When word got out last month that the CIA had contracted mercenary / private security outfit Blackwater (now re-branded as Xe) in connection with "targeted killings" of Al Qaeda operatives and others in Afghanistan and Pakistan, many within the community expressed little surprise, and not much outrage. This, even though the company has become widely feared and hated abroad, is gaining notoriety as the "CIA's private army" and has been deeply implicated in illegal rendition activities.
According to Defensetech.org:
the CIA hit team contract shouldn't have been much of a surprise to anyone except that it was with Blackwater -- a company whose image personifies everything that was bad about the Iraq war. And on the Predator servicing contract, Jake said "if it were Raytheon, Lockheed Martin or any of the other big named aerospace contractors that could have done this kind of work nobody would have batted an eye..."
Perhaps it was because the events in question were thought to have taken place as long ago as 2004. Or perhaps the cover story that quickly made the RUMINT rounds in DC - that Blackwater was merely doing maintenance work on the CIA's Predator fleet - served to quell the usual suspects.
But now comes news that Blackwater's exploits took place much more recently, and what appears to be another CIA cover operation is being implicated in less-than-savoury dealings within Pakistan.
In early August, Pakistani writer Ahmed Quraishi reported that an American operating undercover in Pakistan had been expelled by Pakistani security officials. Quraishi alleges the man in question, one Craig Davis, was operating on behalf of Blackwater.
Pakistani security officials apparently became alarmed by reports that Blackwater was operating from the office of CAII on Chinar Road, University Town in Peshawar. The man in charge of the office, allegedly an American by the name of Craig Davis according to a report in Jang, Pakistan's largest Urdu language daily, was arrested and accused of establishing contacts with 'the enemies of Pakistan' in areas adjoining Afghanistan. His visa has been cancelled, the office sealed, and Mr. Davis reportedly expelled back to the United States.
Mystery surrounded the action, and Quraishi was unable to get much in the way of official confirmation of the events surrounding Davis' deportation, such as who else might've been deported with him. What does appear to be true is that Davis was soon back in Pakistan, his return vetted at the highest levels in the U.S. State Department and the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
sources said that return of Craig Davis was made possible following series of negotiations between Pakistan's Foreign Office and the US State Department, thus, causing ripples in Pakistan's security agencies.
Craig Davis, who has been accused to be holding secret meetings with Taliban, an act of breaching Pakistan's sovereignty, is using a leased house, CAII, in Peshawar.
Perhaps predictably, the U.S. government has refused to comment on the matter, and continues to stonewall regarding the presence of Blackwater pesonnel in Pakistan.
US embassy spokesman Richard W Snelsire, however, when asked about the presence of Blackwater personnel in Pakistan, said, "We don't discuss security, issues related to the security that include the contractors, who are assigned the security tasks." Snelsire or Rick, as he is commonly known, said that making public such details would endanger lives. He said that 95% of the security personnel doing security work with the US embassy and its officials are from the Pakistani security companies.
Official sidestepping notwithstanding, Blackwater's presence in Pakistani seems to be an open secret, surrounded by considerable buzz. At least one political party, the Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), headed by former national cricket hero Imran Khan, has openly complained about their activities, calling them a "conspiracy against the solidarity and integrity of the country."
The disgrace surrounding Blackwater's conduct in Iraq aside, few should be surprised that Pakistanis are upset over a mercenary army or private military contractor - actively operating on their soil. There are many in the country who are not yet reconciled to even an official American presence, considering the repeated CIA/Pentagon drone strikes on targets in the lawless tribal districts on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border a violation of sovereignty. More recent developments, in which U.S. ground troops have been witnessed in action, have exacerbated matters even further.
Insofar as the Davis affair is concerned, one of its more interesting features is the degree to which the activities of a formerly little-known consulting company, Creative Associates International, Inc. (CAII), have been brought to light. The house in which Davis was alleged to operate from was the Peshawar office of CAII, which bills themselves as a privately-owned non-governmental agency (NGO) and "A Company With a Vision":
Creative is a privately-owned non-governmental organization that addresses urgent challenges facing societies today. Whether they are shifts in demographics, the workplace, the classroom, technology, the political arena or the needs of stabilization in post-conflict environments, Creative views change as an opportunity to improve, transform and renew. We help our clients turn transitional environments into a positive force toward creating more empowered and effective communities, systems and institutions.
- from CAII's website
According to the Washington, D.C. company's LinkedIn profile, it was founded in 1977, and employs 300 personnel. But it also appears to be aggressively expanding overseas, with numerous openings for employees in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Pakistan, certainly in Afghanistan, and definitely in Iraq, CAII appears to operate under the auspices of contracts let by USAID, in support of the agency's regional goal of promoting "a thriving economy led by the private sector, as stable political and economic conditions prevent terrorism from flourishing in fragile or failing states. In order to improve economic policy and the business environment, USAID aims to continue to promote macroeconomic reform, revenue collection, and privatization of state-owned enterprises."
There are those, however, who believe such gifts come with strings attached, particularly given the well-documented ties between USAID and the CIA, which go back as far as 1973. In fact, claims that USAID is essentially a CIA dummy corporation were largely confirmed when the CIA released its 'Family Jewels' documents in 2007. (Click here for a full copy of the released documents.)
On the surface, CAII would seem an unlikely CIA front. Founded in 1979 by four women, partners in a day-care operation, it began life with the support of the Small Business Administration's minority-owned woman business program. It's first year's revenue was a paltry $100,000, but their first customer was to prove a long-time supporter -- today, USAID contracts account for 90% of the company's business. Beyond serving as a potent launch customer, it's possible that the deeply connected USAID may also have led CAII into the twilight world of intelligence. Six years after their first assignment for USAID, in which they were hired to help develop women in Bolivia, CAII had become a multi-million dollar operation. Today, they have offices in 11 countries. Among other contracts for USAID, CAII provided civilian re-training for the Contras, supplied "media assistance and civic education" in Haiti, and are currently in the process of executing a $157 million contract to revitalize the Iraqi education system. A probe involving irregularities in this last contract led Sen. Joe Lieberman to arrive at "the inescapable conclusion is that there was essentially no competitive bidding at all."
Suspicions aside, it may not yet be possible to confirm CAII as a bona fide CIA dummy corporation. Still, it will be worth keeping an eye on the its moves in the future, particularly if it continues to hire shadowy personnel such as Caleb McCarry. The Bush Administration's former anti-Castro point man, and son of spy writer and CIA deep cover agent Charles McCarry, Caleb McCarry is also an associate of odious figures such as jailed Haitian death squad leader Emmanual "Toto" Constant.
After all, while it might not be surprising to see a character like McCarry working for the CIA, CAII is a different acronym entirely.
Or is it?