SPY VS. SPY

WaPo reports a bold but potentially risky venture in Iraq:

U.S.-led occupation authorities have begun a covert campaign to recruit and train agents with the once-dreaded Iraqi intelligence service to help identify resistance to American forces here after months of increasingly sophisticated attacks and bombings, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

THE EXTRAORDINARY MOVE to recruit agents of former president Saddam Hussein’s security services underscores a growing recognition among U.S. officials that American military forces — already stretched thin — cannot alone prevent attacks like the devastating truck bombing of the U.N. headquarters this past week, they said.

Authorities have stepped up the recruitment over the past two weeks, one senior U.S. official said, despite sometimes adamant objections by members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, who complain that they have too little control over the pool of recruits. While U.S. officials acknowledge the sensitivity of cooperating with a force that embodied the ruthlessness of Hussein̢۪s rule, they assert that an urgent need for better and more precise intelligence has forced unusual compromises.

“The only way you can combat terrorism is through intelligence,” the senior official said. “It’s the only way you’re going to stop these people from doing what they’re doing.” He added: “Without Iraqi input, that’s not going to work.”

A difficult balancing act, to be sure. I have no clue how we can differentiate competent intelligence agents who were merely employed by their government and those loyal to the former regime. But it seems to be a lesson we have to learn with every postwar reconstruction effort, going back to that after our own Civil War, that a blanket ban on the hiring of any significant official from the defeated regime is counterproductive. There’s simply too much talent available locally to ignore and they have assets that can’t possibly be duplicated in the near term.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.