Tuesday Jun 05, 201208:33 PM GMT
CIA prepares Iraq pullback?
Tue Jun 5, 2012 8:32PM
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The Central Intelligence Agency is preparing to cut its presence in Iraq to less than half of wartime levels, according to U.S. officials familiar with the planning, a move that is largely a result of challenges the CIA faces operating in a country that no longer welcomes a major U.S. presence.


Under the plans being considered, the CIA's presence in Iraq would be reduced to 40% of wartime levels, when Baghdad was the largest CIA station in the world with more than 700 agency personnel, officials said.


The CIA had already begun to pull back in Iraq since the height of the war, officials said. But the drawdown, coming six months after the departure of American military forces, would be significant. The officials declined to provide exact numbers, give a breakdown of levels of analysts versus covert operators or say where agency workers would be redeployed, all of which are classified.


The move comes amid worries over possible gaps in U.S. intelligence about the threat posed by al-Qaeda in Iraq. Administration officials, diplomats and intelligence analysts have in recent weeks debated whether the organization is a growing threat after an internal government report pointed to a rise in the number of attacks this year, officials said. Wall Street Journal




Proponents argue that al-Qaeda in Iraq no longer directly threatens the United States and the CIA could instead boost its presence in hotspots such as Yemen. rferl.org


The CIA does not mention a timetable for implementing the plan, but quotes officials as saying that a CIA drawdown has already begun. rferl.org


The planned reductions at the CIA represent a major shift from the approach under consideration just six months ago. Late last year, the CIA and Pentagon were considering several options for CIA and special-operations commandos to team up in Iraq, according to current and former officials. One option was to have special-operations forces operate under covert CIA authority, similar to the arrangement used in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. "There was a general consensus," said a former intelligence official, "that there was a need for this in Iraq." WSJ


But as it became clear that the U.S. would withdraw all troops and that the Iraqi government was less inclined to accept an expansive CIA-special operations role, those plans were tabled. "It's not going to happen," said a U.S. official. WSJ



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