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“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.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“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.”