Sunday, January 22, 2012

'US posts elite commandos near Iran'

A commando with the Combined Special Forces Operations Component Command, fires his weapon during a drill. (File photo)

Source: Press TV

The US-based Wired magazine says Washington has stationed a special team of highly trained commandos near Iran's border for possible sabotage operations.

Quoting a US Army officer speaking on behalf of Special Forces, the report by the magazine's columnist, Spender Ackerman, said a team of “highly trained personnel that excel in uncertain environments” are operating near Iran.

According to Ackerman, the team called Joint Special Operations Task Force-Gulf Coordinating Council (JSOTF-GCC) is now on the ground to instruct local troops in special operations. This is the first time the US has acknowledged the existence of the team, which apparently did not exist before the middle of 2009.

“The primary, day-to-day mission of the team…is to mentor military units belonging to the US oil-rich Arab allies…[which] consider Iran to be their primary foreign threat,” he added.

Ackerman also quoted Maj. Rob Bockholt, a spokesman for special-operations forces in the Mideast, as saying that the task force provides “highly trained personnel that excel in uncertain environments,” and “seeks to confront irregular threats.”

The report said the unit began its existence in mid-2009 - around the time that Iran rejected President Barack Obama's offer of diplomatic dialogue.

“Whatever the task force does about Iran - or might do in the future - is a sensitive subject with the military,” it added.

“It would be inappropriate to discuss operational plans regarding any particular nation,” Bockholt said when asked about a possible link between the unit and terrorist operations in Iran.

Ackerman quoted Col. Tim Nye, the chief spokesman for the US Special Operations Command, as saying that the task force is responsible “for coordinating all SOF [Special Operations Forces] engagements and training with [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council nations.”

“The special operations forces of those nations have shown a notable improvement over the past year. Qatari commandos quietly traveled to Libya ahead of Muammar Gaddafi's downfall to prepare Libyan rebels for the successful capture of Tripoli. The United Arab Emirates, another close US ally, has also made its elite forces a priority, even hiring [the American security affairs company] Blackwater's founder to bolster their training,” he added.

According to Ackerman, US military officials have thus far refused to identify missions of the task force, its leadership or its headquarters, citing the safety of the personnel involved and the success of those missions.

He noted that even if JSOTF-GCC is primarily a training team, it represents another military option for the US in the region at a time of escalating rhetoric with Iran.

“The Iranians are threatening to close off the Strait of Hormuz, the sea lane through which a fifth of the world's oil travels, as two US aircraft carrier battle groups float nearby. And when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says the US could reopen the waterway by force, there might be an elite commando team nearby to help do it,” Ackerman concluded.

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