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Time For A New OSS

By Charles S. Faddis
New York Post

Last week, President Obama laid out his plan for prosecuting the 8-year-old war in Afghanistan. Thirty-thousand additional US troops will be headed to Afghanistan over the next several months, part of an intensified effort to regain territory from the Taliban and give the fledgling Afghan security forces a chance to take control of that nation. Regardless of what you think of the decision and the President’s announcement of it, here are some indisputable facts:

Al Qaeda, the organization that actually attacked us on 9/11, retains almost no presence in Afghanistan. Its central leadership now operates primarily from an area across the border in neighboring Pakistan. Its members are scattered across a host of other nations. The Taliban, the organization with which we are currently at war in Afghanistan, has almost no capability to stage international terrorist attacks and has confined its goals almost exclusively to the establishment of an Islamic state in Afghanistan. It poses no direct threat to the territory of the United States.

In short, even assuming complete and total victory in Afghanistan, all we really will have accomplished is to prevent the possibility of that nation again becoming a safe haven for use by terrorist organizations bent on doing us harm. We will not have defeated al Qaeda, and, in fact, we may not have even significantly degraded the capabilities of that organization. This entire massive conventional military effort will not win this war.

By Charles S. Faddis
New York Post

Last week, President Obama laid out his plan for prosecuting the 8-year-old war in Afghanistan. Thirty-thousand additional US troops will be headed to Afghanistan over the next several months, part of an intensified effort to regain territory from the Taliban and give the fledgling Afghan security forces a chance to take control of that nation. Regardless of what you think of the decision and the President’s announcement of it, here are some indisputable facts:

Al Qaeda, the organization that actually attacked us on 9/11, retains almost no presence in Afghanistan. Its central leadership now operates primarily from an area across the border in neighboring Pakistan. Its members are scattered across a host of other nations. The Taliban, the organization with which we are currently at war in Afghanistan, has almost no capability to stage international terrorist attacks and has confined its goals almost exclusively to the establishment of an Islamic state in Afghanistan. It poses no direct threat to the territory of the United States.

In short, even assuming complete and total victory in Afghanistan, all we really will have accomplished is to prevent the possibility of that nation again becoming a safe haven for use by terrorist organizations bent on doing us harm. We will not have defeated al Qaeda, and, in fact, we may not have even significantly degraded the capabilities of that organization. This entire massive conventional military effort will not win this war.

The task of defeating al Qaeda, an international organization composed of clandestine terrorist cells, is not one that can be accomplished by Marine infantry battalions, carrier battle groups or armored divisions. The task of hunting down and destroying a shadowy, creative enemy like this is one that must be done by an organization designed for the purpose, one which is equally at home in the world of intrigue and deception in which terrorist operatives hide.

For this work we need an outfit composed of select numbers of highly-skilled individuals who have spent years of their lives abroad learning the smell, feel and taste of the street in South Asia, the Middle East and East Africa. We need an organization that is fast, agile and audacious. We need an entity whose leaders have the courage to take chances and the creativity to find solutions to problems no one else can solve.

Unfortunately, we have no such organization.

Within the US government the work we are discussing is properly the province of the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA, unfortunately, remains a stiff, overly bureaucratic entity staffed at its senior levels overwhelmingly by individuals more focused on personal advancement and risk avoidance than they are on hunting down dangerous, clever adversaries. There are thousands of good, patriotic Americans inside the CIA sweating blood in an effort to achieve victory in this war on terror. Any success they achieve, however, is usually despite the structure of the organization in which they work, not because of it.

Outside of the CIA, our primary post-9/11 creation has been the office of the Director of National Intelligence. Numbering 4,000 individuals, this office is composed of desk-bound bureaucrats whose primary impact on the collection of human intelligence seems to have been the creation of yet more bureaucracy. The DNI collects no intelligence. It captures no terrorists. It takes us no closer to our goal.

We cannot afford to continue in this manner. Al Qaeda and the broader threat of Islamic extremism are not going to go away anytime soon. Whether we leave Afghanistan in 2011 or not, we are still going to be at war with al Qaeda and its surrogates. To win that war we must accept the necessity to employ truly unconventional means and truly unconventional forces.

What we need is a new Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the legendary World War II-era spy organization known for its singular focus on mission accomplishment. Such an organization would be small, probably on the lines of the original OSS, which numbered roughly 13,000 individuals. It would be elite, composed of uniquely-qualified individuals drawn from every walk of life and from the full cross-section of American society. It would have a simple, flat bureaucratic structure to ensure that it was capable of rapid decision making and equally rapid action. And, finally, and perhaps most importantly, such an organization would report directly to the President to insulate it from the paralyzing influence of Washington bureaucracy.

During his failed bid for the Presidency, Sen. John McCain talked about the necessity to create a modern version of the OSS. If we really want to win this war, it’s time we gave that idea some serious thought.

Charles S. Faddis is a retired CIA officer and the author of “Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA” (The Lyons Press).
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