now out that the American security coordinator in the
territories, General Keith Dayton, has been giving secret training to
the Palestinian Presidential Guard. It's part of his program to
provide "support" to the Palestinian Fatah faction in its internal
struggle with Hamas.
The initial training
was conducted by American military instructors in a military camp near
Jericho, for some 400 men. And now Dayton has asked the Quartet to put
in place a program that will have Egyptian, British and perhaps even Jordanian
instructors to train the force loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,
helping it to grow to some 6,000 men.
to have managed to help his masters to forget the history of the Presidential
Guard and its elite Force 17 unit, and is probably hoping that the Quartet
will also have a spot of amnesia.
He has also
sidestepped the conclusions of the International Monetary Fund and
the World Bank that, before the addition of more than 35,000 troops in the
last 3 years, the Palestinian Security Services were overstaffed, out of
control, and an insurmountable burden on the Palestinian economy. Of greater
concern, though, is that Force 17 is well known for its involvement in terror
In this context,
the experience of previous US training efforts is of interest.
Journalist Mathew Kalman revealed in the San Francisco Chronicle in early 2005
that as far back as 1998, the CIA spent tens of millions of dollars,
contracting secret training for hundreds of Palestinian Security Service
personnel, including members of Force 17. Kalman managed to get
hold of this "graduation picture" of one of those courses.
Look at the fellow kneeling fourth from the left in the front row.
Kalman identified him as Raafat Bajali – a member of the terrorist Al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigades, who was killed in a "work accident", while making
a bomb. Fortunately, he took fellow Al-Aksa terrorist Nedal Zedok with
And standing in the back row, second from
the left, is Khaled Abu Nijmeh. He was one of Bethlehem's most-wanted
Palestinian militants in the city, suspected of involvement in a string of
suicide bombings and shooting attacks against Israelis. In May 2002, he was
one of 13 gunmen escorted from the Church of the Nativity siege in Bethlehem,
flown to Cyprus and then to exile in Europe. Several of his fellow deportees
received their salaries from the Palestinian Security Service payroll. Nijmeh
proudly told Kalman of his membership in Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades alongside
his job as first sergeant in Palestinian General Intelligence. He was
very pleased with the CIA training that helped him learn the trade.
"I was not alone. Many Palestinian security people were trained by the
Americans. We hope they will continue helping us."
Well, now that our
memories have faded a little, it seems that Nijmeh's prayers are
being answered. The Americans are once again training tomorrow's