The ‘Spies and Commandos’ of Afghanistan

The media exploded late last week with reports that Russia had paid the Taliban bounties to kill U.S. and Afghan troops. The plot was revealed by “spies and commandos” who had, among other things, discovered a large cache of U.S. dollars in a Taliban base and traced it back to Russia. The use of the terms spies and commandos is a bit odd, as they are not terms that American intelligence would normally use; U.S. operatives are not normally referred to as spies, and foreigners working for U.S. operatives are typically called “sources.” Commando is a British term adopted by the U.S. for a while but since abandoned for “special operations forces.” It’s a small but curious rhetorical point, one that could simply be explained by communication error in the translation, transmission, vetting and eventual publication of sensitive intelligence.

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