By Patrick Devenny, October 18, 2005.
Last month, NBC News correspondent Lisa Myers tracked down one Jihad
Jaara, a veteran Palestinian militant who currently resides in Ireland.
Jaara’s career as a terrorist has been a remarkably effective one. As a
member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade – a violent militia tied to Yasser Arafat’s
Fatah party – Jaara supervised and planned dozens of assassinations and
bombings against a wide-range of American and Israeli targets.
One of the more reprehensible actions authorized by Jaara was the
kidnapping of Avi Boaz, a 72-year-old American architect who was abducted by
Al-Aqsa terrorists while he waited at a Palestinian police checkpoint. His
bullet-riddled body was found a few hours later, dumped just outside of
Upon being questioned by Myers, Jaara swore that he had renounced such
terrorism, a claim that was dismissed by former associates, who identified him
as an important interlocutor between Hezbollah and various Palestinian terrorist
What distinguishes Jaara from many of his fellow Palestinian terrorist leaders is
that he plied his bloody trade while simultaneously serving as an officer in the
Palestinian Preventive Security Service, a body assigned with combating
His official status gave Jaara the ability to travel freely throughout the
territories, enabling him to plan his attacks while enjoying the protection
afforded to Palestinian officials by the Israelis. While his position gave him some
advantages, Jaara was unhesitant when asked what single factor had most
contributed to his transformation into a successful terrorist: small-arms training
supervised by officers of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The fact that the CIA trained a man such as Jihad Jaara is hardly surprising. For
almost ten years, the American government has been engaged in a series of
hopelessly misguided endeavors designed to train and fund the Palestinian
security services, an initiative which can be deemed, politely, as a dismal
Tens of millions of American taxpayer dollars have simply disappeared
into the covert bank accounts of corrupt Palestinian officials, while CIA-trainers
recklessly lent their considerable combat expertise to fanatics such as Jaara.
The misguided attempt began in 1996, when the CIA led an effort – engineered
by then deputy director George Tenet – to train the Palestinian authorities in
The initiative was secretly authorized by President Clinton, who later
signed a Presidential order sanctioning the expansion of the program to include
chaperoned tours of the CIA and FBI headquarters buildings for Palestinian
security chiefs. The covert training and funding operation continued over the
next two years, existing wholly outside of the public’s view.
In 1998, President Clinton – anxious to cement his legacy as Middle East
peacemaker – pushed for an expanded and formalized security assistance effort
which would be included as a provision in the Wye River agreement.
While the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was
initially reluctant to accept such an idea, Clinton managed to browbeat the
Israeli delegation into compliance, an acquiescence which ensured the
continuation and growth of the formerly covert training program.
In doing so, the President ignored the warnings of several veteran Israeli
counter-terrorist officials, who repeatedly warned their American counterparts
that several high-ranking Palestinian terrorists such as Al-Aqsa Brigades leader
Nasser Awis were simultaneously serving as senior security officials in the
Palestinian Authority, with responsibility for conducting counter-terrorist
Within months of the Wye agreement, the first Palestinian trainees arrived
aboard U.S. government aircraft. Their training regimen was rigorous, far
superior to the domestic ‘boot camps’ offered by the Palestinian government or
The Palestinian units were ferried to various military installations, where
they were given advanced small-arms training on firing ranges normally used by
the U.S. Army and special forces units. Additionally, the recruits were taught
how to effectively protect high-value targets and ‘motorcade operations,’ skills
that could easily be transferred into protecting terrorist leaders from Israeli
Many of the former CIA trainees turned terrorists have since praised the CIA
course, including Jaara, who made a point to extol the CIA’s ‘shooting’ course.
Perhaps most disturbingly, however, was that the Palestinian officers
were given ‘interrogation’ training, which, in the hands of those who work in
the espionage services of groups such as Fatah, could prove extremely
American officials reasoned that – emboldened by their new training –
Palestinian authorities would immediately and aggressively crack down on
terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who were consistently
breaking ceasefire agreements during the late 1990s.
To the U.S. government’s dismay, many of the Palestinian security
officers quickly joined or began aiding the very terrorist groups which they had
been trained to combat.
Security personnel were also observed transferring arms and their
American training to militia groups such as the Tanzim, which was led by
convicted terrorist Marwan Barghuti.
