Military Operations in the 2010s

Operations in Afghanistan

2011 - 2013

Materials arranged chronologically.

Mazzetti, Mark. "Private Spies Aid F.B.I. in Afghan Investigation." New York Times, 28 Feb. 2011. []

According to U.S officials and private contractors, after the Pentagon ended "its relationship with a private spy network operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan" and managed by Duane R. Clarridge, a former top CIA official, the FBI "began tapping the same group to help investigate the killing of 10 medical aid workers in northern Afghanistan." The network has provided FBI agents in Kabul "with intelligence reports about militants who may have been involved in the attack." Clarridge's "network is made up of former C.I.A. and special forces operatives, as well as dozens of Afghan and Pakistani locals."

Belasco, Amy. The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 29 Mar. 2011. Available at:

"Between FY2009 and FY2010, average monthly DOD spending for Afghanistan grew from $4.4 billion to $6.7 billion a month,... while average troop strength almost doubled from 44,000 to 84,000 as part of the troop surge announced by the President last year. Troop strength in Afghanistan is expected to average 102,000 in FY2011. DOD's plans call for troop levels to fall by less than 4,000 in FY2012 unless the President decides otherwise.... It is currently unclear how quickly or slowly troop levels will fall this summer or in later years."

Cloud, David S. "Pakistan Shuts Down U.S. 'Intelligence Fusion' Cells." Los Angeles Times, 27 May 2011. []

According to U.S. officials, Islamabad has told the United States "to reduce the number of U.S. troops" in Pakistan "and has moved to close three military intelligence liaison centers," known as intelligence fusion cells. There are two such cells in Peshawar and one in Quetta. They "are the main conduits for the United States to share satellite imagery, target data and other intelligence with Pakistani ground forces conducting operations against militants." U.S. special operations units have relied on the facilities ... "to help coordinate operations on both sides of the border." The units are "being withdrawn from all three sites, the officials said, and the centers are being shut down."

Dilanian, Ken. "U.S. Put New Restrictions on CIA Drone Strikes in Pakistan." Los Angeles Times, 7 Nov. 2011. []

"The White House over the summer put new restrictions on CIA drone strikes in the wake of concerns that the program was primarily targeting lower-level militants while provoking anger in Pakistan, U.S. officials said.... Under the new rules,... the State Department, which has been concerned about the anger the strikes have aroused in Pakistan, has more input on each attack. And the U.S. has promised to inform Pakistan if a strike will target a particularly large group of militants."

Miller, Greg. "CIA Digs in as Americans Withdraw from Iraq, Afghanistan." Washington Post, 7 Feb. 2012. []

"The CIA is expected to maintain a large clandestine presence in Iraq and Afghanistan long after the departure of conventional U.S. troops as part of a plan by the Obama administration to rely on a combination of spies and Special Operations forces to protect U.S. interests in the two longtime war zones, U.S. officials said."

Dozier, Kimberly. "Wraps Come Off Special Operations Afghan War Plan." Associated Press, 12 Apr. 2012. []

The head of U.S. special operations, Adm. Bill McRaven, "is mapping out a potential Afghanistan war plan that would replace thousands of U.S. troops with small special operations teams paired with Afghans to help an inexperienced Afghan force withstand a Taliban onslaught as U.S. troops withdraw. While the overall campaign would still be led by conventional military, the handfuls of special operators would become the leading force to help Afghans secure the large tracts of territory won in more than a decade of U.S. combat."

Bowley, Graham. "US Spy Balloons Hover over Afghans, Causing Unease." New York Times, 12 May 2012. []

White 117-foot-long surveillance balloons, called aerostats by the military, "have become constant features" at almost every military base in Afghanistan. "[T]he balloons, with infrared and color video cameras, are central players in the American military's shift toward using technology for surveillance and intelligence. In recent years, they have become part of a widening network of devices -- drones, camera towers at military bases and a newer network of street-level closed-circuit cameras monitoring Kabul's roads -- that have allowed American and Afghan commanders to keep more eyes on more places where Americans are fighting."

