The US Army Ranger killed in Afghanistan earlier this month was operating in support of a CIA mission to kill top-level militants, according to former special operations sources with no sense of operational security.
32-year-old Sergeant First Class Christopher Celiz was mortally wounded when his element of the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment engaged in a battle with militants- a secret war to hunt down top militant leaders in Afghanistan’s brutal Paktia province.
The joint CIA-Army operation -previously known as Omega but now known as ANSOF- has reportedly been going on for some time, according to a former special operations member.
“They’re pretty active to say the least,” the mystery source told Politico. “They’re the main effort out there in terms of frequency of missions right now.”
While the bulk of the US Army is partaking in increasingly hands-off “advise and assist” missions with Afghan military forces, the CIA and its unofficial special operations assets within the US Military are still focused on hunting down insurgent leaders.
However, you won’t hear that from the CIA or the Army.
“There are certain personnel and units that, due to classification, we do not discuss,” said Lt. Col. Robert Bockholt, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Politico’s source said that while the SEALs were providing the muscle for the CIA, the Rangers have recently been picking up the slack, with targeting missions separate from those of the Joint Special Operations Command.
“The agency’s got a targeting list separate from the JSOC task force’s,” the source said. “Sometimes it’s the same targets on both lists, sometimes not.”
Another source -an active duty military officer who knew Celiz- said that the Rangers selected to help on the missions are the best of the best.
“The agency uses its Afghans to kill or capture guys off their target list,” he explained, noting that the attached Rangers support the mission carried out by Afghan surrogates. “The Rangers who get selected for that mission, to support our interagency partners, are typically the most calm, collected, mature, and professional of an elite group.”
The officer said that Rangers provide medical and fire support, two things Afghans can’t seem to get right when compared to their American counterparts. To piece together parts of the puzzle, Celiz was a mortar platoon sergeant.
An older soldier known as the “Silver Fox” because of his gray hair, Celiz was beloved by all his teammates.
“Celiz was a top-notch dude,” said a former special operations officer who served with him. “I can’t say enough good things about him. He didn’t talk a whole lot but he was always happy. No matter how bad things sucked, he always had a dumb smile on his face and it drove guys crazy.”
“Where others would fall apart,” another Ranger said, “You could lean on him to pull through.”
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