which operated especially in Iraq and Afghanistan [2]. In his current functions, however, McChrystal seeks to place the Special Forces under tighter control in order to "reduce the number of civial casualties" and, consequently, the rising level of "anti-American feelings" among the population.

But it’s not that simple. Under the official cover of military operations, a secret war is unfolding in Afghanistan in which the CIA plays an increasingly important role. A ring of small bases has been set up, used by CIA agents to track and kill insurgent militants. Intelligence is often gathered and passed on by "independent contractors" working for the Pentagon and various other agencies. They constitute a true "shadow army", 100’000-men strong, in charge of multiple tasks.

The existence of the secret operations came to light when the New York Times [3] reported on Michael Furlong, a former official currently a civilian Pentagon employee, who diverted tens of millions of dollars from a programme officially designed to merely collect information about certain tribal regions to set up a secret network of private contractors to hunt down "suspected militants" in the Pakistan border region for elimination. Two private agencies were enlisted in this operation: International Media Ventures, run by several former Special Operations officers, which is in charge of "strategic communication and media campaigns" on behalf of the Pentagon; and American International Security Corporation, also run by former military and secret agents, which "provides security" to governments, agencies and multinational corporations.

The number of "suspected militants" killed on the basis of the intelligence provided by the two agencies is not known, nor is the mode of payment (fixed rate or by the piece). What is even less known is whether, in a bid to increase their earnings, these agencies fingered some poor shepherds as dangerous Taliban chiefs to be killed by Special Forces or, in a more sanitized fashion, by a missile fired from a drone, comfortably operated with a joystick from a base in the United States.

Il Manifesto (Italy)

[1«U.S. Is Reining In Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan », by Richard Oppel and Rod Nordland, The New York Times, 16 March 2010.

[2Statement by Seymour Hersh during a conference at Minnesota University on 10 March 2009. See also:« ’You can’t authorise murder’ : Hersh », Seymour Hersh interview by Abbas Al Lawati, Gulf News, 12 May 2009.

[3«Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants», by Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times, 14 mars 2010.