DIA on Afghan intel
Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr. recently testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that there were three intelligence reports indicating Taliban forces were preparing to attack a remote U.S. combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan, according to defense officials.
Gen. Burgess appeared before a closed-door meeting of the committee on Oct. 22 and was asked by senators about the advance warning of a Taliban attack, first reported in The Washington Times, and whether the intelligence warnings were ignored.
About 100 Taliban fighters carried out the attack on the outpost near the town of Kamdesh on Oct. 3 in what U.S. Army spokesmen said was a surprise strike that left eight U.S. soldiers dead.
Gen. Burgess explained in testimony to the committee that the military had three intelligence reports on the issue, but that the reports were among many human-source reports that had not been verified by other means, such as electronic intelligence. As a result, the reporting was not deemed “actionable” intelligence, said defense officials familiar with the testimony.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Democratic and Republican spokesmen for the Senate Intelligence Committee had no comment, citing rules limiting discussion of closed-door committee meetings.
A DIA spokesman also declined to comment.
One official said the reports indicate that there was an intelligence failure by analysts who he suspects were “waiting for the smoking-gun report from technical systems.”
“The bottom line is that in spite of all our intelligence capabilities in Afghanistan, U.S. forces have been surprised twice by massed Taliban forces in a pre-planned attack against two of our outposts,” the official said. “That begs the question of whether we have a problem of analysis.”
The Oct. 3 battle resulted in the largest single number of U.S. combat deaths since a similar attack in July 2008 in the same region killed nine U.S. soldiers.
Partially declassified intelligence reports revealed that in the period before the Oct. 3 battle, a new Taliban subcommander in Kamdesh named Ghulan Faroq had been appointed and was in charge of attacking Combat Outpost Keating. The reports also indicated that days before the attack, insurgent fighters in Kamdesh were resupplied with ammunition for large-caliber guns.
The intelligence reporting also stated that on Oct. 2, Taliban forces held a meeting in Kamdesh and were told that a commander would arrive soon to conduct attacks against coalition forces. Other reporting noted that in late September, Taliban were planning to conduct simultaneous attacks on coalition forces in the region, which is located near the Pakistani border and is known to be a supply route for Afghan insurgents.
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Bill Gertz is geopolitics editor and a national security and investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
Mr. Gertz also writes a weekly column ...
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