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Afghan War News > Intelligence > Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has a long and storied history in Afghanistan. It is famous for its clandestine support of the mujihadeen groups fighting the Soviet invasion and subsequent occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. It also played a leading role along Special Forces teams and the Northern Alliance in the toppling of the Taliban regime in the fall of 2001 immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The Afghan War (2001 to ?). Through the course of the Afghan War starting in 2001 through the present day the CIA has remained fully engaged in Afghanistan. Of note, is its persistance in the tracking down of Osama Bin Laden and its role in his demise in neighboring Pakistan.

More Than Intelligence. The CIA performed its usual intelligence role in Afghanistan; but also got deeply involved in fielding and operating its own counterterrorism forces, paramilitary teams, and armed Predator drones.

Armed Drones. The CIA has expanded its used of armed drone attacks to neutralize the Al Qaeda network operating in remote areas of Afghanistan and across the border into Pakistan. 2. The use of armed drones against terrorist and insurgent targets in Pakistan is highly controversial in the United States and also is a source of tension between Pakistan and the U.S. It is, however, recognized as a very important component of the US War on Terror.

National Directorate of Security (NDS). The Afghan NDS is the national intelligence service of Afghanistan. It is very professional and somewhat independent of the politics that pervade every other institution within Afghan society (army, police, etc.). It also is one of the least corrupt institutions within Afghanistan.

CIA Bases in Afghanistan. Reportedly, the CIA has operational bases in Bagram, Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif, Jalalabad and Herat. 1. In addition, there are a number of smaller and mobile stations. One of the CIA forward operating bases, FOB Chapman, was attacked 5. on December 30, 2009 resulting in the death of several CIA operatives and security personnel.

CIA Commando Units. The agency has organized, equipped, trained, and led small Afghan commando units throughout Afghanistan. 7. These reportedly come under the purview of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) but are actually an armed ground element of the CIA. According to some news sources 8. these units are called "Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams" or CTPTs. Some of the CTPTs, such as the Khost Protection Force have been accused of human rights abuses 10. and a lack of accountability to the Afghan government. 

Slush Fund. The CIA, with its ability to hide its use of vast sums of money, has consistently "rented" many Afghan government and military officials as well as a variety of warlords. 3. Many of the recipients have been on the payroll for the entire Afghan War to include President Karzai. 4. Even with the monthly payments of millions of dollars to Karzai there are some who question if the money has "bought" Karzai; as he consistently speaks out against the CIA. 7. There some critics that accuse the CIA of encouraging corruption within Afghanistan with its wide use of payments 6. while other US organizations such as the military, State Department, Drug Enforcement Agency, and USAID are working to eliminate corruption. Some observers note 9. that the CIA has undermined the efforts of many in Afghanistan.

Books about the CIA in Afghanistan

Laux, Douglas, Left of the Boom: How a Young CIA Case Officer Penetrated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, St. Martin's Press, 2016.

Websites about the CIA and Afghanistan

Afghanistan - CIA World Factbook. The CIA factbook on Afghanistan covering topics such as geography, people and society, government, economy, energy, communications, transportation, military and transnational issues.

CIA News & Information Blog

CIA Activities in Afghanistan.  By Wikipedia.

Geospatial Intelligence. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

News Stories about the CIA in Afghanistan

April 26, 2021. "What the CIA Did (and Didn't Do) in Soviet Occupied Afghanistan", by Emran Feroz, Newslines Magazine.

December 18, 2020. "The CIA's Afghan Death Squads", by Andrew Quilty, The Intercept. A U.S.-backed militia that kills children may be America's exit strategy from its longest war. Details of unit "01" in Wardak province.

May 26, 2020. "Peace in Afghanistan? Watch the militias", The New Humanitarian. Astri Suhrke and Antonio De Lauri call for the disbandment of CIA supported militias in Afghanistan.

December 30, 2019. "The frantic effort to save lives after a deadly attack on the CIA", The Washington Post. Surgeon Joshua Alley worked hard to save the lives of CIA operatives wounded in a suicide bombing attack against a CIA facility at Camp Chapman, Afghanistan.

December 31, 2018. "C.I.A.'s Afghan Forces Leave a Trail of Abuse and Anger", The New York Times. The fighters are holding the line in the war's toughest spots but some officials say their brutal tactics are terrorizing the public and undermining the U.S. mission.

April 26, 2016. "CIA Gets Back to Spying", by Philip Giraldi, The American Conservative. Short article about the CIA in Afghanistan and book author of Left of the Boom.

April 1, 2016. "A C.I.A. Grunts Tale of the Fog of Secret War", by Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times. Profile of the author of Left of the Boom.

December 3, 2014. "CIA runs shadow war with Afghan militia implicated in civilian killings". The Washington Post. A story about the Khost Protection Force.

December 2014. "Khowst - 5 Years Later". CIA News & Information. In 2009 seven CIA officers were killed on FOB Chapman by a double-agent who detonated a suicide vest during a meeting with his CIA handlers. Read an account by the CIA.

December 18, 2014. "CIA analysis: 'high-value targeting' had limited effect against Taliban". The Washington Post.

May 19, 2014. "The CIA Turf War That's Killing Afghans". Sunny in Kabul Blog. A less than glowing account of CIA activities in Afghanistan.

February 10, 2012. "War Without Accountability: The CIA, Special Forces and plans for Afghanistan's future". By Kate Clark, Afghan Analyst Network.



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1.  For more info on CIA bases located in Afghanistan see "CIA closing bases in Afghanistan as it shifts focus amid military drawdown". The Washington Post, July 23, 2013. This article details the CIA drawdown (closing bases, decrease in operations, and moving of resources) in Afghanistan that will coincide with the military drawdown as the war slowly comes to an end.

2. For more on the growth of armed drone use by the CIA see a story entitled "CIA shifts focus to killing targets", The Washington Post, September 1, 2011.

3. For more information on warlords of Afghanistan view some maps showing their locations within Afghanistan.

4. See story on CIA paying off Karzai in "Karzai acknowledges CIA payments", The Washington Post, May 4, 2013.

5. For more on this devastating attack against the CIA on a compound located in Khost in 2009 see a description entitled Camp Chapman Attack on the Wikipedia website. In addition, see "Khowst - 5 Years Later", CIA News & Information, December 2014.

6. See a story on CIA cash payments to Karzai and other prominent Afghans in "With Bags of Cash, C.I.A. Seeks Influence in Afghanistan", The New York Times, April 28, 2013.

7. For more on how Karzai tries to limit the CIAs involvement in Afghanistan see a story entitled "Hamid Karzai seeks to curb CIA operations in Afghanistan", The Guardian, April 19, 2013. The story provides information on the CIA ground war conducted in Afghanistan. Karzai has also issued an executive order in February 2013 that attempts to move all Afghan paramilitary forces under an Afghan governmental structure such as the Ministry of Interior or Ministry of Defense.

8. To learn more about the CIA's Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams see "How the CIA ran a secret army of 3,000 assassins", The Independent, September 23, 2010. The Afghanistan Analysts Notebook also provides a wealth of info on the CTPTs in an online article published on April 28, 2013. The CTPTs are also mentioned in a story by The New York Times - "U.S. Military Seeks to Expand Raids in Pakistan" published December 20, 2010.

9. For more on how the CIA slush fund hurt the efforts of others read "How the CIA's Bags of Cash Undermined the Afghanistan War", Danger Room Wired.com, April 29, 2013.

10. For more on the human rights abuses of the CTPUs see "Civilian Deaths Raise Questions about C.I.A.-Trained Forces in Afghanistan", by David Jolly, The New York Times, December 3, 2015.


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