Top Expert on Al Qaeda Victim of Budget Cuts
Marc Lynch extols the work of Radio Free Europe analyst Daniel Kimmage “on al-Qaeda’s internet operations, including his definitive study of Iraqi insurgent media (with Kathleen Ridolfo) and his more recent report on al-Qaeda’s internet media production network. There are very few people inside or outside the government who have worked harder or thought more deeply about how jihadists use online media, drawing on the original Arabic sources rather than from second and third-hand conjecture.”
Naturally, then, he’s moving onward an upward? Alas, no, he’s been sacked, along with his whole team.
[Today], the regional specialists at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will put out the last issue of Newsline, the daily publication that over the last 11 years helped shape the broadcasts of that station and more importantly both informed analysts in the West and served as a check on the actions of governments in the post-Soviet world.
Yesterday, the president of RFE/RL informed the analysts there that because of budgetary shortfalls, he had no choice but to fire them and thus end what has been the journal of record for developments in a part of the world that remains vitally important however much some may believe we can safely ignore it.
That’s right: the US government is cutting loose one of its best analysts of al-Qaeda’s use of the internet in order to save money which doesn’t even amount to a rounding error in the Pentagons budget. Whether it’s because of the fall of the dollar or because of the costs of Iraq, or more narrowly because of the Broadcasting Board of Governors need to pay the bills of the al-Hurra TV white elephant, this speaks volumes about both our real resource constraints and our real priorities.
Actually, my strong guess is this is just bureaucratic stupidity. Kimmage was a generalist doing big picture work on al Qaeda out of an office aimed at the Soviet successor states in Central Asia. Had he been in a counter-terror bureau or the Iran desk, he’d have been promoted. Because of where he fit on the budget line, though, he was deemed expendable.
One would presume that he’d be able to find work immediately in a different shop. After all, in addition to his regional expertise, he’s an “English-Russian bilingual” and “fluent in Arabic and reads Farsi, French, German, and Uzbek.” Then again, the interagency hiring bureaucracy isn’t all that efficient, either, set up to promote from within if they have someone even remotely competent-on-paper available, turning to outside experts only as a last resort.