The CIA Has Been Training Ukrainian Paramilitaries to ‘Kill Russians’
The CIA has been overseeing a secret training program for Ukrainian special operations forces and intelligence operatives since 2015, Yahoo News reported on Thursday, citing five former intelligence and national security officials.
One former CIA official said the US is “training an insurgency” in Ukraine and that the program teaches the Ukrainians how “to kill Russians,” although other officials downplayed the training and said it was not meant for offensive purposes.
The training has been held at an undisclosed base in the southern United States. It was started by the Obama administration, was expanded by President Trump, and further expanded by President Biden. The program includes training in firearms, camouflage techniques, land navigation, and other areas, former officials told Yahoo.
The program was overseen by the CIA’s Ground Branch, the spy agency’s elite paramilitary unit. The Yahoo report said by 2015, Ground Branch personnel were deployed to the front in eastern Ukraine to advise the Ukrainian forces.
In comments to Yahoo, the CIA denied that it has been training a Ukrainian insurgency. But The New York Times reported on Friday that the US is considering supporting an insurgency in Ukraine if Russia invades.
With the U.S. military apparently having a robust and successful special ops training pipeline established in Ukraine, it seems unnecessary for the CIA’s Ground Branch to relocate Ukrainians to the United States and teach them mundane skills such as camouflage and land navigation. Rather, what it sounds like is that the CIA is training stay-behind units, sleeper cells that would activate behind enemy lines if the Russians ever invaded Western Ukraine.
Some sources in the Yahoo article stated as much saying, “If the Russians invade, those [graduates of the CIA programs] are going to be your militia, your insurgent leaders,” an anonymous intelligence official explained. “We’ve been training these guys now for eight years. They’re really good fighters. That’s where the agency’s program could have a serious impact.”
But what exactly is the stay-behind mission? Years ago a retired Green Beret explained to me that it is the “lost” 4th infiltration methods. Special Forces can infiltrate enemy territory overland on foot or in vehicles, they can arrive from the sea on boats or swimming subsurface with dive gear, come from the air on helicopters or parachute into denied areas, or they can disguise themselves amongst the civilian population and wait for an enemy invasion to overtake their position. Once in the enemy’s rear areas, these stay-behind cells activate and begin conducting acts of sabotage to stymie the enemy’s advance.
The United States has a mixed track record with the use of stay behinds in the past. While some programs have been professionally run and staffed, others have been accused of turning into fascist or “black” terrorist networks.
One of the better run programs was Detachment A, which was staffed by active duty U.S. Special Forces soldiers stationed in Berlin. Det A members grew their hair out, wore civilian clothes, and lived off of the local economy. Six 12-man teams had their own assigned targets around Berlin in the event that the Soviets invaded.
Many of their targets revolved around sabotaging the rail lines, others divulged to the author involved knocking out power plants. In time, the Soviets came to know of Det A‘s existence, but wildly overestimated its size, believing that hundreds of Green Berets were prepared to wage unconventional warfare behind Soviet lines in the event of an invasion.