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Briton led US-backed private army to hunt Taliban in Pakistan
 Part of channel(s): Afghanistan (current event)

A former British special forces officer ran a US-backed private army to hunt down the Taliban in Pakistan in a secret war in 2003, a new book has revealed.

By Rob Crilly, Islamabad
6:00PM GMT 28 Nov 2012

Lieutenant Commander Howard Leedham, an ex-Royal Navy pilot, led a 25-strong force of specially-recruited Pakistani soldiers raiding Taliban camps, hunting down kidnap victims and detaining suspected al-Qaeda militants.

Eight years after leaving the country, Lt Cdr Leeham has broken his silence to describe a programme he believes offers a model for securing Pakistan’s porous borders against the militant threat.

While he was at work in the tribal badlands that border Afghanistan, the US State Department programme was a closely guarded secret — even from US and Pakistani officials. Under a one-year contract, Leedham was granted use of an American fleet of seven helicopters and two fixed-wing planes to conduct anti-terrorist operations in support of local troops from a base in Quetta, capital of the restive province of Baluchistan.





To do it he had to persuade a Pakistani general to allow him to recruit a handful of local Pathan soldiers.





“For a moment in time there was a group of Pathans, there were some Pakistani military officers, there were American mechanics, there was me,” he said, referring to the tough mountain tribesmen of north-western Pakistan.







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“Did we break a few rules on the way? Yes. But if we didn’t, the people who would have got the advantage were the bad guys.”



The success of “the 25” as Lt Cdr Leedham’s force became known, meant it was first doubled in size and then scaled up into a multi-million dollar American and British training programme, which were halted only last year after the raid to kill Osama bin Laden.



Lt Cdr Leedham tells his story in a new book, Ask Forgiveness Not Permission.



He had left the British military — after a career as a helicopter pilot for Royal Marine Commando and what he coyly describes as “special forces type operations” — and was working with an executive air service in the US when he was approached to take over a failing State Department programme in Pakistan.



With resources focused on the war in Iraq during 2003, equipping his force was a question of begging, stealing and borrowing what was needed. Ration packs were sourced from US troops in Kabul. Smoke grenades were bartered from a contact at the British High Commission in return for seats on flights to Quetta.



The soldiers he worked with were recruited from the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary outfit with its roots in colonial India. But while the men knew the terrain they lacked commando training.



Lt Cdr Leedham taught the recruits the basics of desert warfare and gave an intense course in helicopter-borne assault techniques. The inspiration for his instructions came from the writings of Lawrence of Arabia.



“These guys really did perform,” said Lt Cdr Leedham. “I used a lot of Lawrence doctrine. I know it sounds a bit hokey but I did.”



At the time, local newspapers reported mysterious roadblocks on the main road from Pakistan to Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban. They would disappear as soon as word spread, only to reappear elsewhere. Lt Cdr Leedham was briefed on an operation to move on a compound frequented by a “high-profile” suspect. He was never told the target and the plan was apparently vetoed by the US on legal grounds, but the book hints that it was a senior al-Qaeda figure, possibly even Osama bin Laden himself.



Lt Cdr Leedham returned to the US at the end of his one-year contract at the age of 46. Today he lives in London and works in the financial world.



The story will cause unease in Pakistan, where conspiracy theories circulate about secret Western forces running amok and where the US today uses a classified drone programme to hunt militants.



Lt Cdr Leedham said the model he used — small teams of local fighters with tight security protocols that prevent tip-offs to militant leaders — could still be used to hunt terrorists even as Western forces pull out of the region.


Added: Nov-28-2012 Occurred On: Nov-28-2012
By: BekasKhan
In:
Afghanistan
Tags: Afghanistan, Occupation, by, US, NATO, Taliban, Pakistan, terrorist, Punjabi, ISI, Al, Qaeda, Iran, Intel, India, Haqqani, Shia's, Hazaras
Location: Afghanistan (load item map)
Views: 5464 | Comments: 63 | Votes: 1 | Favorites: 1 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 2
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  • get em boys

    Posted Nov-28-2012 By 

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  • Comment of user 'landsolo' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
    • Comment of user 'moonshin' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • Good work.

    Posted Nov-28-2012 By 

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  • Good work.
    Like using Jack Russell terrier's for hunting rat's

    Posted Nov-28-2012 By 

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  • Let's get 'em boys. Be safe out there.

