Tuesday, November 11, 2008

US military conducts a dozen secret strikes in four years: report

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US special forces have conducted about a dozen secret operations against Al-Qaeda and other Islamic militants in Pakistan, Syria and other countries under broad war-waging authority given them by the administration of President George W. Bush, The New York Times reported on its website.

Citing unnamed senior US officials, the newspaper said the authority was contained in a classified order signed by then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld in early 2004 with the approval of President Bush.

The order gave the military permission to attack Al-Qaeda and other hostile targets anywhere in the world, even in countries not at war with the United States, without any additional approval, the report said.

Under this authority, a Navy Seal team raided a suspected Islamic militant compound in the Bajaur region of Pakistan in 2006, The Times said, citing a former top CIA official.

What's more, military planners were able to watch the entire attack "live" at CIA headquarters in Virginia through a video camera installed on a Predator aircraft that was sent to the area, the paper said.

Another raid was conducted by US special forces in Syria last October 26 in cooperation with the Central Intelligence Agency, the report said.

There is no information about the remaining secret military strikes, but officials made clear the list of targets did not include Iran, The Times pointed out.

The paper said, however, that US forces had carried out reconnaissance missions in Iran using other classified directives.

About a dozen additional operations have been canceled in the past four years because they were deemed too risky, too diplomatically explosive or relied on insufficient evidence, the paper said.

Before the 2004 order, the Pentagon needed to get approval for missions on a case-by-case basis, which could take days, the paper recalled.

But Rumsfeld was not satisfied with the status-quo and pressed hard for permission to use military power automatically outside the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to The Times.

The paper says the 2004 order identifies 15 to 20 countries, including Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and several other Persian Gulf states, where Al-Qaeda was believed to be operating or had sought sanctuary.

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