Post-Afghan withdrawal, US intelligence community adjusted its resources to focus on China
David Cohen, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency(s), said in a recent closed-door meeting with the head of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center that while fighting al-Qaida and other extremist groups remains a priority for the C.I.A., more and more money and resources will be used to focus on
David Cohen, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency(s), said in a recent closed-door meeting with the head of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center that while fighting al-Qaida and other extremist groups remains a priority for the C.I.A., more and more money and resources will be used to focus on China.
The Associated Press reported Monday that the CIA drone recently killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul, indicating that counterterrorism still has a long way to go, but that does not change the central implication of Cohen’s conversation with the head of the C.I.A.I.A. counterterrorism center a few weeks ago, that while the United States will still hunt down terrorists, the agency’s top goal has shifted to better understand and deal with China.
President Biden and his top national security officials have talked less about counterterrorism and more about the political, economic and military threat posed by China and Russia a year after the allied troops left Afghanistan, the Associated Press said. There is also a quiet redeployment of personnel and resources within the intelligence agencies, adding hundreds of more people to posts in charge of China, including those who had previously focused on counterterrorism.
The Associated Press said developments over the past week made it clear that the United States often needs to address both counterterrorism and China’s challenges. Days after Mr. Zawahiri was killed by a C.I.A. drone, China held a series of large-scale military exercises in the sea and airspace around Taiwan because of the visit of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and announced that it would cut off communication channels between the U.S. and Chinese militaries and the two governments.
China has alarmed the United States for trying to influence foreign elections, cyber-attacks on foreign countries or stealing trade secrets and imprisoning millions of Uighurs in Xinjiang in re-education camps. Some experts predict that Beijing will try to conquer Taiwan, a democratic and self-governing U.S. ally, in the coming years.
The Associated Press quoted U.S. intelligence officials as saying that U.S. intelligence agencies need to know more about China, including for reasons that they cannot determine the source of the new crown epidemic. Beijing has been accused of concealing information and information related to the origin of the coronavirus.
Of course, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made Moscow a major target for U.S. intelligence agencies. Before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration had used declassified intelligence information to uncover Russia’s invasion plans and use it to increase diplomatic support for Kiev.
Proponents of the Biden administration’s approach argue that the U.S. has a way to track down and kill Mr. Zawahiri as proof that the United States is fully capable of responding to threats inside Afghanistan from outside Afghanistan, but critics argue that Mr. Zawahiri’s ability to live in Kabul under the protection of the Taliban shows that the resurgence of extremist terrorist groups appears to be resurgent and that the United States is not fully prepared for it.
Shifting the priorities of U.S. intelligence agencies from counterterrorism to focusing on China is supported by many former intelligence officials and members of congress from both parties in the United States, and some even think it is long overdue.
The Associated Press quoted Representative Jason Crow, a Democratic federal representative who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, as saying that the United States has spent too much energy on counterterrorism over the past few years.
“The much bigger threats that exist are Russia and China,” Crowe said. Crowe, who currently serves on the House Intelligence and Armed Forces Committee, also noted that terrorist groups “will not be like China … Destroying the American Way of Life”.
The Associated Press quoted CIA spokesman Tammy Thorp as saying terrorism “remains a very real challenge.”
“Even if the crisis of russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the strategic challenge posed by the People’s Republic of China require our attention, the CIA will continue to actively track the threat of terrorism around the world and work with partners to fight back,” Thorpe said.
Congress has consistently urged the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies to make China their primary focus, though tilting resource scheduling toward China means cutting resources in other ways. Members of Congress in particular want more information on China’s investments and progress in high-tech, because chinese authorities’ investments in areas including quantum science, artificial intelligence, and other technologies have the potential to affect the shape of future wars and the composition of the economy.
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