Sunday 4 December 2016

The man hired to 'help close up the gates of Hell'

Kim Sengupta

Published 25/06/2010 | 05:00

THEY called it the "Death Star" because, according to one source who worked inside it, "you could just reach out with a finger and eliminate" somebody. On the walls were banks of television screens, known by the special forces boys as "Kill TV", where footage from image-intensifier cameras of the enemy being blown up by air strikes or being gunned down by undercover hit teams was shown.

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This place was "the Machine", a state-of-the-art military command centre hidden away in an airbase in Balad, a desolate stretch of land north of Baghdad. It was created by Major General Stanley McChrystal, the chief of US Special Forces, the most secretive force in the American military.

Here, in the permanently darkened communications cockpit, dozens of US and British (SAS) personnel would gather around as nightly raids took place against al-Qa'ida and their insurgent allies.

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