Did US Special Operations Forces want to ‘target’ refugee camps in Pakistan?

Jeremy Scahill writes:

In the fall of 2008, the US Special Operations Command asked top US diplomats in Pakistan and Afghanistan for detailed information on refugee camps along the Afghanistan Pakistan border and a list of humanitarian aid organizations working in those camps. On October 6, the US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, sent a cable marked “Confidential” to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the CIA, US Central Command and several US embassies saying that some of the requests, which came in the form of emails, “suggested that agencies intend to use the data for targeting purposes.” Other requests, according to the cable, “indicate it would be used for “NO STRIKE” purposes.” The cable, which was issued jointly by the US embassies in Kabul and Islamabad, declared: “We are concerned about providing information gained from humanitarian organizations to military personnel, especially for reasons that remain unclear. Particularly worrisome, this does not seem to us a very efficient way to gather accurate information.”

What this cable says in plain terms is that at least one person within the US Special Operations Command actually asked US diplomats in Kabul and/or Islamabad point-blank for information on refugee camps to be used in a targeted killing or capture operation. It also seems possible whoever made that request actually put it in an email (FOIA anyone?). It is no longer a publicly deniable secret that US special operations forces and the CIA have engaged in offensive operations in Pakistan, but this cable is evidence that they sought to exploit the US embassies’ humanitarian aid operations through back channel communications to conduct potentially lethal operations. Needless to say, this type of request is extremely dangerous for aid workers because it reinforces the belief that USAID and other nongovernmental organizations are fronts for the CIA. In November 2009, a US military intelligence source told me that some Blackwater contractors working for US special operations forces in Pakistan have posed as aid workers. “Nobody even gives them a second thought,” he said. Blackwater, at the time, denied it was operating in Pakistan.

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