According to current and former officials, the current administration plans to pull back military support for the CIA, including taking back several of the drone fleets that the deep state used. If pushed through, the agency’s counterterrorism efforts would be greatly affected since its expansion in the aftermath of the September 11, 2011 attacks.
Apparently, the administration considers several options that might take effect on January 5. Special Operation forces working in the deep state’s paramilitary branch could be reduced. Other changes could deeply affect the agency, including covert drone strikes that target terrorists in hot spots worldwide.
Former officials warned that Joe Biden would immediately reverse some changes once he sits at the White House. However, the new administration could still find some changes harder to undo.
It remains unclear why the current administration is proceeding with the review, given that Biden could roll it back. Some former agency officials think that the move is President Trump’s final attempt to diminish the agency that assessed Russia interfered to help Trump in his 2016 presidential campaign.
A senior administration official said that the Pentagon currently reviews a 15-year-old memorandum of understanding with the CIA to move some personnel to other posts. Some in the Pentagon believe the agency has been receiving too many military assets that the Defense Department steps up to take over in the allocation.
Acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence Ezra Cohen-Watnick drove the administration’s effort. Acting secretary of defense Christopher C. Miller also supports the move.
“The Pentagon has been trying to allocate its resources better to focus more on the so-called great power competition with China,” Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Uriah L. Orland of the Air Force said.
“Much has changed in the first two decades of this century, and D.O.D. Simply is working with C.I.A. to ensure that both D.O.D. and C.I.A. can jointly confront the national security challenges facing the United States,” he added.
CIA Spokeswoman Nicole de Haay said that the agency is confident of keeping the close collaboration with the Defense Department to continue “for years to come.”
“There is no stronger relationship, nor a better partnership,” said de Haay, adding that the partnership has led to several accomplishments that crucially advanced the US national security.
In a version of the plan, the number of military bases that the Pentagon allows the CIA to use could be reduced. Further, it also curbs the number of places worldwide where the Defense Department provides treatment and medical evacuation to agency contractors and officers.
“That would mark a setback for U.S. national security,” said former C.I.A. paramilitary officer Michael P. Mulroy. “This relationship, together as a team, led to some of the biggest successes we had in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the overall global war against terrorism.”
Defense One reported the Pentagon review. Since the 9/11 attacks, the CIA borrowed pilots and assets from the Pentagon for its armed drones. To date, largely of CIA’s fleet of drones are Air Force-owned lent to the agency.
“The C.I.A.’s process of authorizing lethal strikes against individuals is faster than the military’s more bureaucratic procedures,” said former C.I.A. officer Kevin Carroll. He said that time-sensitive and evanescent counterterrorism targets could be missed.
Over the four years, Trump’s administration has shrunk the country’s counterterrorism efforts as it shifts the intelligence agencies’ focus to China.
Meanwhile, human rights groups would likely welcome the further reduction to CIA airstrikes. The groups have long opposed the killings of terrorism suspects yet remain frustrated with the agency’s secretive nature.
“The C.I.A. should not be in charge of targeted killings because, by its nature, it cannot meet international standards of transparency,” said Human Rights Watch deputy Washington director Andrea J. Prasow.
The Pentagon has informed Biden transition officials that the move would be to help the CIA shift resources from counterterrorism undertaking to China’s threat.
The Pentagon also announced that all of the roughly 700 troops in Somalia would be leaving by January 15, five days before Biden’s inauguration.
Former CIA officer Marc Polymeropoulos said that the partnership between the agency and the military for the past two decades has stopped “numerous terror attacks.”