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Libyan Newswire

US expands power of elite military unit to hunt 'terrorists' globally

Iran Press TV

Iran Press TV

Sun Nov 27, 2016 1:55AM

The Obama administration has granted expanded powers to US military’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOP) to track, plan and stage attacks on “terrorist cells” across the globe out of purported concerns that Daesh (ISIL) militants may engage in terror against Western targets after being flushed out of Syria and Iraq.

Citing unnamed American officials, influential US daily The Washington Post reported on Saturday that the elite JSOP force, which helped in the covert operation by Navy SEALs in 2011 to assassinate al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, would conduct missions “well beyond the battlefields of places like Iraq, Syria and Libya” where it has “carried out clandestine operations in the past.”

The move, according to the report, “will elevate JSOC from being a highly-valued strike tool used by regional military commands to leading a new multi-agency intelligence and action force. Known as the “Counter-External Operations Task Force,” the group will be designed to take JSOC’s targeting model – honed over the last 15 years of conflict – and export it globally to go after terrorist networks plotting attacks against the West.”

The report notes, however, it is not clear whether the administration of US President-elect Donald Trump will keep this plan as well as other military and intelligence structures set up by the Obama administration.

US military authorities speaking on condition of anonymity said the new JSOC task force will report to the Defense Department through the US Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, “creating a hybrid command system that can sidestep regional commanders–with their coordination–for the sake of speed.”

US officials hope the task force, known in the country’s military circles as “Ex-Ops,” will serve as “a clearinghouse for intelligence coordinating and targeting against groups or individuals” suspected of plotting attacks against the US and Europe.

According to officials familiar with plans for the task force, the task force will initially draw on an existing multinational intelligence operation in the Middle East, called Gallant Phoenix and one of JSOC’s intelligence centers located in the US state of Virginia, near Washington DC.

US intelligence and law enforcement agencies “will support JSOC personnel as they synthesize information and offer recommendations on how to handle specific threats,” the report adds, citing a Pentagon official.

This is while the JSOC has further built strong ties with police agencies in Germany, Britain, France and Turkey over the past decade, as they have engaged in alleged efforts to counter the flow of foreign terrorists returning to their home countries after being allowed to slip into Syria and Iraq to engage in foreign-backed armed militancy to destabilize local governments.

“The new JSOC task force could also offer intelligence, strike recommendations and advice to the militaries and security forces of traditional Western allies, or conduct joint operations,” the report said.

In other parts of the world with weak or no governments, however, “JSOC could act unilaterally.”

The report goes on to liken the global focus of the task force to the US military’s post 9/11 operations in the hunt for al-Qaeda operatives, explaining that “as approaching US troops forced militants to flee their safe havens in Afghanistan and scatter across the globe, the United States followed in pursuit, using CIA assets to grab suspected al-Qaeda operatives in dozens of countries, sometimes capturing and imprisoning them under murky legal authorities and using interrogation techniques widely seen as torture.”

According to the report, the spy agency’s involvement in global paramilitary operations has subsided with far fewer strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, “and its armed drones in Syria transferred to the Pentagon.”

“It’s still unclear how much the CIA may be willing to cooperate with JSOC and more broadly with the Pentagon following the White House’s decision,” the daily added, emphasizing that the agency’s broad contacts overseas, espionage networks and long experience in covert operations have “much greater reach than JSOC.”

While the Obama administration has been a strong and active supporter of covert military operations across the Middle East – such as the so-called targeted killing of suspected anti-US militants in Muslim nations as well as training and arming Syria-based terrorists – President-elect Trump has generally spoken against such operations during his campaign for the White House accusing the current government of creating and backing the ISIL terrorist group.

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