Former Iraq military commander Gen. David H. Petraeus, who took over Tuesday as CIA director, in the past butted heads in Baghdad and Kabul with officials from the agency he is now leading over the quality of their reporting, according to former intelligence officials.
Counterinsurgency analyst Bill Roggio, who writes at the online Long War Journal, said the recently retired general was frustrated with work of the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) before he took over as U.S. commander in Iraq.
After being confirmed as commander of all troops in Iraq in February 2007, the general “went on an end run around the CIA,” Mr. Roggio added, in an account whose broad outlines were privately confirmed by two former intelligence officials, including one who was working in Iraq at the time when Mr. Petraeus took command.
“What he was doing in Iraq,” he added, referring to the surge of U.S. forces Mr. Petraeus led and the relationship he built with the Sunni tribal militias known as the Anbar awakening “ran counter to the analysis from both the CIA and the DIA” about the relationships within the insurgency and the role of al Qaeda in Iraq.
Current officials disputed that picture and played down any tensions in Baghdad, saying they were no more than workaday bureaucratic frictions.
“Analytical differences over complex issues and trends are part of everyday life in the intelligence business. Unfortunately, some people blow these natural and healthy differences into bureaucratic clashes that simply don’t exist,” said one official, adding that the idea that Mr. Petraeus created a military unit to end-run intelligence agencies is “ridiculous.”
“I have the absolute highest regard for you and for this agency,” Mr. Petraeus told CIA employees all over the world by videoconference Tuesday. “I believe it’s one of the greatest concentrations of talent and capability that our country has,” he concluded.
At his June confirmation hearing to be CIA director, however, Mr. Petraeus noted several occasions when he differed with significant CIA assessments of the situation on the ground where he was commander. For instance, he said, some estimates were outdated in September 2007 on Iraq and in December 2010 on Afghanistan.
“In each case, my team and I felt that the situation had changed significantly following the intelligence community assessment cutoff date, typically some six to eight weeks prior to the date of the assessment being reviewed by the president,” he told the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. “In view of that, we sought to provide our assessment and more up-to-date analysis,” to policymakers, he said.
“However,” he stated, “if confirmed, when I am in the Situation Room with the president, I will strive to represent the agency position.”
“My goal has always been to speak truth to power,” he said, “and I will strive to do that as director of the CIA, if confirmed.”