Military & Aerospace

Effects of Covert and Clandestine Operations on International Peace and Security
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
Issue | Date : 21 Feb , 2015

However rapidly increase in drone attacks resulted in distorted relationship of America with Islamabad. However situation worsened when, Raymond Davis, a man who was later identified as a CIA contractor picking targets for the drones to strike, killed two Pakistani men during a “less anticipated mugging” in Lahore, 2011 . As the incident fired up, many Pakistani citizens walked came on the streets and protested. Surprisingly during his arrest and his trials, the drone attacks were suspended. The drone attacks resumed on the day Davis was released.

After 2011, lethal drone strikes have been carried out in Yemen and Somalia, simultaneously eliminating suspected terrorists in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

…Iran-contra affair was a secret arrangement of 1980s whose objective was to funding to the Nicaraguan contra rebels from profits gained by selling arms to Iran.

Despite its growing expansion, the topic is discussed very often: yes it kills suspected terrorist, but does this killing actually contribute in reducing their numbers and threat prospective of the terrorist organization? The question remains unanswered.

The public opinion is mostly focussed on its effectiveness: does the drone strike eliminate terrorists more than the civilian’s or is it the other way round? However the debate still lacks strategic understanding and framework.

Clandestine Operation

The Iran – Contra Affair

The infamous Iran-contra affair was a secret arrangement of 1980s whose objective was to funding to the Nicaraguan contra rebels from profits gained by selling arms to Iran. The affair was a result of two separate phases under the then President Ronald Reagan. The first phase aimed to provide funding to the Nicaraguan rebels who were conducting guerrilla war against the then Sandinista government of Nicaragua. The second phase was assisting the “liberals” in the Iranian government and securing the release of American hostages captured by the pro Iranian groups in Lebanon and to influence the foreign policy of Iran in a pro Western direction.

Inspite having a strong opposition, the Democratic majority in the congress called for a meet and enacted the legislation which later came to be known as the Boland amendments, which prohibited Defence Department, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and any intelligence department from assisting the contras, from December, 1983, till September, 1985. Shocked by the enactment, the Reagan administration dissolved the duration of the enacted legislation using the National Security Council (NSC), which was not included in any law supervising their deal with the contras. Robert McFarlane (1983–85) and John Poindexter (1985–86) of the NSC raised private funds through offshore accounts. This operation was supervised by NSC member Lt. Col. Oliver North. McFarlane and North are also presumed to be the central figures in shipping arms and weaponry system to Iran amid trade and arms sanctions.

Troubled came heavily on Regan Administration, when a Lebanese news paper forced the Regan administration to explain the arms deal of November 1986. The whole situation backfired.

Troubled came heavily on Regan Administration, when a Lebanese news paper forced the Regan administration to explain the arms deal of November 1986. The whole situation backfired. Poindexter was forced to resign in a month while North was fired. The Congressional Select Committee appointed Lawrence E. Walsh as the special prosecutor to investigate the affair. Top administration officials, especially Reagan, Vice President Bush, and William J. Casey (former director of the CIA, who died under mysterious circumstances in May, 1987), were implicated but the prosecutor didn’t found enough evidence in the court. In an interview North said that Reagan was well aware of the situation, and the prosecutor’s report of 1994 also stated that both Reagan and Bush were aware of the “cover up”. As expected Reagan and Bush both denied any involvement and no evidence could be found indicating their role. A presidential commission was critical of the NSC; however congressional hearing did reveal official deception, mismanagement, and illegality.

Besides McFarlane, North, and Poindexter many convictions were made, but North’s and Poindexter’s were given a leave of absence as they had signed immunity deals with the senate and the State Department. Many CIA officials were found guilty for withholding information about the Contra affair, and Caspar Weinberger, defence secretary under Reagan, was also found guilty for withholding the information. In 1992, the then President Bush pardoned Weinberger and other officials who were charged with obstructing in a federal case or withholding critical information from the congress. Although Iran Contra affair raised serious questions about the nation’s foreign policy and factions influencing the policy.

Plan Columbia

A Washington Post investigative report stated that “Since the early 2000s, the CIA has been secretly helping the far-right Colombian government torture, spy on, and kill at least two dozen members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in a clandestine program with a “multibillion dollar black budget” approved by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama”.

The report further states that “drawing on interviews with over 30 present and former U.S. and Colombian officials, most of who spoke on condition of anonymity because the CIA operations are still ongoing”. The report also revealed a hidden program “Plan Colombia, which started its operations in 2001 and has till now consumed over $9 billion mostly in the form of military aid.

The “War on Terror” categories these operations as clandestine.

A separate assistance program beside “Plan Columbia” was the supplying of GPS equipment “that transforms a less than accurate 500 pound gravity bomb into a highly accurate smart bomb,” and directly using it target high level FARC personnel’s, as per the report.

A special centre was designed in the US Embassy which monitored and recorded all the communications using listening devices  hidden in the jungle which was then “decrypted and translated by the National Security Agency,” the report states. US officials also assisted the Columbian government to build up special units training centre followed by intelligence gathering and informant programs.

The “War on Terror” categories these operations as clandestine. The report further states that “CIA also trained Colombian interrogators to more effectively question thousands of FARC deserters, without the use of the ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques approved for use on al-Qaeda and later repudiated by Congress as abusive”.

“Meanwhile, the other secret U.S. agency that had been at the forefront of locating and killing al-Qaeda arrived on the scene,” the report also states. “Elite commandos from JSOC began periodic annual training sessions and small-unit reconnaissance missions to try to find the hostages.”

William Wood, who served as U.S. ambassador to Colombia from 2003 to 2007, before assigning to Afghanistan, in an interview to Washington post said, “There is no country, including Afghanistan, where we had more going on.”

1 2
Rate this Article
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Anant Mishra

is a security analyst with expertise in counter-insurgency and counter-terror operations. His policy analysis has featured in national and international journals and conferences on security affairs.

More by the same author

Post your Comment

2000characters left