May 15, 2006

Secret Ops in the News

Pinch his head off!
Once upon a time the US was quite capable, almost adept, at running covert paramilitary operations overseas. Today the civilian alphabet agencies ostensibly charged with this work are weak and ineffective. I blame creeping, Post-Office style bureaucracy, and public oversight that is way too public. If the US didn't need secret operational capabilities to fight terrorism, the situation would laughable.

Lack of operational success in recent decades has favored the narco-tyrants and commies in Central and South America. Good ops might have kept a degree of stability in Africa and prevented great rafts of suffering there. What if a covert ops scheme had been in place and allowed to kill Osama the minute the Russians pulled out of Afghanistan?

Instead, this IHT story, Mystery Americans on the trail of bin Laden?, is the sort of thing you see in the papers about our civilian covert ops. It is a puff piece about the stir caused by bungling "covert" operatives setting up house to catch Osama (or Usama, as the FBI insists) bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Chitral, better known for its trekking outfitters. All the fuss and rumor has the relatively respectable town all a-twitter.

The folks of Chitral aren't burning flags or threatening beheadings. That would be bad for tourism, whereas the intrigue caused by the "Secret Agents" in town has been good for business. At least according to Maqsood ul-Haq, a local merchant: "We want more tourists here. The taxi drivers make money, even the cold drinks guys make more money."

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