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Pentagon slams publication of general’s think-tank report

Pentagon slams publication of general’s think-tank report

Tom Ricks blogged this morning about a new think-tank paper by Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, the U.S. Army’s top intelligence officer in Afghanistan. No big deal, right? These sorts of papers are published every day in Washington.

Well … not exactly. Turns out the Pentagon was none too pleased with Flynn’s methods, and perhaps his conclusions as well.

"I think it struck everybody as a little bit curious, yes," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told Reuters. "My sense is that this was an anomaly and that we probably won’t see that (in the future)."

Ouch! "It was an unusual and irregular way to publish a document of this nature," Whitman added for good measure.

The paper rips U.S. intelligence officials in Afghanistan as being "ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced … and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers."

"Eight years into the war in Afghanistan," Flynn writes, "the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy."

Ricks, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, which published the paper, explains Flynn’s motives thusly:

As I understand it, the paper was released through CNAS because Gen. Flynn wanted to reach beyond his own chain of command and his own community and talk to people such as commanders of deploying infantry units about what kind of intelligence they should be demanding."

One also suspects that Flynn must have conveyed his message to his superiors already, and grew frustrated that he wasn’t gaining any traction. I will say that the timing of the report is slightly unfortunate, coming just after the CIA suffered its worst losses in the field in a quarter century. At the same time, the suicide attack at Forward Operating Base Chapman only serves to underscore the idea that the U.S. intelligence community is out of its depth in Afghanistan.