Bergen, Peter, and Megan Braun. "Drone Is Obama's Weapon of Choice." CNN, 6 Sep. 2012. []

The authors discuss an analysis by the New America Foundation of drone strikes. Some conclusions: "Under Obama, the drone campaign, which during the Bush administration had put emphasis on killing significant members of al Qaeda, has undergone a quiet and unheralded shift to focus increasingly on killing Taliban foot soldiers.... [S]o-called 'signature strikes' have become a hallmark of Obama's drone war. These are drone attacks based on patterns of merely suspicious activity by a group of men, rather than the identification of a particular individual militant.... The number of drone strikes in 2011 fell by 40% from the record number of strikes in 2010. So far this year, the number of strikes has dropped by a further 25%."

Rosenberg, Matthew. "With Bags of Cash, C.I.A. Seeks Influence in Afghanistan." New York Times, 28 Apr. 2013. []

"For more than a decade, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan's president -- courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency. All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader."

See Matthew Rosenberg, "Afghan Leader Confirms Cash Deliveries by C.I.A.," New York Times, 29 Apr. 2013: Speaking at "at a news conference in Helsinki, Finland" on 29 April 2013, Afghan President Hamid Karzai acknowledged that the CIA "has been dropping off bags of cash at his office for a decade, saying the money was used for 'various purposes' and expressing gratitude to the United States for making the payments." See also, Matthew Rosenberg, "Karzai Says He Was Assured C.I.A. Would Continue Delivering Bags of Cash," New York Times, 4 May 2013; and Kevin Sieff, "Karzai Acknowledges CIA Payments," Washington Post, 4 May 2013.

See also, Robert Baer, "Cash for Karzai -- Don't Blame the CIA for Flushing Money Down the Drain," Time, 1 May 2013: "I have no idea what the precise justification for giving money to Karzai was, but I'm almost certain that the White House, Congress and the Pentagon were breathing down the CIA's neck to do something about Afghan's political leadership.... No one apparently understood that in a place like Afghanistan you can only rent compliance, and for the shortest of time.... From its earliest days, the CIA has been saddled with orders to prop up corrupt regimes.... It invariably fails, and just as invariably leaves egg on the CIA's face."

Dozier, Kimberly. "Drone Strike Shows that Secret CIA Attacks Will Continue Despite Obama Pledge for Transparency." Associated Press, 30: May 2013. []

The drone attack that killed Pakistan Taliban deputy leader Waliur Rehman [Wali ur-Rehman] on 29 May 2013 "was a clear signal that despite President Barack Obama's promise last week of new transparency in the drone program, the CIA will still launch secret attacks on militants in north Pakistan." See also, Mark Mazzetti and Declan Walsh, "Pakistan Says U.S. Drone Killed Taliban Leader," 29 May 2013; and Ismail Khan and Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud, "Hints of a Rift After Pakistani Taliban Deputy's Death," New York Times, 30 May 2013.

Miller, Greg. "CIA Closing Bases in Afghanistan as It Shifts Focus Amid Military Drawdown." Washington Post, 23 Jul. 2013. []

"The CIA has begun closing clandestine bases in Afghanistan, marking the start of a drawdown.... The closures were described by U.S officials as preliminary steps in a plan to reduce the number of CIA installations in Afghanistan from a dozen to as few as six over the next two years -- a consolidation to coincide with the withdrawal of most U.S. military forces from the country by the end of 2014..... U.S. officials stressed that the CIA is expected to maintain a significant footprint even after the pullback, with a station in Kabul that will remain among the agency's largest..., as well as a fleet of armed drones that will continue to patrol Pakistan's tribal belt....

"[A] full withdrawal of U.S. troops would probably trigger a deeper retrenchment by the CIA, which has relied on U.S. and allied military installations across the country to serve as bases for agency operatives and cover for their spying operations. The CIA's armed drones are flown from a heavily fortified airstrip near the Pakistan border in Jalalabad.... Current and former U.S. officials familiar with the agency's plans said they call for pulling most agency personnel back to the CIA's main station in Kabul, plus a group of large regional bases ... in Bagram, Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif, Jalalabad and Herat."

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