The U.S. withdrawal decision and the risks of a future foggy intelligence vision


The recent U.S. policy decisions to withdraw its military presence from Syria and Afghanistan have a significant long-term impact in the U.S. national security, in particular, its intelligence capabilities.

The withdraw will affect the U.S. intelligence effectiveness in the Middle East as well as will decrease the insight perspective in the region. Syria and Afghanistan are considered as the most active and suitable environment for international terrorist entities, besides their geopolitical importance for the U.S.

The involvement of adequate intelligence capabilities within the U.S. military deployments overseas is an inherent part of the Matrix to achieve the objectives as required by decision makers. In Syria and Afghanistan, the high-quality intelligence product used to provide unique knowledge regarding sensitive matters such as terrorist threats, the political scene, the on-ground conditions for locals and the troop’s security.

Due to the decision, a reduction on human sources (HUMINT), UAVs operations and a technical gathering ability will pose a serious challenge to the U.S. intelligence community that is already suffering from numerous obstacles. Therefore, providing insight for the U.S. decision makers, troops on the battlefield and managing risks will be quite tricky. Thus, intelligence failure cases are likely to occur in the future.

The risks are lying on ignoring the negative impacts of raw intelligence loss, which will reflect negatively on the U.S. ability to understand the situation on the ground comprehensively.

Losing the intelligence footprint in Syria and Afghanistan pose challenges of; identifying and disrupting potential terrorist schemes against the U.S. and its allies; protecting the remaining U.S. forces and other officials who stay behind to protect U.S. interests; maintaining important relations with other actors in the region. The same issues had been raised in Iraq in 2011 when the reduction in the intelligence capabilities impact on failure in managing the after-war era.

To avoid the mistakes of the past, the U.S. should adopt an adequate method to protect its numerous intelligence footprint missions before the withdrawing.

In the 1990s after the U.S. and the international collation withdrawal from Afghanistan and cutting off the funding and the intelligence missions, the country hand over the total control to Pakistan and local entities that turned Afghanistan into a theatre of proxy warfare and eliminated the U.S. influence on the region. Therefore, at this time the Clinton administration had a very limited understanding of the situation and contributed to accelerating al-Qaida regional influence and threats to the U.S.

In Iraq 2011 the U.S. agreement with al-Maliki government decided that all troops would depart at the end of the year except a very limited presence in the U.S. embassy in Baghdad which passively supported ISIS to survived, regrouping and turn into a giant threat in the whole region. A suitable presence would have the power to preserve an adequate intelligence capability in Iraq to have seen indications of ISIS resurgent and threats. In the past examples, the main reasons for the U.S. straggling policies were the quick losses of intelligence expert sources with official and non-state actors.

Leaving theatres such as Afghanistan and Syria mean enormous challenges, risks and loss of potential benefits in the future. The critical importance of the U.S. intelligence collection capabilities is the connection between the U.S. presence overseas and its significant role in predicting current and future threats.

Finally, U.S. policymakers are very likely to face the dilemma of losing the insight understanding and sufficient information in both countries which might lead to inaccurate prediction and wrong policies soon. 

Ahmed Genidy
Ahmed Genidy
Independent researcher holding Master of International Relations and National Security with especial focus on Intelligence analysis. Highly interested in conflicts and security issues in MENA and an associate writer in FDI Australia.