Through NATO, working with various Western European intelligence agencies, the CIA set up a network of stay behind “secret armies” which were responsible for dozens of terrorist atrocities across Western Europe over decades. This report will focus on the stay behind army in Italy, as it is the most documented. Its codename was Operation Gladio, the ‘Sword’.
The Purpose of the ‘Stay Behind’ Armies
In the early 1950s, the United States began training networks of “stay behind” volunteers in Western Europe, so that in the event of a Soviet invasion, they would “gather intelligence, open escape routes and form resistance movements.” The CIA financed and advised these groups, later working in tandem with western European military intelligence units under the coordination of a NATO committee. In 1990, Italian and Belgian investigators started researching the links between these “stay behind armies” and the occurrence of terrorism in Western Europe for a period of 20 years.
‘Secret Armies’ or Terrorist Groups?
These “stay behind” armies colluded with, funded and often even directed terrorist organizations throughout Europe in what was termed a “strategy of tension” with the aim of preventing a rise of the left in Western European politics. NATO’s “secret armies” engaged in subversive and criminal activities in several countries. In Turkey in 1960, the stay behind army, working with the army, staged a coup d’état and killed Prime Minister Adnan Menderes; in Algeria in 1961, the French stay-behind army staged a coup with the CIA against the French government of Algiers, which ultimately failed; in 1967, the Greek stay-behind army staged a coup and imposed a military dictatorship; in 1971 in Turkey, after a military coup, the stay-behind army engaged in “domestic terror” and killed hundreds; in 1977 in Spain, the stay behind army carried out a massacre in Madrid; in 1980 in Turkey, the head of the stay behind army staged a coup and took power; in 1985 in Belgium, the stay behind attacked and shot shoppers randomly in supermarkets, killing 28; in Switzerland in 1990, the former head of the Swiss stay behind wrote the US Defense Department he would reveal “the whole truth,” and was found the next day stabbed to death with his own bayonet; and in 1995, England revealed that the MI6 and SAS helped set up stay behind armies across Western Europe.