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:

Commentary November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm

Shaky Foundations

The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.

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

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2016

Fighting Chance

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Front Runner

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Habits of Highly Cynical People

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Unhackable

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

American Imperium

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Elisabeth Zerofsky on Marine Le Pen, Paul Wachter on the quest for an unhackable email, Rebecca Solnit on cynical people, Andrew J. Bacevich on truth and fiction in the age of war, Samuel James photographs E.P.L. soccer, a story by Vince Passaro, and more

I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Front Runner·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The F.N. asked to be sent to an institution whose legitimacy it did not accept, and French voters rewarded the party with first place in the election."
Illustration (detail) by Matthew Richardson
Memoir
I Am Your Conscious, I Am Love·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A paean 2 Prince
"And one thinks, Looking into Prince's eyes must be like looking at the world."
Photo ©© PeterTea
Article
Stop Hillary!·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As wacky as it sometimes appears on the surface, American politics has an amazing stability and continuity about it."
Article
Plexiglass·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

Photograph (detail) by Karine Laval

Amount a Russian man was fined last October for delivering a pizza by drone:

$1,092

In Argentina, chalk-browed mockingbirds had stopped trying to rid their nests of shiny cowbirds’ parasitic eggs.

In Damascus, Islamic State militants abducted more than 300 cement-factory workers.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today