WASHINGTON – The U.S. military has conducted nearly a dozen secret operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Syria, Pakistan and other countries since 2004, The New York Times reported Sunday night.
Citing anonymous U.S. officials, the Times story said the operations were authorized by a broad classified order that then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed and President George W. Bush approved in spring 2004. The order gave the military authority to attack Al Qaeda anywhere in the world and to conduct operations in countries that were not at war with the U.S.
One such operation was an Oct. 26 raid inside Syria, the Times reported. Washington has not formally acknowledged the raid, but U.S. officials have said the target was a top Al Qaeda in Iraq figure. Syria has asked for proof and said eight civilians were killed in the attack.
In another mission, in 2006, Navy SEALs raided a suspected terrorist compound in Pakistan's tribal areas.
The raids have typically been conducted by U.S. Special Forces, often in conjunction with the Central Intelligence Agency, the newspaper said. Even though the process has been streamlined, specific missions have to be approved by the defense secretary or, in the cases of Syria and Pakistan, by the president.
A Defense Department spokesman had no comment Sunday night on the Times report.