Tuesday, December 16, 2003
::: Task Force 121 :::
According to Seymour Hersh in his New Yorker article, Israeli Commandos and
Intelligence units have been working closely with American counterparts at the
Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in Israel to help
them prepare for operations in Iraq.
Israeli commandos are expected to serve as ad-hoc advisers -- again, in secret -- when full-field operations begin. (Neither the Pentagon nor Israeli diplomats would comment. "No one wants to talk about this," an Israeli official told me. "It's incendiary. Both governments have decided at the highest level that it is in their interests to keep a low profile on U.S.-Israeli co-operation" on Iraq.) The critical issue, American and Israeli officials agree, is intelligence. There is much debate about whether targeting a large number of individuals is a practical -- or politically effective -- way to bring about stability in Iraq, especially given the frequent failure of American forces to obtain consistent and reliable information there.
It is interesting this article from December 8, 2003, foreshadows events including
comments on the capture of Saddam Hussein and how "preemptive manhunting"
will not stop the insurgency.
Hersh reports on General Boykin (saw this fool on CSpan the other night and he was
incapable of operating the computer to display the pictures for his presentation.
One of the key planners of the Special Forces offensive is Lieutenant General William (Jerry) Boykin, Cambone's military assistant. After a meeting with Rumsfeld early last summer -- they got along -- "like two old warriors, "the Pentagon consultant said -- Boykin postponed his retirement, which had been planned for June, and took the Pentagon job, which brought him a third star. In that post, the Pentagon adviser told me, Boykin has been "an important piece" of the planned escalation. In October, the Los Angeles Times reported that Boykin, while giving Sunday-morning talks in uniform to church groups, had repeatedly equated the Muslim world with Satan. Last June, according to the paper, he told a congregation in Oregon that "Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army." Boykin praised President Bush as a "man who prays in the Oval Office," and declared that Bush was "not elected" President but "appointed by God." The Muslim world hates America, he said, "because we are a nation of believers."
There were calls in the press and from Congress for Boykin's dismissal, but Rumsfeld made it clear that he wanted to keep his man in the job. Initially, he responded to the Times report by praising the General's "outstanding record" and telling journalists that he had neither seen the text of Boykin's statements nor watched the videotape that had been made of one of his presentations.
There is more on Task Force 121:
Early in November, the Times reported the existence of Task Force 121, and said that it was authorized to take action throughout the region, if necessary, in pursuit of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and other terrorists. (The task force is commanded by Air Force Brigadier General Lyle Koenig, an experienced Special Forces helicopter pilot.) At that point, the former Special Forces official told me, the troops were "chasing the deck of cards. Their job was to find Saddam, period." Other Special Forces, in Afghanistan, were targeting what is known as the A.Q.S.L., the Al Qaeda Senior Leadership List.
The task force's search for Saddam was, from the beginning, daunting. According to Scott Ritter, a former United Nations weapons inspector, it may have been fatally flawed as well. From 1994 to 1998, Ritter directed a special U.N. unit that eavesdropped on many of Saddam Hussein's private telephone communications. "The high-profile guys around Saddam were the murafaqin, his most loyal companions, who could stand next to him carrying a gun," Ritter told me. "But now he's gone to a different tier -- the tribes. He has released the men from his most sensitive units and let them go back to their tribes, and we don't know where they are. The manifests of those units are gone; they've all been destroyed." Ritter added, "Guys like Farouq Hijazi can deliver some of the Baath Party cells, and he knows where some of the intelligence people are. But he can't get us into the tribal hierarchy." The task force, in any event, has shifted its focus from the hunt for Saddam as it is increasingly distracted by the spreading guerrilla war.
A thoroughly engaging article by Hersh, covering far more than mentioned here.
Granny just wanted to present the oddity of reading an article on Task Force
121 and training by Israelis (who really know their stuff) and the fact that the
hunt bore fruit in the midst of reading it.