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Petraeus to open intel training center
Gen. David H. Petraeus plans to open an in-house intelligence organization at U.S. Central Command this week that will train military officers, covert agents and analysts who agree to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan for up to a decade.
The organization, to be called the Center for Afghanistan Pakistan Excellence, will be led by Derek Harvey, a retired colonel in the Defense Intelligence Agency who became one of the Gen. Petraeus’ most trusted analysts during the 2007-08 counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq.
Mr. Harvey distinguished himself in Iraq by predicting that the Iraqi insurgency would spiral out of control, at a time when it was widely underestimated by the Bush administration, in 2003 and 2004.
He later dissented from the emerging consensus in Congress and the CIA, when he said, as early as March 2007, that al Qaeda had been strategically defeated. This was during the early days of the surge, at a time when most of the intelligence community thought the Sunni insurgency was intact.
In an exclusive interview with The Washington Times, Mr. Harvey said the center will build on some of the lessons that he and the military learned in Iraq, not just for counterinsurgency but also in terms of intelligence analysis.
In this sense, Mr. Harvey is a believer in two reforms in developing reliable intelligence. The first involves altering the methods of interpreting raw data. He said the intelligence community tends to rely too much on information from human sources such as spies and from signal intercepts such as wiretaps, to the exclusion of reports from people on the ground such as military officers and aid workers.
Mr. Harvey said the new center would focus on integrating all sources of information to develop strategic products for both war fighters and decision makers in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We have tended to rely too much on intelligence sources and not integrating fully what is coming from provincial reconstruction teams, civil-affairs officers, commanders and operators on the ground that are interacting with the population and who understand the population and can actually communicate what is going on in the street,” he said. “If you only rely on the intelligence reporting, you can get a skewed picture of the situation.”
Mr. Harvey calls this approach “widening the aperture.”
The second reform Mr. Harvey advocates involves training. He said many analysts at the CIA, the State Department and other intelligence-collecting bureaus are moved from one country or region to the next after two years, right at the moment the analysts are gaining fluency and expertise in their areas.
The training academy will submerse future analysts, officers and covert operators in Pashtu and Dari language and culture courses. Recruits also will be asked to sign a form that commits them to work on Afghanistan and Pakistan for at least five years.
“These people are going to be working this program for the next five to 10 years,” Mr. Harvey said. “We did not plan for the long term. In Afghanistan, we are planning for success, and that requires human capital. We are putting into place the things we need to do for that.”
Asked whether the new training commitments suggest a long-term military presence in Afghanistan, Mr. Harvey said those decisions are above his pay grade. But he said, “Even if we downsize, we are still going to have investments in South Asia.”
The center will be coordinating with the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the (NATO) International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Missing from the list, however, is the CIA.
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