Category Archives: Middle East

Less cloak, more dagger for the CIA

The seal on the floor of CIA headquarters. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The seal on the floor of CIA headquarters. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The average CIA case officer at the height of the Cold War traveled alone, opting for inconspicuous movement around their area of operations over the ability to engage in combat. But now, as many CIA operations take place in combat zones – or at least areas where it isn’t a red flag to see a man with an assault rifle on a street corner – case officers are constantly surrounded by an “envelope” of security, provided by a small community of former U.S. Special Operations personell, according to a story in The Washington Post.

The CIA’s Global Response Staff (GRS), the force officially charged with CIA security around the globe, is made up of 250 or more former U.S. Navy SEALs, Delta operators and even former SWAT team members from U.S. police departments. It’s made up of a mix of contractors and CIA staff.

At least half are contractors, who often earn $140,000 or more a year and typically serve 90- or 120-day assignments abroad. Full-time GRS staff officers — those who are permanent CIA employees — earn slightly less but collect benefits and are typically put in supervisory roles.

The high pay of a contractor is countered by the minimal benefits. One GRS contractor, Glen Doherty, was killed in the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks and received no benefits because he hadn’t set up a life insurance policy and didn’t have CIA benefits.

When Doherty died, he left debts that included loans on two houses in California, [his sister Kathleen] Quigley said. He had no life insurance. CIA officials told Doherty’s family that they had recommended companies willing to underwrite such policies, but that agency coverage was not available for contractors.

Quigley did not criticize the agency, but added: “It’s so sad for a guy like that to go out and have nothing to show for it, except, frankly, a lot of debt.”

The Post report comes amid growing concerns about the CIA’s drone program and the intelligence agency’s increasing role as a paramilitary force. The drone program, made up of between 30 and 35 armed drones, may expand by as many as 10 drones if the Obama administration approves an October request by then-CIA Director David Petraeus.

The cost of devoting increasing amounts of the CIA’s finite resources to lethality – a GRS contractor might make about $140,000 a year, which puts the total cost of the force into the tens of millions, and the drone program likely costs much more – is that those funds cannot be used for the CIA’s stated purpose: intelligence gathering.

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Washington Post: U.S. Special Forces setting up for the long haul, in D.C. and abroad

A three-part series in the Washington Post this week shed light on the U.S. counterterrorism apparatus as it is more than a decade after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the Bush administration and Congress took a number of actions to counter the forces that came to bear that day.

With the two resulting ground wars are drawing to a close – U.S. troops have been out of Iraq for 10 months and are slowly leaving Afghanistan – the government is establishing a counterterrorism system for the next decade.

With public opinion tilted against these more traditional wars and the limited efficacy of traditional forces against an enemy whose ideals can’t be drawn onto a map, a precision approach makes a lot of sense for the U.S. Covert operations by definition don’t make headlines as much as thousands of soldiers marching on a capital city, and drone strikes are both low-risk and deniable.

So American national security considerations are woven neatly into a “disposition matrix,” which lists every individual on an American kill list and magically generating every conceivable kill scenario for the individual, based on current intelligence and troop locations.

The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.

Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.

Currently, the kingpin of American counterterrorism is an unelected official appointed without congressional confirmation: John O. Brennan.

What was once a disparate collection of tactics — drone strikes by the CIA and the military, overhead surveillance, deployment of small Special Forces ground units at far-flung bases, and distribution of military and economic aid to threatened governments — has become a White House-centered strategy with Brennan at its core.

The Post story details Brennan’s loosely defined job description and his close relationship to President Barack Obama. But despite the synergy within the current administration, officials are in the process of setting up a procedural framework that will outlast them using tools like the disposition matrix and consistent procedures.

“This needs to be sustainable,” one senior administration official said, “and we need to think of it in ways that contemplate other people sitting in all the chairs around the table.”
One part of the new set up is establishing a foothold in areas where al-Qaeda operates. With troops leaving Afghanistan and a very limited presence in Iraq, the U.S. turned to the tiny nation of Djibouti as a center of operations for its new breed of warfare.
At camp Lemonnier on the outskirts of Djibouti City, the capital city of the small, costal North African nation that borders Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, the buzz of a Predator drone is a familiar sound. As part of an expansion of its duties, the base received eight of the drones in 2011. It has since become a launch point for drone activity over Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.

