Editor’s Note: Nation national security correspondent Jeremy Scahill today testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the US’s shadow wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere. His complete testimony is below.
My name is Jeremy Scahill. I am the National Security correspondent for The Nation magazine. I recently returned from a two-week unembedded reporting trip to Afghanistan. I would like to thank the Chairman and the Committee for inviting me to participate in this important hearing. As we sit here today in Washington, across the globe the United States is engaged in multiple wars. Some, like those in Afghanistan and Iraq, are well known to the US public and to the Congress.
They are covered in the media and are subject to Congressional review. Despite the perception that we know what is happening in Afghanistan, what is rarely discussed in any depth in Congress or the media is the vast number of innocent Afghan civilians that are being killed on a regular basis in US night raids and the heavy bombing that has been reinstated by General David Petraeus. I saw the impact of these civilian deaths first-hand and I can say that in some cases our own actions are helping to increase the strength and expand the size of the Taliban and the broader insurgency in Afghanistan.
As the war rages on in Afghanistan and–despite spin to the contrary–in Iraq as well, US Special Operations Forces and the Central Intelligence Agency are engaged in parallel, covert, shadow wars that are waged in near total darkness and largely away from effective or meaningful Congressional oversight or journalistic scrutiny. The actions and consequences of these wars is seldom discussed in public or investigated by the Congress.
The current US strategy can be summed up as follows: We are trying to kill our way to peace. And the killing fields are growing in number.
Among the sober question that must be addressed by the Congress: What impact are these clandestine operations having on US national security? Are they making us more safe or less? When US forces kill innocent civilians in "counterterrorism" operations, are we inspiring a new generation of insurgents to rise against our country? And, what is the oversight role of the US Congress in the shadow wars that have spanned the Bush and Obama Administrations?
The most visible among these shadow wars is in Pakistan where the United States regularly bombs the country using weaponized drones. As we now know from diplomatic cables made public by Wikileaks, Pakistan’s Prime Minister told a senior US official in Islamabad, "I don’t care if [the US bombs Pakistan] as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it."
At the same time, US Special Operations Forces are engaged in covert, offensive actions in Pakistan, including hunting down so-called high value targets, doing reconnaissance for drone strikes and conducting raids with Pakistani forces in north and south Waziristan. These raids are carried out in secret and denied by Pentagon spokespeople in public. Leaked US diplomatic cables have now confirmed that the sustained denials by US officials for more than a year are false. According to an October 9, 2009 cable classified by Anne Patterson, then the US ambassador to Pakistan, offensive operations have been conducted by US Special Operations Forces and coordinated with the US Office of the Defense Representative in Pakistan. A US Special Operations source told me that the US forces described in the cable as "SOC(FWD)-PAK" were "forward operating troops" from the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the most elite force within the US military made up of Navy SEALs, Delta Force and Army Rangers. This despite senior Pentagon and State Department officials, including by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, publicly claiming there are no US troops in Pakistan or that the only role of US troops is to train the Pakistani military. Those statements are demonstrably false.