A senior US Air Force official, Michael Furlong, has been found in quite a precarious position according to a report published by the New York Times. Based on a Pentagon inquiry report, Mr Furlong has apparently gone too far in gathering intelligence in both Pakistan and Afghanistan by violating executive orders and the US Defence Department’s rules of engagement in war zones. Accused in March this year of siphoning off funds from legitimate US military programmes related to studying the culture and landscape of Afghanistan, Michael Furlong is charged with using these funds to gather intelligence on insurgent camps and militants with the use of private contractors after which insurgents would be rounded up or even assassinated. Such covert tactics are the stuff of clandestine operations that the CIA has employed in many a war-torn land.It should be remembered that the US has a different military policy for the public and another one for clandestine operations. Michael Furlong’s programme, called Information Operations Capstone, was operated under a $ 22 million contract run by Lockheed Martin Corp, a major manufacturer of fighter jets. What Mr Furlong was running was not just a stealth operation, it was one where private contractors were said to be running amuck in Afghanistan and Pakistan, gathering intelligence and doing whatever they pleased.
Such James Bond-style escapades ought to serve the intelligence and military in Pakistan with a wake-up call. Afghanistan is a land under US and Nato occupation but Pakistan is not. For the report to quote Pakistan is a frightening reality. With rumours making the rounds of the presence of Blackwater in the country (now known as Xe Services LLC) and allegations of Mr Furlong’s programme being firmly supported by the Pentagon, it will not bode well for us to easily dismiss such a shadowy presence. Whatever tattered sovereignty Pakistan has left, such private contactors roaming around the border and broader areas of the country should not be tolerated, and that too from an ally. Lord knows what they are up to. Playing hanky panky is one thing but operating on an ally’s soil without so much as a nod in its direction is unacceptable. Our intelligence agencies must take note of this report and probe into the matter, after which it should be taken up with the American authorities – Dailytimes