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Seeing through the Smoke – Petraeus, the CIA, and Afghanistan

Seeing through the Smoke - Petraeus, the CIA, and Afghanistan

Whether due to the hunt for Gaddafi, or in anticipation of Obama’s new plan to create jobs, Afghanistan has taken a backseat to other news developments vying for Americans’ attention. The Washington Post’s David Ignatius has an intriguing article, consequently, that some may have missed. Ignatius discusses a classified CIA analytical piece on the state of the Afghan war which purportedly asserts that the conflict is presently at a ‘stalemate’. Ignatius also astutely raises concerns about how Petraeus will deal with this apparent conflict between what are now his analysts and his own vociferous opinions.

As discussed in a previous post, I remain skeptical of how Petraeus will lead the CIA in light of its increased militarization, but this conflict in opinion is even more disconcerting; if we consider how much Petraeus has evidently invested in the Afghan war, his ability to remain neutral when analyzing it is thrown into question. For now, we should give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that the CIA’s analysts will not find themselves coerced into being further intellectual justification for the war. From my perspective, the Afghan war is already suffering from the diminished role that civilian leadership plays in providing critical analysis which can see through all the smoke that is Afghanistan – let’s not weaken it even more.

(Photo Credit: Michal Przedlacki, Man prepares tea in a chaikhana located at Kabul’s bird market, Kabul, Afghanistan, December 2010).



Ali A. Riazi

Ali is an independent advisor on conflict and foreign affairs and an advocate for civilian protection. He has advised the Office of the Secretary of Defense, US military, NGOs, and intelligence oversight staff on topics, such as Afghanistan, civilian protection, irregular warfare, and civil-military affairs. His 13+ years of career experience have spanned humanitarian and national security circles and involved extensive experience throughout the Near East and Central Asia.

Ali earned a BA in Government & Politics (summa cum laude) and a Minor in International Development & Conflict Management from the University of Maryland, College Park. Additionally, he served as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in International Political Economy. He is currently pursuing an MLitt in Terrorism Studies through the University of St. Andrews.

Ali's other blog interests can be followed at, and he can be found on Twitter at!/ali_riazi.