By Bill Gertz:
The CIA failed to provide adequate warning of the recent Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant military incursion into Iraq despite having a significant presence of agency officers in the country, according to U.S. officials and security analysts.
Critics of the agency said the intelligence failure was made worse by a failure of the Obama administration to recognize the threat posed to the country by the ISIL, which last week renamed itself simply the Islamic State (IS) and declared its captured territory in Syria and Iraq is now a “caliphate.”
The so-called caliphate region is under harsh Islamic law and led by IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as its “caliph” or Islamic leader.
“This is an absolute intelligence failure on the part of the CIA,” said Bill Cowan, a former Special Forces officer who worked until recently as a contractor in Iraq.
During U.S. military operations in Iraq, military intelligence agencies set up robust spying—both human and electronic—throughout Iraq that provided a clear picture of the insurgents, including the former Saddam Hussein military officials who currently are a major component of the IS operation.
However, with the Obama administration’s decision to pull out all troops, the military intelligence coverage was removed at the end of 2011.
“With all military intel out of the picture, the CIA takes primary responsibility for HUMINT activities in Iraq. Where were they? No interaction with tribal leaders who probably watched the build up? No interaction with the [northern Kurdish] Peshmerga? The agency isn’t on the radar screen, but they should be.”
A Kurdish security official with the regional government in northern Iraq said intelligence on key figures in the terrorist group, including the locations of IS training camps and the movement of vehicle convoys from Syria was provided to both Baghdad and western intelligence agencies.
“It all fell on deaf ears,” said Rooz Bahjay, the security official. “The west failed to act, and now it’s failing to react. The longer they wait, the more people are going to be killed.”
Cowan said the failure to provide warning and alert in advance of the incursion, which began in early June, made it impossible to take steps that could have blunted the advance, which currently controls major cities in central Iraq and at least one oil field, failure that will produce dire strategic consequences for the United States and states in region.
The CIA denied it is to blame for any intelligence failure on Iraq. “Anyone who has had access to and actually read the full extent of CIA intelligence products on ISIL and Iraq should not have been surprised by the current situation,” CIA spokesman Christopher White when asked about whether the agency was guilty of an intelligence failure.
A U.S. intelligence official did not directly state whether CIA or other spy agencies provided advance word of the IS invasion. However, the official said IS was tracked for years and “strategic warning” of its growing strength and increasing threat to Iraq were reported.
The official also said policymakers were warned about difficulties within the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces. Several divisions of Iraqi troops fled during the IS incursion.
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