The number of takeoffs and landings each month has more than doubled, reaching a peak of 1,666 in July compared with a monthly average of 768 two years ago, according to air-traffic statistics disclosed in Defense Department contracting documents.

 The human counterpart to the drone mission in Djibouti is the roughly 300 special operators who occupy the base alongside regular troops.

About 300 Special Operations personnel plan raids and coordinate drone flights from inside a high-security compound at Lemonnier that is dotted with satellite dishes and ringed by concertina wire. Most of the commandos work incognito, concealing their names even from conventional troops on the base.
According to the Post, there are plans to expand the special operations presence at the base to upwards of 1,000 in the future, evidence of the shift in philosophy from overt “nation building” missions overseas to black ops smash-and-grabs reminiscent of the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Questions remain about this new, more covert approach to national security. While the implications of long-term occupation are well-kn0wn both for native populations and the occupying force, the lack of clarity and constant fear that comes with living within a few hundred miles of a drone base could prove destructive to U.S. interests abroad. A recent report – Living Under Drones – by teams at New York University and Stanford outlined the implications of the drone war on native populations.
In The Post:

Side effects are more difficult to measure — including the extent to which strikes breed more enemies of the United States — but could be more consequential if the campaign continues for 10 more years.

“We are looking at something that is potentially indefinite,” Pillar said. “We have to pay particular attention, maybe more than we collectively have so far, to the longer-term pros and cons to the methods we use.”

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Iran building its own, isolated Internet

Iran is in the process of creating its own version of the Internet, the latest in a string of moves that have rubbed the leaders of the free world the wrong way.

The state-sponsored intranet already has multiple government and academic-based websites as well as email service, The Washington Post reports.

The nation of 74.8 million made a big splash online in the summer of 2009 when outraged citizens took to twitter to organize protests against what was widely thought to be a rigged election. The movement was something of a prelude to the Arab Spring in 2011, when protestors across the Middle East used Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype and other social media to organize.

The message was clear: The internet is bad for oppressive regimes. Iran’s measures up to now – blocking select sites that might give citizens revolutionary ideas and throttling the net to the point where much of the modern web is useless – became useless in 2009 when Iranians nearly toppled the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 140 characters at a time.

Instead of trying to keep tabs on and properly control the real internet, Iran seems to have decided to build their own. They control it, and no pesky free-speech organizations will be invited. Naturally, the Obama administration is up in arms about the country’s new project (but hey – at least it’s not nuclear powered).

“We have concerns from not only a human rights perspective, but about the integrity of the Internet,” David Baer, deputy assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said in an interview. “When countries section off parts of the Web, not only do their citizens suffer, everyone does.”

The other problem is that Iranians will no longer be noobs. As they develop and implement an entire net – presumably home to millions of devices – they’ll gain vital knowledge of how networks work, which they can later weaponize.

By “laying down the fiber” and connecting thousands of servers inside Iran, the government would “build on their knowledge of networks and how they operate,” [former NSA Deputy Director Cedric Leighton] said, increasing their capabilities to both launch and repel cyberattacks.

“But no matter what you do, there will always be vulnerabilities in a network,” Leighton said.

The network, as of now, only has about 10,000 devices online according to the Washington Post. Will it be less secure than existing networks, making it a goldmine for the folks at the NSA? Will it work? Time will tell – Iranian officials say some key governmental and military functions will be shifted to the network by the end of the month.

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CNN International’s missing piece

Earlier this week, columnist Glenn Greenwald wrote about a surprising lapse in coverage by the international arm of CNN. Fed by former CNN reporter Amber Lyon and an anonymous source inside CNN, Greenwald painted a picture of an organization succumbing to pressure from the U.S.-supported Bahraini government.

