CIA digs in as US troops get ready to leave Afghan
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Last Updated: Wednesday, February 08, 2012, 21:05
Washington: Even after the departure of US troops from Afghanistan, CIA is expected to maintain a large presence as part of America's plan to rely on a combination of spies and Special Forces to protect its interest including tracking down al Qaeda remnants in Pakistan.

CIA's 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 Washington Post reported quoting unnamed US officials.

It said that the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in December has moved the spy agency's emphasis there towards a 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.

"US 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," the daily said.

It said that as President Barack 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 US power in more streamlined and surgical ways.

As a result, the CIA station in Kabul is expected to expand its collaboration with Special Operations forces when the drawdown of conventional troops begins.

Navy Admiral William McRaven, the Special Operations commander who directed the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year, signaled the transition during remarks yesterday in Washington, the daily said.

"I have no doubt that Special Operations will be the last to leave Afghanistan," McRaven was quoted as saying.


First Published: Wednesday, February 08, 2012, 21:05

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