The Obama administration has ramped up its secret war on terror groups with a new military targeting centre to oversee the growing use of special operations strikes against suspected militants in hot spots around the world, according to current and former US officials.
Run by the US Joint Special Operations Command, the new centre would be a significant step in streamlining targeting operations previously scattered among US and battlefields abroad and giving elite military officials closer access to Washington decision-makers and counter-terror experts, the officials said.
The centre aims to speed the sharing of information and shorten the time between targeting and military action, said two current and two former US officials briefed on the project. Those officials and others insisted on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified matters.
The creation of the centre comes as part of the administration's increasing reliance on clandestine and covert action to hunt terror suspects as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have tested the country's patience and pocketbook. The White House has more than doubled the numbers of special operations forces in Afghanistan alone, as well as doubling the CIA's use of missile strikes from unmanned drones in Pakistan and expanding counter-terror operations in Yemen.
JSOC's decision-making process in counter-terror operations had previously been spread between special operations officials at Pope Air Force base in North Carolina, top officials at the Pentagon and commanders on the battlefield.
Now located at a classified address a short drive from the Pentagon, the centre is staffed with at least 100 counter-terror experts fusing the military's special operations elite with analysts, intelligence and law enforcement officials from the FBI, Homeland Security and other agencies, the US officials said.