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Dec 10th, 2008

Official: Iraq War Was Both Intelligence, Policy Failure 

Dec. 9, 2008

WASHINGTON — Gently admonishing President George W. Bush, the nation’s newly retired chief intelligence analyst on Tuesday suggested that the Iraq war was as much the failure of policymakers as it was the flawed intelligence on which they relied.

Bush told ABC News last week his biggest regret was “the intelligence failure in Iraq.”

“I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess,” Bush said.

Thomas Fingar, until this week the deputy director of national intelligence for analysis, declined to directly address the president’s swipe. But he said: “I learned something a long time ago in this town. There are only two possibilities: policy success and intelligence failure.”

‘Got it less wrong’

Fingar is in a better position than many in the intelligence agencies to assess those possibilities. Before the Iraq invasion, he was second in command of a small group of State Department analysts that notably cast doubt — albeit behind closed doors — on a key Bush administration rationale for the 2003 war.

A 2002 intelligence assessment pushed by the administration contended that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had an active nuclear, chemical and biological weapons program. Fingar’s office dissented on the nuclear question.

His office “got it less wrong,” he told reporters Tuesday during a valedictory round-table discussion.

But he acknowledged that the overall analysis of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities was wrong, and some of the underlying intelligence false. In fact, an exhaustive search turned up no nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or any evidence there was an active program to develop it.

Time pressure to blame

Part of the blame goes to time pressure, Fingar said: The Bush administration ordered the report to be produced in less than two weeks. Similar intelligence estimates can take months or years.

“It’s my observation that it’s very hard to dislodge a mistaken interpretation once it gets into the head of a decisionmaker who has used it in a speech, built it into a policy, conveyed it to colleagues around the world,” Fingar said. “That puts to me an awfully high premium on taking the time to get it right.”

Fingar said he does not think intelligence analysts have a responsibility to correct politicians’ statements that veer off the contents of secret intelligence judgments. …



Bush is history (MSNBC, Dec. 9, 2008) — Countdown’s Keith Olbermann lists why White House talking points designated to cast President Bush in a positive light actually serve as a reminder of the president’s many faults and shortcomings. (04:51)


Related post on this site

Iraq ‘Longer and More Costly’ (Dec. 6, 2008)



Report: Marines Slow to Get Protective Vehicles into Iraq

Dec. 10, 2008

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marine Corps knew of the threat posed by roadside bombs before the start of the Iraq war, yet did nothing to buy protective vehicles for troops, according to a report to be released by the Pentagon.

Additionally, Marine leaders in 2005 decided to buy up-armored, or reinforced, Humvees instead of Mine Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles to shield troops in Iraq from mines and other explosives — a decision that could have cost lives, according to the report obtained Tuesday by CNN.

The report by the Department of Defense inspector general was requested by the Marine Corps in early 2008 after a civilian employee with the service complained that bureaucratic delays undermined the program to develop the armored vehicles. …

The report found that the Department of Defense knew before the war started in 2003 of the threats of mines and roadside bombs in Iraq but did nothing to acquire “MRAP-type” vehicles ahead of the invasion.

“As a result, the department entered into operations in Iraq without having taken available steps to acquire technology to mitigate the known mine and IED risk to soldiers and Marines,” the report said.

In response to the report, Marine Corps spokesman Maj. David Nevers pointed out the inspector general found no “evidence of criminal negligence” in the Corps’ actions. …

A civilian whistle-blower working with the Marine Corps on the MRAP program wrote a scathing report about delays in the procurement process in early 2008.

“If the mass procurement and fielding of MRAPs had begun in 2005 in response to the known and acknowledged threats at that time, as the USMC is doing today, hundreds of deaths and injuries could have been prevented,” Franz Gayl wrote in his January report.

He said bureaucratic delays plagued the program at the height of the insurgency, when U.S. troops were regularly being attacked and killed by roadside bombs. …

The Gayl report drew attention just months after MRAPs had been pushed into Iraq by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in an effort to protect troops from roadside bombs — the leading killer of troops at the time.


Afghan Troop Boost Will Differ from Iraq Surge

Analysis by Andrew Gray

Dec. 9, 2008

WASHINGTON — When is a surge not a surge? When it involves sending U.S. troops to Afghanistan, not Iraq. 

Just as the United States sent more forces to Iraq to quell rampant violence, many U.S. politicians led by President-elect Barack Obama want to send more troops to Afghanistan to fight a growing insurgency. 

But while politicians talk of another surge — the term that became shorthand for the extra troops and new strategy deployed in Iraq in 2007 — military officers avoid the word because they view the two wars differently. 

The Iraq surge was billed as a temporary boost to get a grip on sectarian attacks but U.S. commanders say higher troop levels in Afghanistan are needed probably for years to defeat the Taliban and other insurgents. 

“It’s not necessarily a surge as much as it is a reinforcement,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Tucker, deputy chief of staff for operations for NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. 

For years, U.S. commanders have described Afghanistan as an “economy of force” effort — meaning they do not have enough troops to do everything they want. 

There are some 65,000 foreign troops — including 31,000 from the United States — in Afghanistan, compared to around 150,000 in Iraq. Yet Afghanistan is larger and more populous, with 32 million people against Iraq’s 28 million. 

Afghanistan’s rugged terrain and limited infrastructure present a bigger challenge than Iraq, a far more developed country where troops can move around on modern highways and people are more concentrated in urban centers. …

Taliban militants and other insurgents have sanctuaries across the Pakistani border and have recently attacked military supplies headed for Afghanistan inside Pakistan. 

Because Pakistan is a key U.S. ally with a shaky government, it is politically difficult to pursue insurgents across the border. …

An increase of U.S. forces in Afghanistan will likely occur more gradually than in Iraq, where the surge of some 30,000 troops built up over about six months. 

More than 20,000 extra U.S. troops, comprising combat forces, an aviation brigade and support units, are expected to arrive over the next 12 to 18 months, Pentagon officials say. 

Proportionally, this increase would be much larger than the Iraq surge. 

Despite the differences, analysts also see some important similarities with Iraq. 

John Nagl, a retired U.S. officer who co-wrote the Army’s counter-insurgency manual, said that the extra troops could help provide basic security in Afghanistan, just as they did in Iraq, so political and economic progress could be made. …

But Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations said the Iraq surge was more about giving Sunni Muslim former insurgents, disillusioned with al Qaeda, the confidence to switch sides and fight with U.S. and Iraqi government forces. 

Both U.S. and Afghan officials want to reach out to “reconcilable” elements of the Afghan insurgency but analysts see little sign that large numbers of warlords or tribal leaders are on the verge of switching sides. …

One element of the Iraq surge that experts say needs to be duplicated is an increase in civilian efforts that accompanied the military deployment. 

In Iraq, those efforts focused on encouraging political reconciliation. In Afghanistan, they are likely to concentrate on battling corruption and the opium trade and boosting economic development.

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