Wed, 10 Aug 2022

Kabul [Afghanistan], June 26 (ANI): In the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the return of Taliban rule, the West is now contending with a resurgent terrorist threat.

Kyle Orton, a British security analyst who focuses on the Middle East geopolitics and Islamist terrorism said in a blog that Afghanistan is now a devastated land enduring the worst combination of political terror and disorder, which has forced millions of its people to become refugees, creating challenges for international stability.

Ten months on from the NATO abandoning Afghanistan to Pakistan's jihadists--the integrated coalition of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda--the outcome has been as depressing as it was predictable: a hideous combination of brutal Islamist rule and chaos prevails, as the economy collapses and various groups challenge them.

The crisis in Afghanistan is not confined to Afghanistan, with a refugee wave underway, and a clear terrorism threat, both because the perpetrators of 9/11 are once again controlling the state from which they launched it and their most potent challenger is another transnational jihadist group, the Islamic State's Khorasan Province (ISKP).

The media might have largely moved on, but the situation in Afghanistan is one that will require serious attention from Westerners--for our own sakes--for the foreseeable future.

Orton in his blog questioned whether Afghanistan will get this attention, and if it does, how much and how good is the information Western governments have access to about the internal dynamics of Afghanistan?ISKP, which ferociously hates the Taliban-Qaeda forces, is a more pressing concern. ISKP was able to get involved in several terrorist operations across the world when NATO was in Afghanistan and putting the group under severe pressure.

During the Taliban takeover, as was predictable, the prisons were broken open and thousands of ISKP jihadists went free. The impact of this was quickly seen within Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, the Taliban has been unable to rein in ISKP.

So, if we can see the broad outlines of developments in Afghanistan since August 2021, what kind of visibility do Western intelligence services have at a more granular level?This was the question Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operations officer, recently took up for the Hoover Institution.

Gerecht began by noting that when Americans are "traumatized by the unexpected abroad, discussions inevitably start about the inadequacy of American intelligence collection and analysis".

This is not to take away from the deep structural problems with the CIA, three in particular: in analysis, politics, and practice.

First, the analytical problem--which is also somewhat political--is phrased by Gerecht this way: "Langley has a way of confidently repackaging establishment biases, in both analysis and operations".

Second, the political problem is the extreme risk-aversion of the Agency. As Gerecht says, "It is far better that case officers lose their lives trying (to infiltrate jihadist organizations) than American civilians die by the hundreds, or thousands, later".

A further complication: when the US is not directly present in theatre, it becomes "more dependent on foreign intelligence and security services, which always have their own axes to grind", as Gerecht writes.

"Their enemies may not be ours". Which is the third problem. The CIA has become very reliant on liaison relationships with security services in the Greater Middle East.

CIA officers under official cover who are restricted to Embassies, with no unilateral, have no easy way of evaluating the information given to them, which, even if given in good faith, might be wrong. That's just in friendly countries; as mentioned above, the situation with "hard" targets is much worse.

In sum, says Gerecht, "Without troops and case officers on the ground [in Afghanistan], the United States is probably flying blind."The Taliban-Qaeda forces that control most of the country are a standing menace to Western states, and the main challenger to this de facto regime, ISKP, is a more determined menace still, with its capabilities to launch international terrorism seemingly developing even more quickly.

The uncertainties that surround this are because of the collapse of the US and allied intelligence networks--to the extent they ever existed--when the US helped the jihadists push the Afghan government into its grave. For various operational and political reasons, it is unlikely that Western intelligence will gain any serious visibility into Talibanized Afghanistan. (ANI)

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