Lacking coverage is nothing new in journalism. Ever since the internet, news organizations have struggled to put together deep, comprehensive coverage – especially of international stories – due to the cost. But CNN (the American branch) put up $100,000 to make an hour-long expose of the brutality of the Bahraini government. To CNNi, the cutesy name the cable news giant slapped on their international brand, it was free money. The program would be well-watched, generate ad revenue, and reaffirm CNNi’s commitment to getting waist-deep in the muck.

CNNi’s decision not to broadcast “iRevolution” was extremely unusual. Both CNN and CNNi have had severe budget constraints imposed on them over the last several years. One long-time CNN employee (to whom I have granted anonymity to avoid repercussions for negative statements about CNN’s management) described “iRevolution” as an “expensive, highly produced international story about the Arab Spring”. Because the documentary was already paid for by CNN, it would have been “free programming” for CNNi to broadcast, making it “highly unusual not to air it”. The documentary “was made with an international audience as our target”, said Lyon. None of it was produced on US soil. And its subject matter was squarely within the crux of CNN International’s brand.

So why not run it? CNN’s responses were lacking at best, and sounded more like the prefab responses more fit to an oppresive regime than a leading international news organization.

“The documentary ‘iRevolution’ was commissioned for CNN US. While the programme did not air in full on CNN International, segments of it were shown. This differing use of content is normal across our platforms, and such decisions are taken for purely editorial reasons. CNN International has run more than 120 stories on Bahrain over the past six months, a large number of which were critical in tone and all of which meet the highest journalistic standards.”

Highest journalistic standards? How about this: After Lyon tweeted that CNNi’s failure to air her documentary “baffled producers,” she got a call.

The following day, a representative of CNN’s business affairs office called Lyon’s acting agent, George Arquilla of Octagon Entertainment, and threatened that her severance payments and insurance benefits would be immediately terminated if she ever again spoke publicly about this matter, or spoke negatively about CNN.

CNN refuses to comment on those allegations, noting that they don’t discuss personell matters, but the story doesn’t look good for CNNi’s integrity. And that’s without even mentioning the messy business CNN is in with state-sponsored programming.

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Iran enriching? Yes. Building a bomb? Probably not.


Photo: David Petraeus and Leon Panetta, now CIA director and Secretary of Defense respectively, doubt Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Creative Commons/Flickr user U.S. Embassy Kabul Afghanistan

The New York Times today reported that U.S. intelligence officials remain skeptical that Iran is building a nuclear bomb.

Recent assessments by American spy agencies are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier, according to current and former American officials. The officials said that assessment was largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.

This amid a growing furor about Iran’s nuclear program, in which media are widely citing official reports of expanded enrichment efforts, but failing to make a key distinction:

There is no dispute among American, Israeli and European intelligence officials that Iran has been enriching nuclear fuel and developing some necessary infrastructure to become a nuclear power. But the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies believe that Iran has yet to decide whether to resume a parallel program to design a nuclear warhead — a program they believe was essentially halted in 2003 and which would be necessary for Iran to build a nuclear bomb.

To say uneqivocally that Iran is a nuclear threat is analog to saying that every Republican voter who owns a gun poses a legitimate threat to the life of the president.

The Times article is careful to make that distinction, as are U.S. intellicence officials. The story hints at the reason why:

Iran’s efforts to hide its nuclear facilities and to deceive the West about its activities have also intensified doubts. But some American analysts warn that such behavior is not necessarily proof of a weapons program. They say that one mistake the C.I.A. made before the war in Iraq was to assume that because Saddam Hussein resisted weapons inspections — acting as if he were hiding something — it meant that he had a weapons program.

As [David A. Kay, who was head of the C.I.A.’s team that searched for Iraq’s weapons programs after the United States invasion] explained, “The amount of evidence that you were willing to go with in 2002 is not the same evidence you are willing to accept today.”

The Times makes no mention of the role it played in the 2002 invasion of Iraq with some extremely sloppy reporting by the paper’s own Judith Miller that helped sway public opinion in favor of the invasion.

