KABUL - The CIA is increasing its covert operations in Afghanistan as groups of small, highly specialized teams pursue Taliban throughout the war-torn state.
The Trump administration is reportedly stepping up its counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan by calling on the CIA to conduct covert operations to hunt and kill Taliban militants in the country, according to a New York Times report.
A senior American official who spoke to the New York Times said that as a signal of accelerating counterterrorism efforts under the US President Donald Trump’s administration, the agency is sending small teams of experienced officers and contractors to work alongside Afghan forces to go after the Taliban.
The CIA in Afghanistan has previously been focused on combatting Al Qaeda and supporting the Afghanistan’s intelligence community or training the Afghan militia rather than conducting open-ended campaigns against the Taliban, the paper reported.
The agency’s new role is aligned with its new director’s, Mike Pompeo, view that the CIA must take a proactive role in conducting large-scale counterinsurgencies across the world.
“We can’t perform our mission if we’re not aggressive,” Pompeo said at a conference this month at the University of Texas, according to the report. “This is unforgiving, relentless. You pick the word. Every minute, we have to be focused on crushing our enemies.”
He also said the White House had authorized the CIA to “take risks” in its efforts to fight the militants “as long as they made sense” in order to “make the CIA faster and more aggressive.”
The new approach will be led by small units called counterterrorism pursuit teams that are managed by CIA paramilitary officers.
This is not the first time such CIA groups have operated in the Afghanistan. Previously, the teams conducted its operations in Afghanistan’s southern provinces and near its mountainous border with Pakistan in the northeast, according to the Times.
“The American people don’t mind if there are CIA teams waging a covert war there,” Ken Stiles, a former agency counterterrorism officer, told the Times. “They mind if there’s 50,000 US troops there.”