Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Perspective: 'Special Ops' operate from the shadows

Every night in Iraq, American Special Operations forces carry out as many as a dozen raids aimed at terrorist leaders allied with Al Qaeda, other insurgent fighters and militia targets. Their after-action reports are the first thing that Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander in Baghdad, reads the next day.

The missions also are closely watched by senior policy makers in Washington, who differ on whether the small number of elite units should focus on capturing and killing leaders of the group that calls itself Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and foreign fighters in Iraq, or whether the greater threat comes from the Sunni- and Shiite-based insurgency.

In the shadows of the troop increase ordered by President Bush, Special Operations forces conduct between 6 and 12 missions every night across the country. A vast majority — between 80 percent and 90 percent — are aimed at Qaeda-allied targets, while the rest attack other extremist elements, say senior military officers in Baghdad and Pentagon officials.

“We are focused on those elements that are causing the most problems and going after a very specific target set,” said one officer in Iraq. “We are working very hard to go after the rogue elements or extremists of any flavor.”

Read the rest at the NY Times