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Cyberattacks Carried Out Against Forces In Afghanistan, U.S. General Says

Marine Corps Lt. General Richard Mills says electronic warfare played an important role in Afghanistan campaigns

A top officer in the U.S. military's campaign in Afghanistan earlier this month offered a rare commentary on the success of cyberattacks in its efforts.

According to an account of U.S. Marine Corps Lt. General Richard Mills' comments at the TechNet Land Forces East conference in Baltimore on Aug. 15, the Afghanistan campaign in 2010 contained a significant cybercomponent.

"I can tell you that as a commander in Afghanistan in the year 2010, I was able to use my cyber operations against my adversary with great impact," Mills said in his talk, which has been posted on video.

"I was able to get inside his nets, infect his command-and-control, and in fact defend myself against his almost constant incursions to get inside my wire, to affect my operations," Mills stated.

Mills, now a deputy commandant with the Marine Corps, didn't go into details on the cyberattacks, but experts said it is unusual for military commanders to speak at all about the military's use of cyberattacks on foreign powers.

"This is news," James Lewis, a cybersecurity analyst with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Associated Press. He said that while it was generally known in defense circles that cyberattacks had been carried out by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, he had never seen a senior officer take credit for them in such a way.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart declined to give AP more details, saying in an email that "for reasons of security, we do not provide specific information regarding our intentions, plans, capabilities or operations."

In the email to AP, officials said the Pentagon's cyberoperations were properly authorized and that they took place within the bounds of international law and the "confines of existing policy."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add a Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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