More and more spies sent to Afghanistan

As the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan drags on, the number of intelligence officials deployed to the country continues to grow, and it seems now that there are almost 700 CIA employees working in Afghanistan.

Although this number is not exact (shared by an unnamed U.S. government official), it’s starting to resemble the size of the huge spy forces stationed in Iraq and Vietnam at the height of their respective conflicts.

Troop numbers are going up, so it makes sense that spy and analyst numbers follow. The military cannot have enough intelligence on the Taliban, whose growing stronghold and increasing attacks are extremely worrying. The Taliban is said to be at its strongest – since it got the boot from Afghanistan in 2001 – with an estimated 15-20,000 insurgents.

One of the areas that the Taliban seems to have down is the recruitment and training of suicide bombers. It is believed that some of these recruits are farmed out to other insurgent organizations.

Of course, the CIA didn’t go from a handful operatives to 700 overnight. A ‘handful’ was just post-9/11, a number that quickly grew to 150 by the close of 2001 and then gradually doubled to 300 over the course of the next four years.

The push for extra spies comes from the military but also from the Obama Administration, where the belief is widely held that come next summer, public support for the war will have all but disappeared. The pressure is on to wrap things up – an end which as of now is nowhere in sight.

Some U.S. spies – instead of focusing on Taliban movements and activities – have been asked to keep an eye on the currently U.S.-backed Afghani government. It is accused of being extremely corrupt, with senior officials involved in drug cartels and election fraud. So on the one hand there’s the Taliban insurgency to deal with, but on the other, there’s the hope of cleaning up the government and protecting civilians from the fanatic rule of the Taliban and the corrupt rule of the present government.

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