The Central Intelligence Agency plans on shutting down its bases throughout Afghanistan over the summer and withdrawing its personnel back to Kabul.
The Los Angeles Times reported that in March CIA Director John Brennan told a group of military officers that the Agency would be pulling its resources, along with that of the NSA (National Security Agency) back into Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, according to the officials.
United States military officials have expressed concern with the measure. The intelligence gathering operations conducted by both the CIA and NSA had been seen as a valuable asset in obtaining local knowledge and further leads pertaining to the whereabouts of America’s enemies. In addition, military officials noted the drawdown would come at a time when the Taliban is preparing for its spring offensive.
“They (CIA) are beginning their own retrograde and they kind of sprung it on the military, which is raising concern,” said a senior United States military official.
An official familiar with the Agency’s base closure plan expressed the operation was due to concerns about the overall safety of CIA officers in the region, largely stemming from the impending drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan.
A senior US official in favor of the CIA drawback said, “The CIA footprint is entirely dependent on the militaries. There is no stomach in the building for going out there on our own. We are not putting our people out there without U.S. forces.”
John Maguire, a retired CIA Officer who spent 23 years in the field, rejected the notion that the CIA couldn’t operate without US military reinforcements nearby. “There is ample evidence and a long historical record of the agency working alone in any number of difficult and dangerous places, and if they can’t do it by themselves without the military, then they should close the organization,” he said.
Others expressed concerns about what would happen to the CIA-backed and funded Afghan militias in the drawback areas. Afghan officials in President Hamid Karzai’s government are worried the vacuum of compensation created by the CIA’s withdrawal would lead the militias to be bought off by the Taliban or another radical Islamist group. An Afghan official said, “We tried to hire those militia for the same pay as the CIA, but only a hundred or so said yes.”
Two senior US official told the Daily Beast that the militias had already reached out to the Taliban, predominantly concerned with what would become of them following their loss of guaranteed protection from the CIA.