Indicative of the Clinton administration’s staggering ignorance over this issue
was a class of 18 Palestinians brought to a top-secret location near CIA
headquarters in 1998 for a course in ‘anti-terrorist techniques’.
American officials failed to realize, however, that most of the men hailed
from cities where militant infiltration of the police forces was acute, such as
Not surprisingly, as detailed in the San Francisco Chronicle, several of the
students went on to become some of the most dangerous terrorists in the
Palestinian territories, including the infamous Khaled Abu Nijmeh, who used his
CIA training to supervise multiple suicide bombings in 2001 and 2002 in
More than half of the original class of 18 went on to become fighters in
the Al-Aqsa brigades.
Beginning in 1999, Israeli government officials began suggesting that the
American training effort be scaled back, in order to better judge its overall
effectiveness. In addition, Prime Minister Ehud Barak complained to the White
House that Yasser Arafat was using his seemingly close relations with the CIA
to bolster his negotiating position, which had become increasingly aggressive.
Tel Aviv’s requests fell on deaf ears in Washington, which stubbornly clung to
the pipe dream that Arafat’s police forces would – given enough American aid
and training – eventually confront the various militant organizations.
This expectation was abruptly dashed during the intifada of 2000, in which
large numbers of Palestinian police joined militant groups in fighting the Israeli
The sight of Palestinian police stripping off their uniforms and engaging
in raging street battles with Israeli forces became commonplace. At the same
time, the Palestinian authorities failed miserably to curtain the actions of
terrorist organizations, who operated with total impunity inside the territories.
Apart from the blowback effect precipitated by the Clinton administration’s
foolishly training men such as Jihad Jaara and Khaled Abu Nijmeh, the futile
quest to prop up a Palestinian security service has been an unqualified financial
All told, the U.S. government has squandered almost one billion dollars
in the effort to construct a viable Palestinian state, a large portion of which has
gone into building a Palestinian security force.
Despite this massive amount of funding, the Palestinian services have shown
little signs of progress, as detailed in a July 2005 report compiled on behalf of
the U.S. government by the consulting firm Strategic Assessments Initiative
The SAI report stated that, even with millions of American dollars and
years of CIA training, the PA police were wholly ineffective, wracked with
divided loyalties and inferior equipment. Many of its officers, charged the SAI
analysts, were active or complicit in terrorist attacks or organized crime rings.
Recent events have provided ample evidence of the overall program’s failure.
The ongoing chaos in Gaza and the current inability of the Palestinian Authority
to enforce its own disarmament provisions with regard to Hamas should serve
to prove the utter futility of ‘reforming’ the Palestinian security apparatus.
The latest example came on Tuesday, when Palestinian police officers brazenly
stormed the offices of the national legislature, complaining that they lacked the
basic resources to confront the heavily-armed militant groups. Their lack of
weaponry or funding suggests that the tens of millions of dollars in Western aid
which was specifically earmarked for arming the police had been directed
elsewhere, a violation of the agreed-upon protocols.
Regardless of these past failures, the Bush administration seems determined to
follow a similar path, as training the Palestinian security services remains at the
heart of President Bush’s efforts to keep the Palestinians involved in the
Earlier this year, while visiting London, Secretary of State Rice
suggested, “There will need to be some international effort, and the United
States is prepared to play a major role in that, to help in the training of the
Palestinian security forces and in making sure that they are security forces that
are part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
Echoing the Secretary of State’s words was President Bush, who – while
meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in May – pledged
to ‘reform’ the PA’s security services through a $50 million dollar aid package,
assigning an American general to oversee the process.
Just two weeks ago, American officials in Ramallah proudly announced
the transfer of three million dollars to the Palestinian security services, for the
‘enhancement of their capabilities’.
Additional measures have been approved by the President, chief among
them a CIA-run effort which would give the Palestinians a supplementary $300
million dollars for security operations.
These recent overtures are the latest example of our government’s puzzling
willingness to pour additional millions into anonymous Palestinian coffers, all in
the name of highlighting our ‘even-handedness’ with regard to the peace
As we have already witnessed, however, any American initiative to
reform the Palestinian security services is doomed to fail so long as no credible
Palestinian government or judicial systems exists in the territories.
Yet – desperate to accrue some sort of good will from our erstwhile Arab and
European allies – the Bush administration sees fit to throw such considerations
by the wayside, disregarding our security – not to mention Israel’s – in favor of
overseas image management.