Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - The CIA is deploying teams of spies, analysts and paramilitary operatives to Afghanistan, part of a broad intelligence "surge" that will make the agency's station there among the largest in CIA history, U.S. officials say.
When complete, the CIA's presence in the country is expected to rival the size of its massive stations in Iraq and Vietnam at the height of those wars. Precise numbers are classified, but one U.S. official said the CIA already has nearly 700 employees in Afghanistan.
The influx parallels the U.S. military expansion and comes at a time when the nation's spy services are under pressure from Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal to improve intelligence on the Taliban and find ways to reverse a series of unsettling trends.
Among them are a two-fold increase in the number of roadside bombs, a growing sophistication in the kinds of assaults aimed at coalition troops and evidence that a Taliban group has developed an assembly-line like approach to grooming suicide bombers and supplying them to other organizations.
U.S. officials have also been alarmed by a more sophisticated suicide attack - sending multiple fighters armed with guns to carry out coordinated assaults before detonating their bombs.
The arriving spies are being used in a range of assignments - teaming up with special forces units pursuing high-value targets, tracking public sentiment in provinces that have been shifting toward the Taliban and collecting intelligence on corruption in the Afghan government.
The intelligence surge goes beyond the CIA to involve every major spy service, officials said, including the National Security Agency, which intercepts calls and e-mails, as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency, which tracks military threats.
The CIA push comes at a time when the Obama administration is under pressure to show progress in Afghanistan, calculating it has only until next summer before public support for the war effort collapses.
The deployments coincide with fresh warnings from U.S. spy services that the insurgency in Afghanistan has continued to gain territory and strength.
"The Taliban is at its most capable level since 2001, when it was ejected from the country," said a Defense Department official who has access to classified intelligence estimates. The official, and others, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
As of Saturday, 764 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan. Identifications as reported by the U.S. military, not previously published:
-Army Staff Sgt. Nekl B. Allen, 29, Rochester N.Y.; explosion and small-arms fires Sept. 12; Wardak province.
- Air Force Staff Sgt. Bryan D. Berky, 25, of Melrose, enemy fire, Sept. 12; near Bala Baluk.
- Army Sgt. 1st Class Bradley S. Bohle, 29, of Glen Burnie, Md.; bomb Sept. 16; Helmand province.
-Army Spc. Daniel L. Cox, 23, Parsons, Kan.; explosion and small-arms fires Sept. 12; Wardak province.
- Army Sgt. Robert D. Gordon II, 22, Sept. 16 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany; non-combat related illness.
-Army Sgt. Tyler A. Juden, 23, Winfield, Kan.; combat Sept. 12; Turan.
-Army Pfc. Matthew M. Martinek, 20, DeKalb, Ill.; died Sept. 11 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, combat Sept. 4; Paktika province.
- Army Sgt. 1st Class Shawn P. McCloskey, 33, of Peachtree City, Ga. ; bomb Sept. 16; Helmand province.
-Army Sgt. Andrew H. McConnell, 24, of Carlisle, Pa.; bomb Sept. 14; southern Afghanistan.
- Army Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Mills, 24, of El Paso, Texas; bomb Sept. 16; Helmand province.
- Army Pfc. Jeremiah J. Monroe, 31, of Niskayuna, N.Y., bomb Sept. 17; Kandahar.
- Army 1st Lt. David T. Wright II, 26, of Moore, Okla.; bomb Sept. 14; southern Afghanistan.