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16 Mar, 2010 00:41

US official accused of secretly hunting insurgents

The US Defense Department has launched an investigation into the claims that a Pentagon official set up an illegal deal with private security contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Michael D. Furlong is reported to have hired private contractors that were originally intended to be used to gain an understanding of Afghan tribal culture. Instead, however, the contractors – made up of former CIA and Special Forces personnel – were allegedly spying on suspected insurgents with the intent of later assassinating them. The arrangement is said to have been unofficial and is potentially in breach of a number of military regulations.

The covert operation purportedly involved not only former US special services personnel, but also journalists working in the region.

“It is not legal for a contractor to act in the capacity of an intelligence officer,” New York Times foreign correspondent Dexter Filkins, who broke the story, told RT. “There is also a very clear prohibition by the Pakistani government against American military personnel.”

Pakistani military analyst Tariq Birzada says that the incident only serves to further undermine the US campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The purpose of gathering this intelligence was to pinpoint those people who are considered by the US as Islamic insurgents or terrorists who are the source of trouble for the US. This information was provided to the CIA and to the US military units, which used drones and other means to hit the targets in Pakistan,” claims Tariq Birzada.

“They are using those organizations that have been assassinating people in Iraq, that have been assassinating people elsewhere, and they are still operating in Afghanistan. So from Blackwater to the latest scandal disclosed by the New York Times, we have a situation in which US credibility in the region has been compromised,” Birzada stated.

“The US cannot claim any longer that the only purpose of the US is to put an end to the insurgency. Maybe the US has other objectives,” he added.

The US Defense Department is also investigating whether millions of dollars that were intended to be spent on collecting public information on developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan were siphoned off and used to organize lethal attacks.

The company running the program denies wrongdoing, but journalist Kevin Sites says it is no surprise if the project was abused.

“The details are quite complicated and the players involved are as colorful as the story itself. Michael Furlong, a former army officer, apparently was siphoning communication funds to fund his own private hit squad. That is what was being alleged at this point. But the actual funding of this was coming from an organization called Afpax, which was a partnership founded by Robert Young Pelton and former CNN news chief Easton Jordan,” Kevin Sites explains.

“They had gone to the military with the idea of providing them with certain information – basically that would be a website that provided open source information, photographs, details on the ground that the military could use. When you get in bed with the US military, almost anything can happen, and if you are supplying them with information, eventually that information is probably going to be used to kill people. That is the job of the US military,” he added.