The 3,000-strong Afghan teams are used for surveillance and long-range reconnaissance missions and some have trained at CIA facilities in the United States. The force has operated in Kabul and some of Afghanistan’s most violence-wracked provinces including Kandahar, Khost, Paktia and Paktika, according to a security professional familiar with the program. Field logs from the wikileaks report reveal glimpses into the kinds of operations undertaken by the CIA and its Afghan paramilitary units along the Pakistani border. In addition to accounts of snatch-and-grab operations targeting insurgent leaders, the logs contain casualty reports from battles with the Taliban, summaries of electronic intercepts of enemy communications and hints of the heavy firepower at the CIA’s disposal.
According to an official familiar with the operations the teams’ primary mission is to improve security in Afghanistan and that they do not engage in “lethal action” when crossing into Pakistan. Their cross-border missions are “designed exclusively for intelligence collection,” the official said.
Unlike regular Afghan army commandos, the CIA-run Afghan paramilitary units mostly work independently from CIA paramilitary or special operations forces but will occasionally combine forces for an operation. Despite operating independently, the units coordinate their operations with NATO, the security professional said. The Afghan force became the focus of a debate last year between CIA and military officials over who would control its operations. The CIA remained the lead agency, the former official said.
The Army field reports suggest that the Afghan paramilitary forces can also be ruthless. On Oct. 23, 2007, military personnel at Orgun-E reported treating a 30-year-old Afghan man for the “traumatic amputation of fingers” on his left hand. The patient had been “injured by Afghan OGA during a home breach,” according to the report. The Kandahar branch paramilitaries shot and killed Kandahar’s police chief and nine other Afghan police officials in 2009 over a dispute after one of its own members was arrested. During their face-off with the police chief, the paramilitaries were wearing uniforms and guns bought by the CIA.
Jonathan Horowitz, a human rights expert working with the Open Society Institute, said: ‘
These paramilitary groups operate in such a cloak of secrecy that accountability for their abuses is nearly impossible for most Afghans. These forces don’t fall under an Afghan military chain of command, and if a civilian is killed or maimed, the U.S. can say it wasn’t the fault of the U.S.