CIA seeking authority to carry out drone strikes in Afghanistan: NYT

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WASHINGTON, Sept 15 (APP): The CIA is pushing for a paramilitary
role for the spy agency in counterterrorism by seeking authority
to carry out drone strikes in Afghanistan, a proposal some in
Pentagon are opposing out of fear that civilian casualties caused
in such attacks may create problems for American soldiers on the ground.
According to a report by the New York Times (NYT), the White House
appears in favor of granting such authority to CIA which, at the
moment is led by Pentagon. If granted, it will be first time that
CIA will have such powers and would allow it to carry out drone
strikes in Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.
Citing current and former intelligence military officials, the NYT
report said changes are being considered by the White House as part
of a broader push to loosen restrictions imposed on CIA by the previous Obama administration, in part, to limit civilian casualties.
The proposed shift has raised concerns among critics that the Trump
administration would open the way for broader and riskier CIA strikes in such countries as Libya, Somalia and Yemen, where the United States is fighting the Islamic State, Al Qaeda or both, the report said.
According to the report, citing unnamed military officials, CIA’s
director Mike Pompeo is pushing for an increased role for his agency on grounds that Obama-era arrangements were limiting the US’s ability to conduct counterterrorism operations.
Pompeo, since taking charge of the agency, has pushed for a direct
role for CIA in taking on militants. Afghanistan, the most active
war zone in which the United States is fighting, makes sense as the
place to start: In the past three years, the number of
military drone strikes there has climbed, from 304 in 2015, to
376 last year, to 362 through the first eight months of this year.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has not resisted the CIA proposal,
administration official said as quoted by the NYT report, but
other Pentagon officials question the expansion of CIA
authorities in Afghanistan or elsewhere, asking what the agency can
do that the military cannot.
Some Pentagon officials also fear that American troops on the
ground in Afghanistan could end up bearing the burden of any
CIA strikes that accidentally kill civilians, because the agency
will not publicly acknowledge those attacks, the report said.
One senior Defense Department official said that the United
States would gain little from having the CIA carry out
drone strikes alongside the military, and that it raised the
question of whether it was an appropriate use of covert action.
Luke Harting, a former senior director for counterterrorism
at the National Security Council during the Obama administration
in his comments to the NYT said that one lesson learned early
on in Afghanistan and Iraq was the importance of being as transparent as possible in discussing our military operations.
Why we took the specific action, who all was killed or injured
in the operation, what we were going to do if we had
inadvertently killed civilians or damaged property I don’t know
what the Trump administration is specifically considering
in Afghanistan, but if their new plans for the war decrease any
of that transparency, that would be a big strategic and moral
mistake, he observed.