spies, national security, espionage, counterterrorism, u.s. foreign policy, intelligence operations, CIA, special forces, counterterrorism, terrorism
Showing posts with label Afghanistan War. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Afghanistan War. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Worst Years of Our Lives

Two new books offer shocking, enraging and, in the end, deeply sorrowful accounts of our veterans' lives after they've returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. READ MORE HERE

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Must-see: “Least Among Saints”

Name one happy movie about war veterans.

Time’s up.

From “The Best Years of Our Lives” in 1946 to the Vietnam War’s “Coming Home” and “Born on the 4th of July,”  veterans have been portrayed as troubled, bitter, dangerous and unconscionably scorned.

And often, of course, they are. Politicians love sending young men into battle, but they largely forget about them when they come home broken.

That’s much the case in "Least Among Saints," Martin Papazian’s engrossing portrayal of Anthony, a sensitive Afghanistan war vet haunted by memories of accidentally killing an Afghan family in their car at a Marine roadblock.

With a difference.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gen. Eichenberry Warns War Spending Could Gut U.S. Power Like Postwar Britain's

In James Joyce’s Ulysses, Mr. Deasy asks Stephen Dedalus what an Englishman's proudest boast is.

"That on his empire [...] the sun never sets," Deasy says.

That was then--1918. It was commonly said. Few Britons spinning globes splotched with pink marking their worldwide colonies could have imagined their empire collapsing, its treasury depleted by two world wars and guerrilla insurgencies in only three decades.

Predictions of a similar American decline brought on by endless spendthrift conflict have been in vogue among liberals going back to the Vietnam war, which effectively ended for us 40 years ago this spring.

Now, however, one of the top former U.S. generals in Afghanistan is picking up the tune.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Karzai Does NATO a Favor With Stand Down Order

Who said one man can’t make a difference?

The sergeant who allegedly massacred 16 men, women and children in an Afghan village only days ago certainly has.

And so now, too, has Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who today demanded that U.S. combat forces return to their bases and stay there.  The Taliban, sensing an opening, abruptly cancelled pace talks with the U.S.

Never mind that Karzai can change his mind several times a day:  An astounding concatenation of events--U.S. troops caught pissing on enemy dead, accidentally burning Korans,  being shot by their trainees and, now, inflaming tensions by whisking the guilty sergeant out of the country--has left the Obama administration’s plan for a stately withdrawal in tatters.

The only question is how fast the Americans can get out without further harm.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Departed CIA Station Chief's Name Exposed -- Ho Hum (corrected)

The name of the CIA’s former station chief in Kabul surfaced on Monday.


Gregory Vogel’s name, even his face, has been an open secret for years among people who really count, which is to say, his allies and enemies alike in Afghanistan.

On the allies side of the ledger are scores of U.S. and foreign reporters who have been on the intelligence beat and/or covering the Afghanistan war since 2001, when Vogel first landed in Kabul.

Indeed, he's a legend among Afghan officials for saving President Karzai’s life. He’s on his second tour did two tours as station chief.

More to the point, a score more Afghan military, police and intelligence figures know knew Vogel on sight. That includes the Taliban's spies.

Why, the CIA’s cover in Kabul is so thin that, when gunfire broke out at downtown building last September, the news bulletins fairly screamed, “CIA Station in Kabul Under Attack.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kabul Attack: Echoes, Not a Repeat, of Vietnam

For those who lived through the ignominious end of the Vietnam War, the photos of helicopters flying over the U.S. Embassy in Kabul Tuesday had an ominous ring, all but clanging “The End is Near.”

The end is not anyway near in Afghanistan, of course, at least by the timetable of the Obama administration.

Nor was the bold and sustained Taliban attack, even if it penetrated what was considered the most secure neighborhood in Kabul, a repeat of North Vietnam's Tet Offensive, which assaulted over 100 cities and towns in the South, including 36 of 44 provincial capitals, for months beginning on Jan. 31, 1968.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ex-U.S Spy Chiefs Denounce Pakistani Duplicity

Former U.S. intelligence chiefs Michael Hayden, who headed the CIA, and Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, are denouncing Pakistani duplicity in backing Taliban groups that are killing American troops in Afghanistan.

Hayden told the Voice of America Tuesday that "it is clear, it is unarguable, that the Pakistani government” is backing the Haqqani network, perhaps the most lethal Taliban group fighting the U.S., “and that may be the single most troubling aspect of the relationship: our divergence of views on that particular network."

Former DNI Blair echoed his former colleague’s view, saying Pakistan is playing a double game in anticipation of the eventual U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cable TV's Counterterrorism Morons

I don’t know about you, but I can’t bear to watch much TV news anymore. I mean, there’s so little of it anyway, sandwiched as it is between pundits who know little beyond a particular moment in Beltway politics and the "experts" who are so misleading they're dangerous.

But last night’s appearance on CNN of killer-thriller terrorism novelist Brad Thor to offer expertise on the downing of that helicopter in Afghanistan was a new low in foreign policy commentary -- unless I’ve missed something that’s been broadcast today.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CIA's Fatal Welcome Mat for Triple Agent Recounted

Perhaps the most riveting passage in the second installment of Joby Warrick’s new book on the tragic deaths of seven CIA personnel in Afghanistan 18 months ago is his description of the triple agent’s last 100 yards into the base at Khost.

