Trump Administration Officials Cannot Agree on CIA Presence in Afghanistan

U.S. officials are reportedly unable to reach an agreement over whether to expand CIA presence in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of some of the troops the U.S. had in the country.

The New York Times reported that senior White House officials proposed expanding the role of the CIA in the country, but the agency and military officials are adamant that such a move could only hamper U.S. talks with the Taliban to put an end to the war in Afghanistan.

The outlet writes that a number of administration officials want the counterintelligence agency to be part of counterterrorism efforts there in order to stop the IS or al Qaeda from resurging. Others, on the other hand, are wary of such a tactic, believing that terrorist groups can be stopped without the support of the American military.

“The high-end forces, including C.I.A.-supported forces, are not going to win any war for you, but they may degrade the capability of terrorist groups,” said Seth G. Jones, a former adviser to the commanding general of American Special Operations forces in Afghanistan.

Gina Haspel, who heads the CIA, has pointed out that the agency operatives need the military for a number of matters, including medical support and overhead surveillance.

Supporters of the plan have pointed to concerns that a pullout of American forces from the ground in Afghanistan could encourage terrorist groups to once again use the country for their operations, The Times adds.

U.S. intelligence agencies are convinced that the Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan does not represent a threat to the West, while skeptics disagree, citing frequent attacks on Afghan civilians and continuing fight with the Taliban.

The issue of CIA presence in the country could make or break peace negotiations with the Taliban, which has insisted that the agency must withdraw from Afghanistan along with international military forces in the coming months or over the next few years.

According to Zalmay Khalilzad, the top U.S. negotiator, the two sides were nearing an agreement, but they have yet to address the issue of the militia groups, or American support for them.  

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