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01 February, 2010

Welcoming the Taliban

Welcoming the Taliban with Open Arms: Defectors and Deception in Afghanistan

By Douglas Valentine

Last week the U.S. Government began floating the idea of welcoming low and mid-level Taliban defectors into its war on terror against Al Qaeda. After waging an eight-year "dirty war" against the Taliban, U.S. military commanders and politicians are publicly acknowledging their "insurgent" enemy is actually part of the "fabric" of Afghan society.

U.S. and NATO officials are also offering bribes from a billion-dollar "Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund" to Taliban fighters to defect.

Taliban leaders have condemned the buyout strategy as a "trick" to divide and conquer its forces, and said that offers of reconciliation were futile without a withdrawal of foreign troops.

This billion dollar buyout may, indeed, seem a bizarre reversal of fortunes, but only if one believes the U.S. genuinely wants reconciliation with the Taliban. In reality, defectors programs like the one proposed for Afghanistan are an essential part of the traditional U.S. pacification policy. For example, the so-called Chieu Hoi "Open Arms" program is touted by military historians as having produced positive results throughout the Vietnam War by offering "clemency to insurgents."

Make no mistake about it: this too is propaganda. Defector "amnesty" or "clemency" or "open arms" programs are aggressive CIA intelligence operations and have nothing to do with reconciliation.

As former DCI William Colby told me, CIA political action teams in Vietnam (like Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan) employed defectors whose job was to "go around the countryside and indicate to the people that they used to be Vietcong and that the government has received them and taken them in, and that the Chieu Hoi program does exist as a way of VC currently on the other side to rally. [Defectors] contact people like the families of known VC," Colby said, "and provide them with transportation to defector and refugee centers."

Master spy Colby would certainly agree that information management – language – is the essence of political warfare in general and defector programs in particular. The first step in either case is concocting a slogan that appeals to the sensibilities of the targeted audience, which is why defectors programs are given names like "amnesty" or "clemency" or "open arms."

Such cleverly crafted slogans need have no basis in reality. Instead, by appealing to American (not Vietnamese or Afghan) sensibilities (or lack thereof), these slogans serve as the first step in creating deniability for the CIA’s roll in organizing repression.

During Senate hearings into CIA assassination plots against foreign leaders, deniability was defined by the CIA's deputy director of operations Richard Bissell as "the use of circumlocution and euphemism in discussions where precise definitions would expose covert actions and bring them to an end."

Apart from using circumlocution and euphemism, and Madison Avenue style slogans, the CIA creates deniability, and thus garners public approval, by composing and planting distorted articles in foreign and domestic newspapers. It also composes "official" communiqu├ęs which appear to have originated within, for example, the Karzai government in Afghanistan.

To ensure the deniability necessary for public support of its repressive policies, the CIA conducts covert action under cover of Civic Action programs that are advertised as fostering freedom, patriotism, brotherhood, and democracy.

Likewise, the Taliban defector buyout program is said to foster reconciliation.

In CIA jargon this manipulation of language is called "black propaganda" and is the job of political and psychological (PP) warfare officers in the covert action branch. "PP" officers played a major role in packaging the Phoenix Program for sale to the American public as a program designed "to protect the people from terrorism.""

CIA disinformation campaigns persuade predisposed Americans to offer their tax dollars to pay for the massive military and aid programs that support the CIA's covert action programs. The proposed billion-dollar Taliban defector program is just such a case.

Intelligence Potential

After arranging for deniability, the CIA will launch a covert action program like the Taliban defector program only if it has "intelligence potential." Such a program must be able to produce information on an enemy's political, military, and economic infrastructure or it will not be undertaken. The CIA after all, is not a "reconciliation" agency.

And defectors have superlative "intelligence potential."

Not only are defectors valued for their ability to sap the enemy's fighting strength and morale, but having worked on the inside, they are an accurate and timely source of intelligence on enemy unit strength and location. They also serve as guides and trackers, and after defecting, many are immediately returned to their area of operations with a reaction force to locate hidden enemy arms or food caches.

Others defectors, after being screened and interrogated by security officers, are turned into double agents. Defectors who return to their former positions inside enemy military units or political organizations are, as Colby explained, provided with a "secure" means of contacting their CIA case officer, to whom they feed information leading to the arrest or ambush of enemy cadres, soldiers, and secret agents.

Defector programs also provide CIA "talent scouts" with cover for recruiting criminals into counter-terrorist and political action programs. Burglars, arsonists, forgers, and smugglers have unique skills and no compunctions about preparing wanted posters or conducting interrogations.

In Vietnam, the entire Fifty-second Ranger Battalion was recruited from Saigon prisons.

With Obama’s surge and additional NATO forces providing cover for more expansive CIA covert actions, CIA political and psychological warfare experts are moving to the forefront of the occupation; and of course, their Provincial Reconstruction Teams are, as noted in a previous article, at the forefront of this "intelligence" surge. That is why the Taliban defector buyout program is being launched now.

Let me repeat: what makes such an intelligence operation "covert" is not any false impression on the part of the Taliban, but rather the CIA's ability to deny its involvement in the defector buyout program to the American public.

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