Just after the U.S. took Baghdad in 2003, American Special Forces began training young Iraqis with no prior military experience in the desert of Jordan. The resulting brigade—the Iraq Special Operations Forces—was a deadly, elite, covert unit, fully fitted with American equipment, that would operate for years under U.S. command and be unaccountable to Iraqi ministries and the normal political process. It’s probably the largest special forces outfit ever built by the US and it is free of many of the controls that most governments employ to rein in such lethal forces.
Iraqis call them the “Dirty Brigade.” Many charge that they are an elite, private force for the Americans and Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and accuse them of engaging in collective punishment. One American Lt. Colonel I talked to called them “shit hot.”
I broke this story in The Nation magazine.