U.S. Setting Up Special Ops in Embassies
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer Wed Mar 8, 3:35 PM
WASHINGTON - The U.S. military command in charge of
counterterrorism campaigns is putting small teams of
special operations troops in U.S. embassies to support
the global war on terror, officials said Wednesday.
The presence of these teams, which began at least two
years ago but has not been publicly announced by U.S.
Special Operations Command, was first reported in
Wednesday's editions of The New York Times.
The special operations troops do not operate under
cover. They are present with the knowledge of both the
U.S. ambassador and the host government, officials
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Steve Mavica, a spokesman for Special
Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., said the teams are
known as "military liaison elements" and operate as
single individuals or small groups. They work for the
U.S. commander responsible for the region in which
they are located. That would mean any based in U.S.
embassies in the Middle East would report to Gen. John
Abizaid, the commander of U.S. Central Command.
The teams "play a key role" in coordination and
planning in connection with security efforts and
counterterrorism, Mavica said. He declined to answer a
reporter's additional questions such as how many
countries the teams operate in and whether the
Pentagon is expanding their presence globally, as the
Mavica also declined to say when the program began.
Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, said the
program was started "a couple of years ago" but was
not more specific. He said these liaisons are the only
military personnel inside U.S. embassies who work for
the regional military commander rather than for the
Whitman described the liaisons' duties as
complementary to those of an embassy's defense
attache, which is the military officer who works for
the ambassador to coordinate with the host country's
The Times reported that the move is opposed by some in
the Central Intelligence Agency who view it as
treading on their turf.
The newspaper said the liaison teams gather
intelligence on terrorists. Whitman would say only
that they help provide a regional military commander
with improved "situational awareness," a term
generally synonymous with intelligence.
The Times reported that the liaison teams have been
sent to more than a dozen embassies in Africa,
Southeast Asia and South America.