    Posted Nov-28-2012 By 

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    • @HeavenlySedated

      If you really wanted them to be safe you wouldn't be encouraging them to put themselves in harm's way. WTF?

      Regardless, do you really think the silly words of someone sitting safely in front of their computer really mean anything to the boys?

      Posted Nov-29-2012 By 

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    • @Cujo1234 I didnt encourage them to put them in harm's way. This is something they chose to do. My words may seem silly to you, but to someone else they can mean everything. Who are to be the judge of the value of my words? I appreciate the work they do and I absolutely will stand behind "the boys". It's because of them that I dont have to be out there and can sit safely behind my computer. They get hatred and criticism from people like you all the time. I'll be the type to let them kn More..

      Posted Dec-2-2012 By 

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    • @HeavenlySedated

      Yeah you did. You said to go get them, ...which requires putting themselves in harms way.

      If you really supported the troops you should be against this war of nation building that is killing our troops and not making us any safer.

      Posted Dec-8-2012 By 

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  • whatever it takes, i support hunting down any muslim terrorist until they are all dead, no matter where they are.

    Posted Nov-29-2012 By 

    (1) | Report

  • Comment of user 'fookalah' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • We need more men and programs like the one he ran "Ask Forgiveness Not Permission"... I like that train of thought

    Posted Nov-28-2012 By 

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  • the Pakis are so bloody paranoid that they end up chasing, and biting,their own arses, they will beleive anything !!!

    Posted Nov-28-2012 By 

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  • Sounds like horse shit.

    Posted Nov-28-2012 By 

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  • Nails.

    Kudos.

    Hereford strikes again! Or perhaps Poole.

    Posted Nov-29-2012 By 

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  • Good for us. This is an asymmetrical war requiring asymmetrical solutions. ROE's and other rubbish aren't going to win this long war.

    Posted Nov-29-2012 By 

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    • @tomd Perhaps not, but ROEs make you look like a civilized nation waging a proper war.

      Then again to be fair, that kinda went out the window when your boys started taking finger trophies off dead Afghan civies...

      Posted Nov-30-2012 By 

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  • Bigger balls than me 'fo sure

    Posted Dec-21-2012 By 

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  • There's something about the articles above which is sparking a debate in my head. It almost sounds too good to be true. By all means I'm immensly proud of our armed forces, but this just stinks of trying to sell his book. Not much information on the Internet about him either, so no news websites have written articles on this.

    Sorry, I'll probably be thumbed down for it, but I call it how I see it.

    Posted Nov-28-2012 By 

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  • terrorists are bad

    Posted Nov-29-2012 By 

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  • me for our mission recruit. me now.!!

    Posted Nov-29-2012 By 

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  • Comment of user '-Crusader-' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • How does a navy helicopter pilot become a counter insurgency expert?

    I call bullshit.

    Posted Nov-29-2012 By 

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  • Mercenaries. Nothing more.

    Posted Nov-28-2012 By 

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    • @MurkyFogsFutureLogs Thats what they want you to think. Pakistan is full of real terrorists. Their police force/government are even the targets of suicide bombers. I bet these guys were alot more then just mercenaries. These Radical muslims have no borders, only hatred towards the west and anyone who doesnt share their radical beliefs. Islamabad pakistan? CIA all over it.

      Posted Nov-28-2012 By 

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    • @Adirondack13

      THEIR GOVT ARE FULL OF TERRORISTS

      Posted Nov-28-2012 By 

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    • @MurkyFogsFutureLogs

      Nothing wrong with renting select men for specific goals .

      Posted Nov-28-2012 By 

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    • Comment of user 'moonshin' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
    • @moonshin

      I know if any other nation opposed to the Western elties agenda deployed the same measures they would be lambasted all over the mainstream media and by our politicians.

      Posted Nov-29-2012 By 

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  • Hello! My name is America nice to meet you! I cannot afford public healthcare, welfare or basic human needs for the majority of my populace although we do have a multi-trillion dollar defense budget to drop million dollar missiles on little innocent children and imaginary terrorists aka (People defending THEIR land)... We're constantly living in fear thanks to Zionist-propaganda that controls our media and TV's 24/7. We get involved in international affairs that don't concern us and have over 10 More..

    Posted Nov-29-2012 By 

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  • Comment of user 'rafaelcastelar' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!