I just re-discovered this (and my responses to it), but this article shows how really difficult it is to keep secrets in Pakistan from people who well and truly want to find out about them. Jeremy Scahill is one such person, and he lays out the Pakistani domestic support structure for Blackwater`s operations in Pakistan. Strangely (but understandably) it consists of Pakistani businessmen, provincially relevant politicians from Sindh, Balochistan and NWFP, and Pakistan`s civilian agencies. Guess who`s missing from this picture? The army. That 800 pound gorilla is not there possibly because either Blackwater (and the [ex?] SOCOM people it consists of) would demand a steel iron command chain. Simultaneously the Pakistan Army is insane about it's own internal command chain. So if you had two stubborn psychos working with each other, someone would get broken. Either the Pakistan Army would get bent Blackwater's will, or Blackwater would have it's own objectives undermined and compromised by the Pakistan military. Anyway, here's the article on Blackwater ops in Pakistan, and here are my responses to it:
I would like to point out five things:
1) The low hundreds of people who would know about Blackwater are located in Pakistan. Scahill is operating in the US and thus he can only access American sources, of which there could only be scores. Of those scores of senior officer types and veteran NCO Americans, maybe he could only tease this out of a few (i.e, three)
2) Scahill will/might have difficulty now operating in Pakistan to get access to the hundreds of Pakistani sources because he might be stepping on a few toes too many with this article. Which brings me to...
3) Could there be a deeper analysis of the character of this Liaquat Ali Beg who owns/runs Kestral. I googled him and all I got was this strange videmo video of him on some Quran TV type channel. Might this man seriously be a relation of former COAS General Mirza Aslam Beg.
Looking for a picture of him I came up withthis strange collection of QTV interviews and Chinese corporate looking website pictures.
And the third google reference for this man after Kestral trading and Jeremy Scahill's article, Liaquat Ali Beg was referenced in an Ideas Pakistan posting. This is serious. For those who do not know Ideas Pakistan is an annual Weapons trade show, showcasing Pakistan's military industrial complex's newest inventions. If this man Beg and his company have a reference on the Ideas page, he is a serious member of Pakistan's Military Industrial Complex.
4) The Interior Ministry. The Frontier Corps comes under Rehman Malik. Our unelected Interior Minister is cited by none other than Tariq Ali as being the go-between for the PPP high command and Western intelligence services.
Notice how there is no direct mention in the article of the ISI, MI or the Pakistan Army. My guess is that the Pakistan Army under Kiyani, in the exigencies of fighting its own war in the North West has become some what of its own institution. Notice the current rumour mill to depose the president. More than that, the Army does not trust the Americans as far as it can throw them. It is possible it has its own eyes and ear amongst the retired soldiers and spies in Kestral. That explains why it was feeding the Shireen Mazari/Zaid Hamid faction tales of mythical, but difficult to detect Blackwater.
But where does the Interior Ministry come in? The Blackwater guys controlling drones over FATA and possibly training and fighting with Frontier Corps soldiers can be secreted in via this para-military agency without angering/alerting the general military, the soldiery of which might not take kindly to seeing foreigners operating independently on Pakistani soil.
5) And Jeremy Scahill has alreeady got into trouble for this article. He received an unsolicited call from Admiral Mike Mullen's office.
Scahill Talking to Amy Goodman Part 1
Scahill talking to Amy Goodman Part 2
That's like a Pakistani getting a direct call from General Kiyani's office in Pakistan. The call to Scahill was completely unsolicited.
So we have a very dangerous picture.
And here's where it can get controversial. What exactly is this special unit of Blackwater upto? Not political or security implications, or diplomatic niceties, but actual action?
This unit that goes on border raids with the Frontier Corps and does Assasination by drone. The article lays it out as much. But Snatch and Grab operations are what its prime directive looks more and more like.
