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CIA digs in as Americans withdraw from Iraq, Afghanistan

Posted by The Agonist on February 8th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Greg Miller | Washington D.C. | February 7

WaPo – The CIA is expected to maintain a large clandestine presence in Iraq and Afghanistan long after the departure of conventional U.S. troops as part of a plan by the Obama administration to rely on a combination of spies and Special Operations forces to protect U.S. interests in the two longtime war zones, U.S. officials said.

U.S. officials said that the CIA’s massive stations in Kabul and Baghdad will probably remain the agency’s largest overseas outposts for years, even if they shrink from record staffing levels set at the height of American efforts in those nations to fend off insurgencies and install capable governments.

The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in December has moved the CIA’s emphasis there toward more traditional espionage — monitoring developments in the increasingly antagonistic government, seeking to suppress al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the country and countering the influence of Iran.

In Afghanistan, the CIA is expected to have a more aggressively operational role. U.S. officials said the agency’s paramilitary capabilities are seen as tools for keeping the Taliban off balance, protecting the government in Kabul and preserving access to Afghan airstrips that enable armed CIA drones to hunt al-Qaeda remnants in Pakistan.

As President Obama seeks to end a decade of large-scale conflict, the emerging assignments for the CIA suggest it will play a significant part in the administration’s search for ways to exert U.S. power in more streamlined and surgical ways.

As a result, the CIA station in Kabul — which at one point had responsibility for as many as 1,000 agency employees in Afghanistan— is expected to expand its collaboration with Special Operations forces when the drawdown of conventional troops begins.

More at link

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