Intelligence: What Afghan Soldiers Miss The Most

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January 13, 2016: While Afghans missed the presence of American air support and combat units after most U.S. forces left in 2014 by the end of 2015 they realized how valuable CIA support was. The CIA quietly ran many intel operations in Afghanistan that provided Afghan security forces with extremely valuable information. CIA analysts and information systems, coupled with U.S. Army intel resources, really had a good sense of what was going on throughout the country. This intel advantage was at its peak in 2010 when the Americans had 852 bases (some of them little more than outposts for collecting local intel) throughout the country. There were also a lot more UAVs and manned aircraft available to monitor areas that the troops and agents on the ground believed should be watched. The military presence made it possible for the U.S. to employ a lot of local Afghan informants, who were often expected to provide little more than the local chatter. By the end of 2014 all but twenty of those bases were gone and the Afghan military began to notice the decline in awareness of events in remote parts of the country that they had long enjoyed because of the widespread American presence and constant collection and analysis of intel.

Some Afghan officers, who watched what was going on in Iraq noted how Iraqi casualties, and terrorist attacks increased after all American forces left at the end of 2011 (because no Status of Forces agreement could be agreed on). That played a major role in finally achieving Status of Forces treaty in Afghanistan and allowed some 20,000 NATO (mainly American) troops to remain after most foreign troops departed in 2014. It was later discovered that there were many in Iraq who preferred there be no highly efficient foreign intelligence operation in the country. That was because a lot of Iranian money, threats, and promises were used on Iraqi officials to see that there was no Status of Forces treaty. In Afghanistan Iran also wanted no Status of Forces, and as did the drug gangs. But Afghanistan, despite being as corrupt as Iraq, had a larger proportion of the population wary of their neighbors (especially Iran) and eventually went for the Status of Forces treaty.

What was missed the most in Afghanistan after 2014was the heavy CIA presence. At its peak in 2012 the CIA had over a thousand agency employees in Afghanistan and several times that in the form of contractors and local hires. By early 2015 nearly 70 percent of the CIA personnel were gone, along with most (about half the dozen) of the major CIA bases. The absence of the widespread presence of American intel resources was the main reason there were some nasty surprises in 2015, like the unexpected Taliban attack (and brief takeover) of the northern city of Kunduz and the belated (after it was there for several months) major al Qaeda training facility in southern Afghanistan.

One facility that remained open was the CIA airbase near the Pakistan border in Nangarhar province (eastern Afghanistan). CIA UAVs fly from here for recon and strike missions over northwest Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. This CIA air force was even more vital after most American forces were gone. That was because U.S. troops took their helicopters and aircraft with them.

The Status of Forces agreement in Afghanistan was a standard practice for foreign troops overseas and, in the case of Afghanistan, necessary to protect American troops from abuse by corrupt Afghan judges and prosecutors. Now the Afghans want to take advantage of that treaty to get more American air power and intelligence support back.

 


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