It seems the Times and few others learned from this mistake, as American and Israeli media run away with fear-driven half-truths, failing to deal exclusively in facts and leaning instead on speculation about the meaning of what isn’t known.

In Afghanistan, growing concern over Haqqani network


A top secret cable from the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan stressed the growing threat posed by the largely Pakistani Haqqani network, The Washington Post reports.

The cable, sent over a CIA transmission network — officials cited security concerns due to the sensitivity of its contents — said Haqqani operatives working out of Pakistan threaten the stability of eastern Afghanistan. Due to the country’s rocky political relationship with the U.S., American attacks on known Haqqani hotbeds are too few to have a dramatic effect.

The group’s patriarch, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was a major mujaheddin fighter in the CIA-backed effort to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan in the 1980s. He has relinquished control to his son, Sirajuddin, who carries a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head and runs day-to-day operations from the network’s Pakistani base in Miran Shah.

The location has given the Haqqani leadership a measure of protection. The CIA has repeatedly refrained from launching missiles at known Haqqani targets, including a prominent religious school the network uses as a base of operations, out of concern for civilian casualties and the backlash that could ensue.

The cable also drew attention for its delivery method. Usually, State Department officials send communications through State Department channels — the same channels over which the cables from WikiLeaks’ Cablegate release were sent. This cable was sent over the CIA’s more secure network. Officials familiar with the cable, however, shared information about its contents, possibly to generate support for more aggressive military action within Pakistan.

The cable, which was described by several officials familiar with its contents, could be used as ammunition by senior military officials who favor more aggressive action by the United States against the Haqqani havens in Pakistan. It also could buttress calls from senior military officials for a more gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan as the 2014 deadline for ending combat operations approaches.

Combat operations in Pakistan have suffered recently after an American helicopter strike in November took the lives of more than 20 Pakistani soldiers, sparking outrage within the Pakistani government and further souring relations between the countries.

Proponents of a more aggressive approach against the Haqqani network refer to a large-scale attack on the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan in September, which officials pinned on the Haqqani network.

Photo: U.S. Forces Afghanistan Protective Service Detail Sgt. Jaclyn Guzman at the ready during the Sept. 13, 2011 attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Creative Commons/Flickr user DVIDSHUB.

A ‘new chapter in history’ for Iraq

More than eight years, 100,000 deaths, and $800 billion later, the U.S. has left Iraq. The war is over, and the costs were high.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made a surprise visit to speak at the closing ceremony, where the American flag was lowered, symbolizing the United States’ withdrawal. In his speech, Panetta pointed to “a new chapter in history” for the nation. Iraq’s president and prime minister were not present for the ceremony.

No senior Iraqi government officials showed up for the event, though the name tags attached to two chairs in the front row indicated American hopes that they might. One was labeled for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the other for President Jalal Talabani.

The American withdrawal from Iraq was required by Dec. 31 according to an agreement between the nations. Once it became clear that the deadline was inflexible, U.S. officials determined there was no reason to keep troops away from their families for the holidays.

U.S. commanders had openly urged Iraqi leaders to extend the military’s presence beyond the agreed Dec. 31 deadline, so that they could continue to train the Iraqi security forces, build the country’s almost non-existent conventional defenses and allow more time for the wobbly political consensus forged after last year’s elections to solidify.

But in a rare display of consensus, Iraq’s usually squabbling factions united to insist that troops could stay only if they were subject to Iraqi law, a condition that the U.S. military had made clear from the outset would not be possible.

The time and date of the ceremony was kept secret to reduce the possibility of a planned terrorist attack, and it seems to have worked. The event was uneventful, in stark contrast to the beginning of the war.

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Bridging the gap: U.S. opens ‘virtual embassy’ in Iran

Yesterday, the U.S. State Department launched a new website which will serve as a “virtual embassy” to Iran without creating any official diplomatic ties with the government, AFP reports. Because of high tensions between Iran and the west (the U.K. kicked out Iran’s diplomats last week), this move is bolder now than it would have been when the plan was announced in October.

