Philobiblon: America's non-existent 'war on terror'

Saturday, December 18, 2004

America's non-existent 'war on terror'

An informative interview with Michael Scheuer, who served in the CIA for 22 years, until this year. He was the Chief of the bin Laden Unit at the Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999.

"I think al-Qaeda is probably in good shape. One of the problems facing the U.S. intelligence community is that it continues to regard al-Qaeda as a terrorist group rather than an insurgent organization and we have never really constructed an order of battle for the organization. We only know of the leadership. And when U.S. politicians say that we have destroyed two thirds or three quarters of the leadership, what they are really alluding to is al-Qaeda's casualties based on the information available in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. There are a lot of people who we just don't know about and moreover al-Qaeda has demonstrated a remarkable capability to replenish its losses."

"I don't think Afghanistan and Pakistan are denied areas to al-Qaeda. There are very few U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the warlords control many of the areas. The tribal areas in Pakistan, save for South Waziristan, are not controlled by the Pakistani government. You can make the assumption that Afghanistan and Pakistan are denied areas but really the only thing you can be sure of is that they are not where U.S. forces or Pakistani forces are. I mean al-Qaeda and the Taliban can operate with relative ease in the tribal areas of both countries. And because a lot of national reconnaissance systems have been focused on Iraq, we don't have that many resources to track these people from space."

"This is perhaps my wishful thinking, but I think if we made some tangible changes to our relationship with Israel, started a serious discussion on securing alternative energy resources and refused to gratuitously support Putin's actions in Chechnya, that would give America an opening. Maybe then people would actually start listening to what we are saying. The problem is we don't even have an audience in that part of the world right now."

"We appear to be in a temporary phase where the current Administration looks at the world as it wants it to be and not as it is. Likewise, the Administration seems to be making it clear that it is not interested in analysis from its intelligence community if that analysis doesn't mesh with or support the Administration's views, policies, and perceptions. As a result, open-source publications have become by default the conveyor to the public of information and analysis on what is really happening in the world. America's citizens certainly need this information. I also believe that many professional intelligence officers will welcome such publications because they themselves are unable to present the world as it is to senior government officials."


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