Washington, Nov 10 : Senior American officials have disclosed that the US military has been using a broad, secret authority since 2004 to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere.
Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed the order in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President Bush, the officials said.
The order identifies 15 to 20 countries, including Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and several other Persian Gulf states, where Qaeda militants were believed to be operating or to have sought sanctuary, the New York Times quoted a senior administration official as saying.
Some of the military missions have been conducted in close coordination with the American investigating agency the CIA (Central Investigating Agency), the American officials said and added that in others the military commandos acted in support of CIA-directed operations, added the paper.
These military raids, typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that
The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the US, the paper said further.
In the lines of the secret order, in 2006, a Navy Seal team raided a suspected militants' compound in the Bajaur region of Pakistan. Officials watched the entire mission - captured by the video camera of a remotely piloted Predator aircraft -in the CIA's Counter-terrorist Center at the agency's headquarters in Virginia 7000 miles away.
But, as many as a dozen additional operations have been canceled in the past four years, often to the dismay of military commanders, senior military officials said. They said senior administration officials had decided in these cases that the missions were too risky, were too diplomatically explosive or relied on insufficient evidence.
More than a half-dozen officials, including current and former military and intelligence officials as well as senior Bush administration policy makers, described details of the 2004 military order on the condition of anonymity because of its politically delicate nature. Spokesmen for the White House, the Defense Department and the military declined to comment.