The State Department’s goal with the new website is to skip the middleman; the Iranian government is seen as oppressive by western nations and is not receptive to U.S. influence, but the people might be. The site is intended for the citizens of Iran, not its government.

“Because the United States and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, we have missed some important opportunities for dialogue with you, the citizens of Iran,” [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] said in a video message.

“But today, we can use new technologies to bridge that gap and promote greater understanding between our two countries, and the peoples of each country, which is why we established this virtual embassy,” she said.

This isn’t the first virtual embassy on the internet. In 2005, Maldives opened a virtual embassy on Second Life, a wildly popular online life simulator where users could live through digital avatars. The Maldeves embassy wasn’t in place to bypass official relations, however. It was targeted at Second Life users in general, not those of a specific real-world nation.

The American site, designed to be resistant to cyber attacks (presumably from the Iranian government) is too young to have generated success or failure. It seems to be put together well and achieve its target of being America’s hand in Iran, assuming Iranians can access it. Despite Clinton closing out her video message with “I look forward to hearing from you,” the site lacks interactivity features, so it’s unclear if she hopes to hear from citizens via Facebook and Twitter or to just call her up at the office. Otherwise, it seems to have a wealth of information that anyone in Iran (Iranian or otherwise) might want to learn from America.


Iran says it hacked, brought down a U.S. drone, provides no evidence

UPDATE (12/8/2011): Iran has released video footage of Iranian officials inspecting what appears to be the downed drone.

Iran’s media outlets claim the nation’s military took control of a U.S. spy drone and brought it down within Iran. They’re attributing the grab to an electronic warfare unit that hacked the drone’s remote operating controls and brought it down softly so that the high-tech spy plane was mostly intact when the Iranian military got their hands on it.

Despite these claims, there are plenty of reasons to doubt that Iran actually took over one of the U.S. military’s most advanced drones (the one they claim to have is an RQ-170 — a rare drone made by Lockheed Martin that is more advanced than its more widely-seen counterparts) and brought it into a controlled crash within their own borders. David Axe explains:

Iran frequently announces it has shot down U.S. surveillance drones, but has not, to our knowledge, produced any evidence of the kills. Even if Tehran did bag itself an American war ‘bot, it might not be an RQ-170. The editors at Press TV undermined their credibility by running  the story with a photo of an entirely different drone than the Beast of Kandahar.

Equally dubious is Iran’s insistence that the RQ-170, if that’s what it is, was forced down largely intact by an Iranian army “electronic-warfare unit.” The implication is that the Iranians somehow jammed the command signal beamed to the drone by remote operators.

That’s a pretty big deal, if true. The Predator and Reaper, America’s most numerous attack and surveillance drones, are remotely-controlled via radio link by a pilot on the ground. If the link is broken, they’re designed to enter a holding pattern or even return home. But these failsafes aren’t perfect, as the Air Force discovered in 2009 when a Reaper drone went haywire and had to be shot down by an F-15. The Air Force and Navy have admitted that the control link represents a critical weakness and have worked hard to make drones more autonomous.

It’s not hard to be skeptical of a nation making claims that they’ve achieved something that the public isn’t even sure is technically possible, especially when said nation’s reputation for telling the truth is as tarnished (to put it kindly) as Iran’s. As tensions between the U.K. and Iran boiled over last week and the west is increasingly concerned about the country’s nuclear program, Iran’s claim to have shot down the drone could be an attempt to paint themselves as victims of western oppression — “We just want to have a clean, secure energy future and these allied nations to the west are coming down so hard on us it’s impossible.”

There hasn’t been any retaliatory action so far, but an Iranian official is quoted in The Washington Post as hinting at offensive action in retaliation to the discovery of the spy drone.

Hours after the incident, Iranian state TV news was showing only stock pictures of RQ-170 stealth drones, not images from the crash. An unnamed military official told the Fars News Agency that Iran’s response “will not be limited to the country’s borders.”

As Axe says above, those weren’t even the right drone photos.

