A classified CIA document was posted by the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks on Thursday
It said targeted assassinations can have both positive and negative outcomes
Targeted assassinations or the capture of senior insurgent leaders in larger counterinsurgency operations can provide both positive and negative outcomes according to a classified CIA document posted by the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks on Thursday.
The use of so-called high-value targeting, or HVT, programs are the subject of a document titled “Best Practices in Counterinsurgency” and labeled as secret – and not for the eyes of foreign nations – dates back to July 2009 in the early days of the Obama administration.
According to the document, the CIA assessed the results of such operations by either U.S. government personnel or other countries during operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Israel and eight other countries.
Use of high-value targeting programs can have beneficial effects such as eroding insurgent effectiveness, weakening insurgent will, and fragmenting or splitting the insurgent group among others.
However, the report cites the possibility of increasing the level of support for insurgent groups, radicalizing an insurgent group’s remaining leaders and creating a vacuum for additional radical groups to enter as potential adverse effects for such operations.
A CIA spokesperson told CNN the agency does not comment on the authenticity or content of purported stolen intelligence documents.
Several case studies from various high-value targeting operations spanning 50 years formed the basis of the report.
Efforts to target senior members of the Afghan Taliban since 2001 were constrained by the limited reach of the central government beyond Kabul, along with the Taliban’s “high overall ability to replace lost leaders” illustrate the limits of high-value targeting operations according to clandestine and U.S. military reporting that formed the basis of that research.
But the report cites the Colombian government’s use of high-value targeting operations against the FARC guerilla movement, and the overall psychological impact produced by the strikes on the broader population boosted the “government’s legitimacy” and reduced morale within the FARC over time.
And the continued use of targeting senior al Qaeda leaders served to weaken Osama bin Laden’s control of his organization before his death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in 2011.
Bin Laden’s efforts to avoid detection “including his reliance on low-technology communications, his reluctance to meet with subordinates and his contentment with leading from a sequestered distance via infrequent contact,” affected his ability to lead the organization according to the report.
The document purports to provide both lessons and a framework for evaluating high-value targeting operations for US policy makers and military leaders involved in their ultimate authorization.
Multiple sources of information formed the basis for the CIA’s findings according to the document.
“Most of our source information relies on clandestine and defense attache reporting, discussions with HVT practitioners, a CIA-sponsored study on HVT operations in counterinsurgencies and our review of current and historical case documents,” the report says.