Afghan Biographies

Counterterrorist Pursuit Team

Name Counterterrorist Pursuit Team
Ethnic backgr.
Date of birth
Function/Grade Background
History and Biodata

Counterterrorist Pursuit Team CPT:


The CIA has trained an Afghan counterterrorist force several thousand strong, known as the Counterterrorism Pursuit Team, which works mostly in insurgent strongholds in southern and eastern Afghanistan. U.S. officials say they work with the Afghan intelligence service, but President Karzai frequently complains he lacks oversight over their operations.



The CIA has trained and bankrolled a well-paid force of elite Afghan paramilitaries for nearly 11 years to hunt al-Qaida and the Taliban for the CIA, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Modeled after U.S. special forces, the Counterterrorist Pursuit Team was set up in the months following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 to penetrate territory controlled by the Taliban and al-Qaida and target militants for interrogations by CIA officials.

The 3,000-strong Afghan teams are used for surveillance and long-range reconnaissance missions and some have trained at CIA facilities in the United States. The force has operated in Kabul and some of Afghanistan's most violence-wracked provinces including Kandahar, Khost, Paktia and Paktika, according to a security professional familiar with the program.
Unlike regular Afghan army commandos, the CIA-run Afghan paramilitary units mostly work independently from CIA paramilitary or special operations forces but will occasionally combine forces for an operation.

The CIA-run Afghan paramilitary in Kandahar were compensated on an elite pay scale, according to human rights investigators. The average paramilitary in the force could earn $340 a month while a regiment head could take home as much as $1,000. In Uruzgan, the U.S. pays members $300 to $320 per month.

The Kandahar Strike Force (KSF) used to be, according to many Kandaharis and The New York Times, in the pocket of the president’s late brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai; overseeing the KSF was one of a number of services which The Times alleged he provided to the CIA (before his death, he strongly denied being a CIA agent). This chain of command appeared to be an informal arrangement, by-passing the ministries of interior or defence and with the Afghan forces answering to foreigners as well as Ahmad Wali.

Jules Cavendish of The Independent, who has doggedly followed such groups, has interviewed senior figures within the KSF, including their former leader, Atal Afghanzai. He described how KSF recruits were cherry-picked from regular Afghan army units and trained by US SOF at Mulla Omar’s old house, now known as Camp Gecko (and which was rented out, according to The New York Times, by Ahmad Wali Karzai):

'Foreign military advisers at the camp taught hand-to-hand combat and put new recruits through ambush training, as well as teaching them English, said Afghanzai. Everyone, he said, from the cook to the Special Forces advisers, was ‘working for OGA somehow’: an acronym standing for ‘other government agencies’ and generally used to refer to the CIA. ‘We had day raids, night raids. Any time we received intel from the NDS [Afghanistan's security service] that there were 10, 20, 50 insurgents gathering in a house or a garden, we'd launch an op.’


Last Modified 2013-03-10
Established 2013-03-10