Along the Tracks

Monday, January 26, 2004

Parallels between Afghanistan and Iraq

Now that David Kay has given his analysis of the lack of chemical and biological weapons stockpiles in Iraq, we can start to see where the CIA and other intelligence agencies went wrong - going back through the ‘90s to the end of the first Gulf War.

They didn’t have any spies in-country.

You may recall, the very same criticism was made in the months following 9/11 over the lack of good intelligence on al Qaeda plots and the facilities being harbored inside Afghanistan. When John Walker Lindh was captured fighting for the Taliban, it provided fodder for dark humor, that some hippy-dippy Marin County jihadist could infiltrate al Qaeda where the devious machinations of the Central Intelligence Agency failed.

Back then, CIA Director Tenet was afforded a measure of job security due to circumstances: He had largely provided the war plan in Afghanistan, along with the larger “shadow” war against terrorists around the world. He couldn’t be held accountable (at least the excuse goes) because he was crucially needed at that pivotal moment.

Now, it looks increasingly likely that Tenet’s agency failed America again with a poor strategy of intelligence gathering and analysis toward Iraq. Tenet had a year-and-a-half to restructure his agency to avoid the failures that led to 9/11, and while the Iraq situation is different - the WMD issue was always just one piece of the argument, and a “better safe than sorry” stance required action even with what has been found by Kay’s team - the failures in intelligence it exposes are precisely the same: Lack of human infiltration into the enemy’s leadership and planning; and a failure by analysts to gather all the pieces and connect the dots.

A prediction: Much of the illegal oil money Saddam thought he was spending on weapons production is sitting in Swiss, Syrian, Jordanian, Saudi and other banks under the pseudonyms of various generals, scientists and Baath Party members. Some of them may well be tapping into those accounts now to fight the insurgency. Others are kicking back on the east shore of the Red Sea, confident they duped both Saddam and the U.S. CIA.

Meanwhile, Tenet remains director at CIA. Why?

And will the next major failure under his watch cost another thousand-plus American lives?

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