Trump administration, military officials at odds over CIA’s Afghanistan role: report

The Trump administration and military officials may be in disagreement over the choice to keep CIA presence in Afghanistan if troops are pulled from the nation, according to a Monday New York Times report

The Times reports that some White House advisers have proposed secretly expanding the agency’s presence in the nation — a move that some current and former officials have expressed skepticism about. 

The CIA and White House did not comment for the story, but the newspaper said it based the report off interviews with half a dozen of current or former officials briefed on the discussions. The Hill reached out to the White House for comment.

Some officials told the paper they want CIA-backed forces in the country as part of a counterterrorism force. They claim it could quell worries that the U.S. will be left with little ability to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base of operations if the U.S. pulls troops, as President Trump suggested will happen last week.

But others, such as Seth G. Jones, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former adviser to the commanding general of American Special Operations forces in Afghanistan, tell the Times they are skeptical of the plan, which they said could be impractical and ineffective. 

Current and former officials told the Times that for CIA militias to be effective, some American military teams would need to remain in the country. 

Trump said last week he will reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 8,600 but will maintain a presence after a deal with the Taliban is reached. A U.S. envoy on Monday said a deal was presented to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday. 

Trump has been vague about his preferences on expanding the CIA’s role, and CIA Director Gina Haspel has withheld her opinion in meetings too, the Times reports. 

Such CIA-backed militias have been in place since the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, but the exact size and nature of the agency’s presence in the country during the 18-year war is a guarded secret, the Times reports. 

Current and former officials told the paper that at least 20 agency members have been killed in Afghanistan during the wear.

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