Intelligence agencies are scrambling to find other ways to stop terrorists and monitor the situation in Afghanistan after the U.S. troop withdrawal. While the future of Afghanistan is uncertain, they will have to rely more on technology and their allies in its government.
Rep. Mike Waltz of Florida, a Republican and Green Beret, said that while you may not be blind, you will be legally blind. He served in Afghanistan. Waltz stated in an interview that he believes American forces will still be able detect threats but they will have to respond from outside with less intelligence and more complex operations.
President Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal from Afghanistan. After two decades of conflict in Afghanistan that saw the deaths of 2,200 U.S. soldiers and 38,000 civilians, it is now time to stop America's longest war . This conflict cost America as much as $1 trillion.
However, this withdrawal is not without risks. A resurgent Taliban takes ground, and there are fears that the country might soon be plunged into civil war. The U.S. continues to negotiate agreements with the region's counterterrorism forces and the evacuation of thousands of Afghan interpreters and others who have contributed to the American war effort.
William Burns, Director of the CIA, testified that al-Qaida fighters and Islamic State terrorists are still operating in Afghanistan in April and "remain intent to recover the ability to strike U.S. targets."
"When it comes time for the U.S. army to withdraw, the U.S. government will lose its ability to collect threats and to act on them." Burns stated that this is a simple fact. Burns said that the CIA and U.S. agencies maintain a range of capabilities to prevent and monitor threats.
According to two sources familiar with the visit, Burns paid a secret visit in April to Afghanistan and assured Afghan officials that the U.S. would continue to be involved in counterterrorism efforts.
This story was not confirmed by the CIA or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Since 1979, the CIA has played a significant role in Afghanistan. Its involvement dates back to its support of rebels fighting against the Soviet Union between 1979 and 1989. It is believed to have conducted strikes against terrorist targets during the U.S. war and trained Afghan fighters under Counter Terrorism Pursuit Teams. Many Afghans fear these teams and they have been involved in extrajudicial killings.
According to The Associated Press, the CIA was preparing in April to hand over control of six of these teams to the Afghan intelligence service known as the National Directorate of Security. Experts said that the closing of Afghan posts near Iran's and Pakistan's borders will make it more difficult to monitor terrorist groups operating in these areas. The withdrawal of Americans from Afghan agencies may also worsen already serious corruption problems.
Washington has struggled for years to get intelligence from Afghanistan's allies. The conflict began in the United States. In the beginning, there were rivalries and the U.S. was pushed into conflicts that led to targets driven by scores between factions.
Robert Ashley, a retired Lt. General, was the Defense Intelligence Agency's chief from 2017 to 2020. He said that the U.S. could replace their lost footprint with intercepted communications and publicly available information online. This is especially true with the rise of cell phone networks in comparison to the 1990s. Ashley stated that while Afghan forces may have failed against the Taliban, they could still provide valuable information.
Ashley, now a senior fellow adjunct at the Center for a New American Security, said that "we shouldn't discount them ability to understand their root truth." It's their nature, their culture, their language.
Experts and former intelligence officers noted that the CIA, and other agencies, can operate without a military presence abroad if there are militant groups threatening Americans.
Rep. Jason Crow is a Colorado Democrat who was a former Army Ranger and served in Afghanistan. He said that human resources in Afghanistan are already limited and that the U.S. has monitoring capability today that it did not have 20 years ago.
Crow stated that "it's still going be very robust." Crow said, "It's definitely more difficult when you don't have boots in the ground, but we have capabilities that allow us to meet this challenge. It becomes more difficult.
Crow and Waltz were part of a bipartisan group that pressed the White House to expedite visa processing for thousands interpreters and other Afghans, who have helped American forces. There are more than 18,000 applications pending. According to senior U.S. officials, the administration is planning an evacuation this summer. However, it hasn't settled on a country for what would likely only be a temporary relocation.
Waltz stated that failure to provide visa protection for Afghans in Afghanistan could "have a chilling effect on those working with us going ahead."
Analysts have different expectations of what the Taliban might do if it tries to take control of the country. In May, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported that the Taliban's "desires to foreign aid and legitimacy might marginally reduce its conduct over the course of time," driven partly by international attention and the proliferation of smartphones.
Colin Clarke, the director of policy, research and policy at the Soufan Group said that he expected the Taliban will continue to harbor al-Qaida. He also worried about a possible insurgency, which could empower extremists and create a conflict regionally similar to the one that occurred in Iraq following the American withdrawal.
He said, "I want us pull out Afghanistan in theory and be secure." "That's not what I see happening."