The Major Flaws in Afghanistan's Intelligence War

It is therefore imperative to introduce necessary measures to reform the Afghan intelligence structure, especially professionalizing and depoliticizing its recruitment process. Serious measures should also include overhauling the directorate’s leadership edifice, both in Kabul and in the provinces, a modest surge in the agency’s human-intelligence assets in the field, bolstering its collection and analytical capabilities, and increasing its surveillance activities. What’s more, at least 50 percent of new recruits to the service should come from Afghan security institutions, especially the ministry of defense, and undergo a strong vetting process. Future training of Afghan forces should also include robust information collection requirements, enabling Afghan forces to assume dual roles as operators and collectors of intelligence. Meanwhile, the Afghan government should establish a special task force on intelligence and counterterrorism under the National Security Council’s umbrella and engage a small roster of experts, particularly red-teams, to special review and countervail directorate’s analytical products for clarity and credibility.

For now, it seems the Taliban is neither interested in peace nor a serious peace partner. The Afghan war has largely become an intelligence war and while it is unlikely the Taliban would stop its killing spree, given their string of successes, the role of Afghan intelligence as the first line of defense is paramount. The United States needs an honest reassessment of Afghanistan’s defense capabilities, particularly the NDS as the point of the spear, as it ramps up its combat-training role. It is convenient after attacks to point fingers or blame Pakistan. But this ignores the machinery of Afghan spy service, which if it were more competent and efficient would be able to detect, thwart and minimize future attacks. Otherwise, there will be more big surprises and Afghans deserve better.

Javid Ahmad, a nonresident fellow at West Point’s Modern War Institute, is a fellow at the Atlantic Council. The view expressed here are his own. On Twitter: @ahmadjavid.

Image: An Afghan policeman stands guard in front of a burning pile of seized narcotics and alcoholic drinks, in the outskirts of Jalalabad, Afghanistan September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Parwiz​