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U.S. Spying Operations Just Got A Lot Harder in Afghanistan

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Of the many implications of ending a 20-year war in Afghanistan, there’s one that U.S. spies believe could haunt Americans for years to come: a massively deteriorated intelligence-gathering operation in the Middle East.

Former CIA directors for the region and counterterrorism experts told The Daily Beast that intelligence ground operations would obviously suffer from the absence of a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, which could have implications for the U.S. government’s ability to keep tabs on terrorist threats.

It’s not impossible to run espionage operations in the country. But it makes it so that whatever intelligence spies are able to collect is that much muddier and more suspect, as the government will be less able to assess source motivations and agendas for sharing information.

It’s also more dangerous. U.S. spies on the ground will have fewer options to escape to safety if their cover is blown.

”We’ve lost two things: we’ve lost our embassy—and the embassy of course is where we would have had intelligence collection ability—and we also lost our partner, which is the Afghanistan Intelligence Service,” Marc Polymeropoulos, a former CIA officer who was the base chief in Afghanistan between 2011-2012, told The Daily Beast. “They run spies as well to penetrate terrorist groups. On the human side we really are degraded.”

The degraded state of intelligence operations could leave the U.S. flying blind at the worst possible time—just as terrorism threats resurge in the region, says Daniel Hoffman, the CIA’s former chief of the Near East division.

“It’s going to be much more challenging for us—but the mission is the same and it’s even taken on a heightened importance because we’re leaving Afghanistan pretty much as a terrorist state,” Hoffman told The Daily Beast. “So it’s never been more important for us to recruit spies, get secrets, detect the threats way left of boom before they come to visit us on our shores.”

Hoffman added that “the last thing” the Biden administration would want to admit is that Americans were more at risk because the military had pulled out of Afghanistan.

“But we are,” he said.

Of course, it’s not particularly surprising that U.S. intelligence officials would be the ones warning of worsening intelligence-gathering conditions. The intelligence........

© The Daily Beast

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