CIA Problems in Iraq
L.A. Times: CIA Struggles to Spy in Iraq, Afghanistan [otbblog/jamesotb]
Confronting problems on critical fronts, the CIA recently removed its top officer in Baghdad because of questions about his ability to lead the massive station there, and has closed a number of satellite bases in Afghanistan amid concerns about that country’s deteriorating security situation, according to U.S. intelligence sources.
The CIA’s Baghdad station has become the largest in agency history, eclipsing the size of its post in Saigon at the height of the Vietnam War, a U.S. official said. But sources said the agency has struggled to fill a number of key overseas posts.
Many of those who do take sensitive overseas assignments are willing to serve only 30- to 90-day rotations, a revolving-door approach that has undercut the agency’s ability to cultivate ties to warlords in Afghanistan or collect intelligence on the Iraqi insurgency, sources said.
There is such a shortage of Arabic speakers and qualified case officers willing to take dangerous assignments that the agency has been forced to hire dozens Ã¢€” if not hundreds Ã¢€” of CIA retirees, and to lean heavily on translators, sources said. The agency has also had to use soldiers for tasks that CIA officers normally perform, sources said.
Even without the personnel challenges, Iraq and Afghanistan are seen as so dangerous that it is difficult for agency officers to venture outside guarded districts and compounds without security details, making covert meetings with informants extremely difficult, sources said.
Very interesting indeed. On the one hand, it’s amazing to me that the people who volunteer for and make the cut to be CIA operations officers seem to be less willing to endure hardship than we’ve routinely expected from the lowliest National Guard private. Still, if this is the nature of the type of people we can recruit for that type of duty, then we certainly need to adjust.
It does rather surprise me that the CIA has an inadequate supply of Arab linguists at this point in the game. It was rather obvious by the time of Desert Storm, and certainly by the time that the Soviet Union collapsed a few months later, that the Middle East was the most likely hot spot and would be for some time. And, surely, 9/11 would have seemed a rather urgent reminder of that.
Hat tip: Kevin Drum