By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2022
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil
is that good men do nothing.”
— Edmund Burke, Irish-British statesman.
“Of course it’s a violation of international law;
that’s why it’s a covert action!”
— Vice President Al Gore, 1993.
“After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator
Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence,
the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin
to invade Ukraine next.”
— Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, 2008.
“I said (to Vladimir Putin)…‘I’m looking into your eyes,
and I don’t think you have a soul.’ He looked back at me,
and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand one another.’”
— Vice President Joe Biden, New Yorker interview, 2014.
It’s not too late to save Ukraine from this unprovoked, Russian invasion, and the spectacularly-successful precedent has already been set. Operation Cyclone was one of the longest and most-expensive CIA operations ever undertaken. It took place from 1979 to 1992 during the Soviet-Afghan War, following the Soviet invasion there. During the operation, the CIA covertly supplied weapons and military equipment to the Afghan mujaheddin insurgents, with funding increasing to $630 million per year under the Reagan administration by 1987. This included 2,300 shoulder-fired, FIM-92A/B Stinger antiaircraft missiles beginning in 1986. These missiles alone are estimated to have shot down as many as 250 Soviet jet fighters and attack helicopters, severely demoralizing their armed forces.
The 2007 film, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, depicts much of the behind-the-scenes, political maneuvering that was required to make Operation Cyclone a resounding success. Congressional Representative Charlie Wilson, a Texas Democrat and U.S. Naval Academy graduate, played by Hanks, was instrumental in orchestrating CIA funding and support for this vital endeavor, and in garnering weapons and equipment from Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and even China. These military supplies were distributed to insurgent groups by the CIA, British MI6, and Pakistani ISI intelligence services. The result of Operation Cyclone was the frenzied and chaotic, Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan by February 15, 1989, which in turn hastened the fall of the communist Soviet Union only two and a half years later.
Our government needs to use the CIA’s paramilitary Special Operations Group (SOG: See my Gunpowder Magazine article on “Desert Tigers: Guns of the CIA Special Operations Group” from January 26, 2021) for its intended purpose of covert action. Now, it’s time for Operation Cyclone II, and we already know exactly what needs to be done, how it should be done, and that it defeated the mighty, Soviet Empire in the past, which was far more powerful than today’s Russian Federation under Vladimir Putin.
So far, the U.S. administration has neither intimidated Putin, nor slowed him down. They withdrew all 165 U.S. troops (65 Special Forces advisors and 100+ Florida National Guard advisors near Kyiv) from Ukraine on training missions, making it much easier for Russian forces to attack without consequences. They should have left the troops in-place, and sternly warned Putin that should any harm come to American advisors in Ukraine, the repercussions would be swift and decisive.
Then, the White House rebuffed a very generous offer by the Polish government to freely donate all 23 of their aging, MiG-29A/G Fulcrum jet fighters to Ukraine, provided that the U.S. facilitated the transfer through either Ramstein or Spangdahlem Air Bases in Germany. Ukraine already flies 37 MiG-29s, of which approximately one-third have been lost in combat, so they certainly know how to operate them.
After starting Operation Cyclone II, the United States needs to lead by example, publicly and actively supporting Ukraine in every way possible, including American “peacekeepers” sent into Ukraine, with NATO member nations following suit. Having thousands of NATO peacekeepers in Ukraine would not only help defuse the situation but would also back Putin down with the threat of the NATO forces invoking Article 5 of the NATO charter: an attack against one is considered an attack against all. Ukraine is not yet a NATO member, so these protections to not apply to the Ukrainians, but we should certainly not make them stand alone against the significant, Russian threat.
We should immediately implement an Operation Cyclone II counterpart, and flood Ukraine with weapons and military hardware from the United States, NATO countries, and all friendly allies, such as Israel. NATO should also implement and stringently enforce a no-fly zone over sovereign, Ukrainian territory, including all territories seized by the Russians during this ongoing invasion.
In addition, we should begin high-altitude (60,000 feet), RQ-180A “White Bat” stealth reconnaissance drone surveillance over Ukrainian soil. The highly-respected, Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine disclosed on November 3, 2014, that the RQ-180 was “equipped for precision-strike…missions,” according to a report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
This means that it is probably armed with a fairly small number of precision-guided bombs, such as AGM-176A Griffins (35 pounds each, originally developed for the CIA), GBU-69/B weapons (60 pounds each), or GBU-53/B StormBreaker bombs (204 pounds each) in case of an immediate, fleeting, high-priority, targeting opportunity. There’s also a brand-new, Northrop Grumman Hatchet munition, a six-pound mini-bomb with a three-pound warhead, as a possible armament.
Also, on the ground, we should have small, roving teams of CIA SOG paramilitary officers advising and assisting Ukrainian forces. The Agency has at least 100 to 150 of these highly skilled men at any given time, all of whom possess at least eight years of former, military experience, plus a bachelor’s degree, as a bare minimum. These are mostly former, military officers, or ex-enlisted men with college degrees, who are now officially U.S. government civilians with the very latest in military weapons, uniforms, and equipment. Most of these SOG operators have prior experience with U.S. Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs, Delta Force, Army Rangers, or Marine Corps special operations, and are no longer constrained by military rules and regulations. At least a half-dozen of the men are sure to be skilled in the Ukrainian language, and many Ukrainian military men also speak passable English.
One can readily envision them roving the Ukrainian countryside in Polaris Defense MRZR Alpha 2 or Alpha 4 turbodiesel, all-terrain vehicles. Already used by U.S. Special Forces, these are equipped with sophisticated, secure radios, satellite phones, GPS units, tablet computers, and night-vision gear. They also have the same types of weaponry employed by Delta Force or SEAL Team Six, such as HK416 carbines and Glock-19 pistols.
Meanwhile, we should vastly increase our shipments of long-range, FGM-148F Javelin anti-tank missiles and FIM-92HStinger antiaircraft missiles to Ukraine, as well as .50-caliber sniper rifles, and anything else that would help to tip the scales in Ukraine’s favor. Canada is already sending PGW LRT-3 .50-caliber rifles, and the United Kingdom plans to send shoulder-fired, Starstreak antiaircraft missiles, the fastest of their type (Mach 3.5) in the world.
There is also a growing, International Legion of Territorial Defense in embattled Kyiv, with 20,000 volunteers applying from 52 nations, including a Georgian National Legion in the western part of the capital city, and a legendary, Canadian sniper with a two-mile kill to his credit. While this sounds very impressive, after a thorough vetting process, only about 100 men have been approved so far to join the International Legion.
Stopping the mighty Russian Army has been successfully accomplished before, using covert action in Operation Cyclone. This was an incredibly vital lesson in recent history that we should learn from, and repeat. But the time for action is NOW, with Russian troops already on the outskirts of Kyiv. We don’t have the luxury of 13 years this time, or even 13 weeks. We need to swiftly expedite the process, with the support and assistance of our NATO allies, if we hope to halt Russian aggression in its tracks.
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Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism. He served in Europe (including Eastern Europe) and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author and historian. You may visit his web site at: warrengray54.vistaprintdigital.com.