Washington Babylon — May 26, 2009, 12:25 pm

CIA Discovery: Tribes in Afghanistan!

“US intelligence agencies have launched an intensive effort to examine the various tribes linked to the Taliban to determine whether some can be broken off through diplomatic and economic initiatives, mirroring the successful strategy employed by General David H. Petraeus in Iraq, according to Defense Department officials,” the Boston Globe reported Sunday.

The story continued:

Top military and intelligence officials say they know far too little about the disparate groups they are fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan and believe many fighters have been incorrectly labeled as the Taliban, lumping those who pose the greatest threat with others who may be willing to share power with the Afghan and Pakistani governments. “You have a whole spectrum of bad guys that sort of get lumped into this catch-all term of Taliban . . . because they’re launching bullets at us,” said a senior defense official involved in the effort who like others was not authorized to speak publicly about intelligence matters. “There are many of the groups that can probably be peeled off.”

A former senior CIA officer had this to say about the story:

The fact that this effort is just now getting underway, 8 years after the war began, is a stunning indictment of the incompetence at the agency. We should have the tribal system mapped, and contacts with every major tribal figure on the books…This is the long term, ground truth recruitment and handling of long term sources that has drifted away from emphasis over the past two decades.

Its the non dramatic street work, the thorough understanding of a nation, its leadership, and population that is the backbone of good intelligence analysis. Case officers don’t get awards for doing this. Its their job to know this. A former NE division chief use to tell case officers on their departure lecture that they need to be the most informed person in the embassy on the country, the players, and how the country works. You need to be the “go to” officer on the country team when the Ambassador has a question about an issue or person of consequence. You develop this expertise by being on the street, working, everyday or your tour; by spotting, assessing and recruiting the sources you need to drill into the fabric of the target country.

The lack of leadership, the lack of vision, and the loss of an emphasis and mastery of the espionage craft puts the nation in this position of being operationally blind in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somali, Pakistan, and Iran. You don’t develop this access and expertise, being driven to your meetings by security officers, and living in pods, sequestered from the country you’re assigned in. Living in “mini America” in all these challenging operating environments, with personal drivers, security guards, armored cars, and motorcades, with the PX, private dining halls, etc demonstrates the folly of the CIA.

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2015

Black Hat, White Hat

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Beyond the Broken Window

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In Search of a Stolen Fiddle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Displaced in the D.R.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quietest Place in the Universe

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Last month, the PEN America Center announced its intention to honor Charlie Hebdo with its Freedom of Expression Courage Award at a gala on May 5. Six members of the organization have withdrawn from the gala in protest. In "The Joke," Justin E. H. Smith addressed the Anglo-American left's response to the killings.
Photo of a Charlie Hebdo editorial meeting in 2006 by Jean-Francois/DEROUBAIX
Article
In Search of a Stolen Fiddle·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“To lose an instrument is to lose an essential piece of one’s identity. It brings its own solitary form of grief.”
Violin © Serge Picard/Agence VU
Post
Driving the San Joaquin Valley·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Don sucked the last of his drink through his straw and licked his lips. 'The coast, to me, is more interesting than the valley.'”
Photograph by the author
Article
Othello’s Son·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Fred Morton, who died this week in Vienna, at the age of 90, was a longtime contributor to Harper's Magazine and a good friend. "Othello's Son," which was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2013, appeared in our September 2013 issue.
Photograph © Alex Gotfryd/CORBIS
Article
Beyond the Broken Window·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“By the time Bratton left the department, in 2009, Los Angeles had quietly become the most spied-on city in America.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery

Weeks after the peso collapsed that former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari joined the board of Dow Jones:

4

A Disney behavioral ecologist announced that elephants’ long-range low-frequency vocal rumblings draw elephant friends together and drive elephant enemies apart.

A robot known as Random Darknet Shopper that was confiscated by Swiss police for purchasing ten ecstasy pills online was cleared of charges.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today