Former CIA chief: We totally dropped the ball on al Qaeda's rebound

A former CIA chief has admitted in a new tell-all book that the intelligence organisation badly misjudged Qaeda’s rebound during the Arab Spring, Greg Miller of The Washington Post reports.

In “The Great War of Our Time,” former CIA chief Michael Morell recounts his three decade career in the agency. He reportedly places special focus upon counter terrorism and the resurgence of al Qaeda and later ISIS.

Particularly noteworthy is Morell’s admittance the Arab Spring would undermine al Qaeda’s message and help to shift the Middle East away from terrorism after the death of Osama bin Laden.

“We thought and told policy-makers that this outburst of popular revolt would damage al-
Qaeda by undermining the group’s narrative,” Morell wrote.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, described Morell’s statement as “a pretty big admission.”

The Arab Spring led to a multitude of failed governments ranging from Syria to Libya, with conservative governmental backlashes in Egypt and the Gulf.

Morell wrote that the failure to predict the growth of the jihadist threat following the revolutions throughout the region was due to the CIA’s own failure to have reliable human intelligence sources on the ground in the various nations experiencing revolt. Instead, the CIA had grown accustomed to relying upon the intelligence of the existing Middle Eastern nations.

“We were lax in creating our own windows into what was happening, and the leadership we were relying on was isolated and unaware of the tidal wave that was about to hit,” Morell notes in his book.

Today, due to the Arab Spring, al Qaeda and ISIS control more territory in the Middle East than they ever have previously in their history. ISIS controls a swath of territory about the size of Belgium in Iraq and Syria, while having affiliates active in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Yemen, and Libya.

Al Qaeda has been adapting in response to the rise of ISIS. One of the primary rebel groups in Syria is the al qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, which is currently guiding the first major successful rebel push against the Assad regime in almost two years.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has also largely taken advantage of the chaos in Yemen to expand and control nearly half of the country.

YemenREUTERS/Nabeel QuaitiSmoke rises from an arms depot at the Jabal Hadeed military compound in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden March 28, 2015. Explosions rocked Aden’s largest arms depot on Saturday, sending flames and smoke into the sky above the southern Yemeni city, witnesses said.

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