US spy agency pivots to China after Afghanistan pulls out

Proponents of the Biden administration’s approach point to the fact that the United States was able to track down and kill al-Zawari is evidence of its ability to target Afghan threats from abroad. , says the fact that al-Zawari lived in Kabul, apparently under Taliban protection, suggests there is a resurgence of extremist groups that the United States is ill-prepared to counter.


The change in priorities is backed by many former intelligence officers and lawmakers from both parties who say it is premature. This includes those who have served in Afghanistan and other missions against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Rep. Jason Crowe, a former Army ranger who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, believes the United States has focused too much on counter-terrorism over the past few years.

“The far bigger existential threats are Russia and China,” said Crowe, a Democrat from Colorado and a member of the House Intelligence and Armed Services committees. Terrorist groups will not “disrupt the American way of life…like China can,” he said.

CIA spokesperson Tammy Thorpe said terrorism “remains a very real challenge.”

“Although crises such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and strategic challenges such as those posed by the People’s Republic of China require attention, the CIA actively tracks terrorist threats around the world and works with partners to We will fight them.”

Taliban fighters guard the site of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, in

Congress is pressuring the CIA and other intelligence agencies to make China a top priority, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified information issue. Imposing resources on China requires cuts in other areas, including counter-terrorism. Specific figures were not available because the intelligence budget is classified.

Lawmakers, in particular, want more information about China’s advanced technological developments. Under President Xi Jinping, China has pledged trillions of dollars in investments in quantum science, artificial intelligence and other technologies that could disrupt future wars and the fabric of the economy.

As part of the transition, a congressional committee is seeking to better track how intelligence agencies spend money in China, providing more detail on how specific programs contribute to their mission. , said a person familiar with the matter.

Rep. Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee and a Utah Republican, said, “Although it’s late, it’s good to finally shift focus to the area.” It means assets, and diplomacy.”

US President Joe Biden: Standing firm on his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

US President Joe Biden: Standing firm on his decision to withdraw troops from

The CIA announced last year that it would create two new “mission centers” to centralize and improve information gathering on these issues. The CIA is also trying to recruit more Chinese speakers and reduce wait times for security clearances to recruit new personnel more quickly.

Within the agency, many staff members have learned Chinese and are moving into new China-focused roles, but not all of these jobs require language training.

Officials note that agents are being trained to adapt to new challenges, and many were more quickly transferred to counter-terrorism roles after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Identifying targets will also help counter Russia and China, the former officer said.


“What has become extraordinary is the analysis and targeting machine,” said Douglas Wise, a former senior CIA officer and deputy director of the Counterterrorism Center.

The CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, renamed the Counterterrorism Mission Center in a 2015 reorganization, has become the pride of many who believe in its work to keep Americans safe from terrorism since 9/11. I’m here.

CIA officers landed in Afghanistan on September 26, 2001, as part of an operation to expel the Taliban and find and kill al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden.

And 13 years after a double agent tricked an officer in pursuit of Al-Zawari into blowing himself up and killing seven agency personnel, the CIA killed him in a strike, but no civilian casualties were reported. rice field.

The CIA was also involved in some of the darkest moments of the war on terrorism. It ran a secret “black site” prison to hold terrorism suspects, and some were wrong. A Senate investigation found that he used interrogation methods that amounted to torture. Elite Afghan special operations forces trained by the CIA have also been accused of killing civilians and violating international law.

It has long been debated whether counter-terrorism has pushed intelligence agencies too far away from traditional espionage, or whether military special forces should take over some of the CIA’s work in targeting terrorists.

Marc Polymeropoulos is a former CIA operations officer and former base chief in Afghanistan. He said he supported a greater focus on China and Russia, but added, “There is no reason to reduce what we had to do.”

“This idea that all the CT work we did was somehow wrong is that we turned to the ball. Remember what everyone was feeling on Sept. 12. Put it down please.

It will ultimately take many years for agencies to pivot to focus more on China and Russia, and it will take patience and recognition that agency culture will take time to change, Wise said. rice field.

“For decades, we’ve been fighting terrorism,” Wise said. “This adaptation requires rational planning. It won’t take long enough for an adversary to exploit the glacial process.”


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US spy agency pivots to China after Afghanistan pulls out

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