Has SEAL Team Six gone too far? New account claims elite unit has evolved into 'global manhunting force' that has shot civilians in 'killing fests' and taken terrorists out with TOMAHAWK AXES
The elite SEAL Team Six fighting force which killed Osama bin Laden has warped into an unaccountable organization which has engaged in 'excessive' and 'indiscriminate' killing, according to a new account of the secretive unit.
Former servicemen from the legendary Navy unit said that the unit has veered off course in recent years and become engaged in bloody all-out combat in Afghanistan against low-level militants and 'street thugs' - rather than the targeted anti-terrorist raids for which it is famed.
The revelations came in an extensive account of Team Six's origins and evolution in the New York Times, which interviewed at least a dozen experts and former SEALs for an inside track on the secretive branch of the military.
Among the accusations are:
Claims that a British general confronted the unit over alleged indiscriminate killing of civilians in Helmand province
Afghan claims that eight schoolboys were slaughter in a 2009 raid on the village of Gazi Khan in Kunar Province
A former SEAL officer saying endless missions amounted to ‘killing fests’
A member of the unit being accused of mutilating a militant’s body after a raid
SEALs engaging in hand-to-hand combat using customized Tomahawk axes
Internal investigations by the Joint Special Forces Command cleared team members of wrongdoing.
Team Six, which now numbers 1,800 personnel, has been given a 'ballooning' budget and ever-expanding role since 9/11, the account said.
Some described being sent through Afghan villages in search of 'subcommanders' and 'street thugs' - sometimes racking up 25 kills without landing a major target.
One said: 'By 2010, guys were going after street thugs - The most highly trained force in the world, chasing after street thugs'. Another characterized the missions as 'killing fests'.
The missions described are a far cry from Team Six's peak - the meticulous and precise raid in 2011 which led to the death of Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan compound.
The huge succession of missions - more than ten thousand according to official estimates - has also opened the SEALs to accusations of abuse.
The Times recounted an incident in which Afghan villagers and a British general accused the SEALs of indiscriminate killing in a village in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.
It also mentioned a time when the SEALs were accused of killing eight schoolboys after being sent on a raid based on faulty intelligence.
The soldiers were looking for a Taliban commander in Ghazi Khan, in the Kunar province, but found nobody of importance and ended up making ten kills.
In an earlier raid, commander Britt Slabinski even said he saw a young SEAL slitting the throat of an already-dead militant - and was forced to shout at him to stop.
Details of the incidents are sparse because of the secrecy under which the team operates, but the raids did nothing to bolster the reputation of the elite force.
Another gruesome new facet of the SEAL lifestyle which emerged in the Times piece was that some members of the unit use custom-made Tomahawk axes to dispatch their enemies.
The pieces are said to be made by Daniel Winkler, a North Carolina blacksmith, and taken by some soldiers on missions - though others prefer knives, which are less bulky.
The Times was told that at least one SEAL had used theirs to kill a target, alongside more utilitarian functions like hacking open doors and manipulating locks.
Bob Kerrey, a former U.S. senator who served in the SEALs, agreed that the unit's 300 fighters and 1,500 support personnel were being overused.
Famed mission: Pictured is the Pakistani compound which SEAL Team Six famously raided in 2011, killing Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden
Remnants: This fragment of a helicopter which crashed in the bin Laden mission was left behind after the raid
He told the Times: 'They have become sort of a 1-800 number anytime somebody wants something done.'
But he added that the nature of modern politics and warfare has left military commanders in a situation where they must choose between 'a horrible choice and a bad choice' - leaving them with no option.
The Department of Defense had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.