Pentagon to significantly reduce its support of CIA's counterterrorism missions
U.S. officials are concerned that some of the nation's spies will be in danger at the start of 2021, which is when the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) will see a significant reduction in much-needed Pentagon support of the CIA's counterterrorism missions, ABC News reports.
A senior administration intelligence official with the Pentagon confirmed that aid will be cut by Jan. 5, ABC says.
This means the CIA's Special Activities Center will have to find alternative means to carry out missions that were once supported by skilled U.S. military personnel.
The Special Activities Center is responsible for planning and executing covert operations by means of its paramilitary force, which is experienced in carrying out counterterrorism operations. Though the Center is an independent force, it has grown used to depending on military personnel for transportation and logistical support.
According to ABC News, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller sent a letter to CIA Director Gina Haspel outlining the Pentagon's decision.
Online defense news outlet, Defense One broke the news that the Pentagon was reviewing its support to the CIA. It cited multiple officials as saying the purpose of the decision is to ascertain whether or not Defense Department personnel who are currently assigned to the CIA should be reassigned to missions that are related to the nation's competition with Russia and China.
ABC News adds that multiple former and current administration and military officials confirmed this information and goes on to point out that diversion from counterterrorism missions would be in harmony with the National Defense Strategy aiming to push the military's focus away from the regional wars in the Middle East towards near-peer competitors like Russia and China.
"If these stories are true, they mark a serious setback to a very strong and effective relationship between the CIA and the Defense Department," said Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, retired CIA paramilitary officer and ABC News contributor. "A relationship that has resulted in countless successes in the last 20 years, especially in the area of counterterrorism such as the Bin Laden and al-Baghdadi operations, but also in many that will remain unknown."
He went on to say that due to this decision, the lives of CIA personnel still active in combat zones from which the U.S. military is withdrawing may be put in jeopardy.
"This could increase the risk to CIA officers until it can be readdressed by the incoming administration," he added. "If it is not reversed, the CIA needs to be increased in personnel and funding to make up for the difference to continue their critical missions."
According to ABC News, last week a CIA paramilitary officer was killed in Somalia, according to Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who disclosed in remarks to a think tank that the deceased CIA officer had previously served in the military as a Navy SEAL.
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