Scahill never directly says snatch and grab kidnapping is what the Special Planning Cell does. Thats because he can't directly prove it. But his sources broadly hint that organising kidnaps is the "skill" that has become rare within the US military. Did you see the list of locations these soldiers have been in? Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Ethiopia. The last three is no problem for US soldiers, but might I remind you that Chechnya is within Russian territory? These operators have entered and left a war zone on Russian territory. They are the best of the US best. They aren't involved in hits. If they are doing anything in Pakistan, it could likely involve their Sindhi political contacts (mentioned in the article) or Interior ministry people in FATA trying to (and maybe not suceeding too often) to kidnap Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives. Or at least simply locate their general area.
If the idea of US operatives kidnapping people seems strange, I would like to divert your attention to the Herald issue of October 2005, in which the case of missing persons was covered. One case of a Mr Paracha who is now serving time in Camp X Ray, Guantanamo Bay is that he had met Bin Laden a few years before 2001. He was grabbed, literally grabbed in a layover at Bangkok airport. And as far as can be told he is still in Guantanamo Bay.
These cases happen very rarely, but they do happen. And Blackwater's Planning Cell is on the prowl for direct enemies of the US. Probably those who threaten their Afghanistan command; especially in light of the fact that Scahills piece directly mentions McChrystal's influence, his role as a progenitor of JSOC itself. So yeah, JSOC/Special Planing could be dealing in Sindh with kidnapping and smuggling kidnappees out.
Coming from Karachi i can assure you that Sindhi politcal families have a reputation in being skilled at kidnapping/holding for hostage.
That covers Sindh.
In a book called "The Way of the World" Ron Suskind mentions Raisani (the politician) as receiving regular stipends of money fromthe UK and US as well as France. I can also inform you from an Indian source I have that the US has sort of muscled out/made subordinate the Indian control over Baloch resistance groups like the Baloch Republican Army and the infamous BLA. The Afghan side handlers of these men are trying to re-orient them towards hunting Al-Qaeda/Taliban and recoinnoitring the Iranian frontier. Thats Balochistan. Of course these networks aren't necessarilyeffective otherwise they would have gotten some results. But they're there.
That leaves FATA. Which is where the Frontier Corps and SBlackwater/Kestral's political contacts in Sindhi/Baloch political circles and the Interior Ministry come in. This is where they would likely be doing their assasination via drone/but also intel gathering for the Afghan occupation plus attempts at interdicting the Taliban plus training up the Frontier Corps. And this is where they try to act sometimes as boots on the ground, likely out of either boredom or necessity or even both.
It also becomes obvious that the Pakistani state is decayed.
This degradation will have to be corrected over the coming decades.
I think there's a turf war aspect within the US military that feeds into the presence of Blacwater as well. Scahill covered this in his piece where he mentioned that JSOC seemed to be subservient to Centcom.
JSOC has permission to operate in Pakistan, coming directly from Dick Cheney's office, when Centcom tried to directly intervene like in Angoor Adda September 2008, it was shot back at by the Pakistani military. JSOC is literally welcome. The regulations binded Centcom is not.
And now the head of Centcom's mission in Afghanistan, McChrystal, is the former head of JSOC.
Lastly, I have to point out a summary on this entire affair, and the functions of the unit in Pakistan:
The US military and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe) are running a kill-squad in Pakistan, seeking out people perceived as a threat to America and kidnapping and/or killing them. They're pretending that the operation is clandestine, but of course, you can read all about it in The Nation and there's no reason to believe it isn't well-known among Pakistanis. Folks tend to find out when their friends, family, or townsfolk are murdered or kidnapped, but of course, the project isn't "clandestine" in Pakistan, only in America. You're the people who aren't supposed to know.
Dick Cheney would be so proud. Heck, maybe Cheney's involved — it has his scent, and other than moving out of the Vice Presidential mansion there's been little evidence that he's actually gone from US government. The article claims, improbably, that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command might be in the dark about the program's existence.