The ease with which Humam al-Balawi persuaded the CIA to let him onto the base without being patted down has been much remarked upon -- and criticized -- by veteran operatives who blamed CIA management for letting someone with no field experience run the operation.

“Traditionally, the CIA's station chiefs, or top agency officer in a country, and its base chiefs, deployed in outlying offices, were veteran case officers, or seasoned spy handlers,” I wrote in my Washington Post column about four months after the fatalities. 

“But under a series of CIA directors starting in the mid-1990s, that began to change. Career intelligence analysts, like John O. Brennan, now President Obama's deputy national security adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism, who was station chief in Saudi Arabia from 1996 to 1999, were increasingly deployed to field positions.”

And so it was that CIA base chief Jessica Matthews, apparently discarding misgivings by more veteran operatives, planned to welcome Balawi with big smiles and a cake.  She assembled her team in the gravel yard in front their building as the car carrying the treacherous agent approached on Dec. 30, 2009.

Friday, June 24, 2011

CIA Dismissed Several Warnings in Khost Suicide Bombing, New Book Says

A new book on the CIA’s disastrous meeting with a secret agent in Afghanistan in late 2009 says superiors overruled apprehensions that the man might be a suicide bomber.

Triple Agent,” by Washington Post reporter Joby Warrick, provides a dramatic, tick-tock account of the days and minutes leading up to a CIA team’s fateful meeting with Humam al-Balawi, a 32-year-old Jordanian pediatrician who seemed to have penetrated Al Qaeda’s inner circle, at the agency’s base in Khost on Dec. 30, 2009.

In fact, he had was under Al Qaeda's control. Seven CIA operatives were killed.

Balawi, who came to the CIA through  Jordanian intelligence, had stunned CIA Director Leon Panetta and other top officials when one of his emails included a digital video of him meeting with top al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, including Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, one of Osama Bin Laden’s top lieutenants.

But the video proved only a teaser when Balawi next told his handlers he had been summoned to treat Ayman al-Zawahiri, then Osama Bin Laden’s bespectacled deputy--now Al Qaeda's boss--for complications related to diabetes.

Balawi’s CIA handler, Darren LaBonte, was worried it looked too good, according to an excerpt of the book in Newsweek.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Pressure on Obama Afghan Exit: Appropriations Panel Approves Outside Review Group

The House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved an amendment Tuesday to establish a bipartisan outside review panel on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, modeled on one that took a second look at Iraq policy during that war’s most troubled time.

The measure was offered by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), an architect  of the Iraq Study Group that was assembled in 2006. That panel, headed by former Reagan administration Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, the former Indiana congressman who was vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, eviscerated U.S. performance in Iraq and recommended greater diplomatic and political tactics to wind down the military conflict.

Wolf’s amendment to the fiscal year 2012 Defense Department Appropriations bill would set up what the congressman is calling “an Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group (APSG) to conduct a forward-looking, independent assessment of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The panel would report back to Congress and the president in 120 days or less,” a statement from his office said.

"We are 10 years into our nation’s longest running war and the American people and their elected representatives do not have a clear sense of what we are aiming to achieve, why it is necessary, and how far we are from attaining our goal," Wolf said.

The panel would examine “the strategic environment in and around Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as security, political, and economic and reconstruction developments in both countries,” his office said.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Military Intelligence Lacks Skills for Counterinsurgency, DoD Study Says

Once again, the quality of war-zone military intelligence is taking a beating. And again, it's from the inside.

According to a recent new Defense Department study that surfaced today, military intelligence agencies are still poorly equipped to cope with their counterinsurgency mission nearly a decade after U.S. forces chased the Taliban from power in Afghanistan.

Among other problems, “the defense intelligence community does not have the foreign language and culture depth and breadth necessary to plan and support COIN operations," the February 2011 Defense Science Board study said.

Intelligence gathered by scientific and technical means--satellites, sensors and the like, where commanders get most of their information on the insurgents--cannot make up for deficiencies in human intelligence, the study suggested.

Monday, May 2, 2011

With Bin Laden Gone, U.S. Can Leave Afghanistan

With Osama Bin Laden dead, President Obama should find it far easier to justify withdrawing U.S. ground troops from Afghanistan.

After all, that’s why U.S. troops went there in the first place. 

Now that he’s gone, the rationale for staying evaporates.

No matter that the war was increasingly unpopular in America,  leaving Afghanistan was always a practical political problem for Obama with the elusive al Qaeda leader alive. A troop withdrawal presented Obama with the unpalatable prospect of leaving Bin Laden the last man standing.

To all but the hardiest true believers now, Afghanistan’s endemic corruption has made nation-building a mirage.  It's time to let them do it themselves.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obama's First Wartime Thanksgiving

Last month I stood on Omaha Beach, where the sand once congealed with GI blood, thinking about President Obama's first wartime Thanksgiving.

Read more here. (Huffington Post, Nov. 23, 2009)