If, however, Iran’s story is true, the loss of this intact technology could seriously limit the effectiveness of the RQ-170 in Iran and elsewhere, should the country’s military go public with specifications.

U.S. officials have given only vague information about the drone, its mission, or its status:

The U.S. military released a short statement later Sunday on the missing drone. “The [unmanned aerial vehicle] to which the Iranians are referring may be a U.S. unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week,” it said. “The operators of the UAV lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status.”

With a no photos, doubt that what Iran claims is even possible, and U.S. officials giving only vague information about what happened, the validity of Iran’s claims cannot be confirmed by anyone but Iran itself.

As we say here on the world wide web: Pics or it didn’t happen.

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Steve Coll on Afghanistan: ‘Let us hear from the spies’


Steve Coll at the New Yorker wants America to dive into the nitty gritty in 2012. As the war in Afghanistan enters its second decade and Barack Obama’s spot in the White House is contested, Coll is asking for the facts.

The facts, in this case, come in the form of a National Intelligence Estimate on the war in Afghanistan that should be published soon, according to Coll. The Estimate, compiled by analysts in all 16 American intelligence agencies, is — to use a military term — a ‘no-bullshit assessment’ of the current situation in Afghanistan.

Typically, Coll says, these estimates are classified Secret or Top Secret, as they are compiled using a range of data, some of which is presumably classified. These Estimates, however, are compiled with a distinct lack of something else: political influence. Coll explains:

After the debacle of misreported intelligence during the infamous 2002 N.I.E. on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the intelligence community made changes to try to ensure a drafting process of high integrity. Thomas Fingar, who oversaw some of the reforms, described the process in a 2008 speech. The protection of dissent was certainly one of the goals of the post-Iraq reforms. But they were not intended to create yet more ways for four-star generals to be weigh in on finished intelligence. The idea was to protect civil servants from a politicized process—to defend the proverbial analyst-dweeb (i.e., Chloe O’Brian on “24”) who might be poorly socialized but who happened to see what her slick bosses had overlooked.

In today’s Washington, ‘no-bullshit’ is a phrase than can often only be used literally. With partisan mud-slinging from both sides of the aisle and gridlock on some very basic issues, a government assessment free of partisan influence is probably about as common in Washington as an actual pile of bull feces, so the upcoming N.I.E. is a golden opportunity.

Not only does this Estimate give us the first comprehensive view of a war fought with the increased troop presence provided by Obama starting in 2009, but it will answer better than anything else the question: What has Barack Obama’s administration done in Afghanistan?

After the 2009 troop surge became one of the first major issues to divide the democratic government during the Obama administration, the importance of that question cannot be understated.

But the answer provided by the upcoming N.I.E. is one the public may not see. Since the Estimates seem to be classified by default, someone in Obama’s government would have to opt to go public with the information, either by way of WikiLeaks or the like, or officially, as Coll suggests:

Let us have the facts, as the intelligence community describes them. Obama should publish unclassified versions of the key judgments in the latest N.I.E. once it is complete. The Bush Administration did this twice at the height of public controversy over the Iraq war.

Based on the hints Coll was able to get about the latest Estimate, they don’t pain a pretty picture.

These days, an Estimate usually contains “Key Judgments” backed by analysis near the front of the document. There are six such judgments in the Afghanistan draft, I was told. I wasn’t able to learn what all of them were; according to the accounts I heard, however, the draft on the whole is gloomier than the typical public statements made by U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan.

A grim official analysis of his efforts in Afghanistan could seriously hurt president Obama’s reelection campaign, and that is motivation enough for his administration to keep it under raps. If they truly have America’s best interests in mind, and truly believe they’re doing the best that could be done for the country, then let’s hope an official (and not-too-severely-redacted) version of the assessment is released to the public before Americans head to the polls next year.

Photo: Then-Senator Barack Obama with then-General David Patreus in July 2008. The pair have climbed the ranks in Washington: Petraeus is now head of the CIA and Obama was elected President in 2008. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lorie Jewell.

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