U.S. Special Operations Forces have a brand new home in Afghanistan. It’s owned and operated by the security company formerly known as Blackwater, thanks to a no-bid deal worth $22 million.
You might think that Blackwater, now called Academi, was banished into some bureaucratic exile after its operatives in Afghanistan stole guns from U.S. weapons depots and killed Afghan civilians. Wrong. Academi’s private 10-acre compound outside Kabul, called Camp Integrity, is the new headquarters for perhaps the most important special operations unit in Afghanistan.
That would be the Special Operations Joint Task Force–Afghanistan, created on July 1 to unite and oversee the three major spec-ops “tribes” throughout Afghanistan, which command some 7,000 elite troops in all. It’s run by Army Maj. Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas, a former deputy commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, and is already tasked with reforming how those elite forces train Afghan villagers to fight the Taliban. And its role is only going to grow in Afghanistan, as regular U.S. forces withdraw by 2014 and the commandos take over the residual task of fighting al-Qaida and its allies. Perhaps that’s why Academi’s no-bid contract runs through May 2015. . .