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Context of 'April 2002: Most Predator Drones Withdrawn from Afghanistan, Not Replaced by New Ones'

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Members of the US Fifth Special Forces Group pose with future Afghan president Hamid Karzai, whom they are protecting.
Members of the US Fifth Special Forces Group pose with future Afghan president Hamid Karzai, whom they are protecting. [Source: US Military]The Atlantic Monthly will later report, “By the beginning of 2002, US and Northern Alliance forces had beaten the Taliban but lost bin Laden. At that point the United States faced a consequential choice: to bear down even harder in Afghanistan, or to shift the emphasis in the global war on terror somewhere else.… Implicitly at the beginning of 2002, and as a matter of formal policy by the end, it placed all other considerations second to regime change in Iraq.” [Atlantic Monthly, 10/2004] In February, 2002, Gen. Tommy Franks allegedly tells Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), “Senator, we have stopped fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan. We are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq” (see February 19, 2002). [Council on Foreign Relations, 3/26/2004] This shift from Afghanistan to Iraq involves a change of focus and attention (see Early 2002). Additionally, while the total number of US troops (less than 10,000) in Afghanistan does not go down, there is a considerable shift of specialized personnel and equipment many months before the war in Iraq will begin:
bullet On February 15, 2002, President Bush directs the CIA to conduct operations in Iraq (see Early 2002). In mid-March, the CIA tells the White House that it is cutting back operations in Afghanistan (see Spring 2002).
bullet Most of Task Force 5, a top-secret elite CIA and military special forces group, is called home from Afghanistan to prepare for operations in Iraq (see Early 2002).
bullet In March 2002, Fifth Group Special Forces, an elite group whose members speak Arabic, Pashtun, and Dari, that is apparently different from Task Force 5, is sent from Afghanistan to Iraq (see March 2002).
bullet The US Air Force’s only two specially-equipped spy planes that had successfully intercepted the radio transmissions and cell phone calls of al-Qaeda’s leaders are pulled from Afghanistan to conduct surveillance over Iraq. NSA satellites are “boreholed,” (or redirected) from Afghanistan to Iraq as well (see May 2002).
bullet Almost all Predator drones are withdrawn from Afghanistan and apparently moved to the Persian Gulf region for missions over Iraq (see April 2002).
More personnel will shift to Iraq in late 2002 and early 2003 (see Late 2002-Early 2003). In 2007, retired US Gen. James L. Jones, a former NATO supreme commander, will say that Iraq caused the US to “take its eye off the ball” in Afghanistan. [New York Times, 8/12/2007]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, National Security Agency, Thomas Franks, George W. Bush, Flynt Leverett, Al-Qaeda, James L. Jones, Bush administration (43), Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham, Central Intelligence Agency, Taliban

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

General Tommy Franks allegedly tells Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), who is on a visit to US Central Command: “Senator, we have stopped fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan. We are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq.” [Council on Foreign Relations, 3/26/2004] (In his memoirs, Graham quotes Franks as saying that “military and intelligence personnel are being re-deployed to prepare for an action in Iraq.”) [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 125; Knight Ridder, 6/18/2005] Franks will deny making the comment. [Knight Ridder, 6/18/2005] The New Yorker magazine will also report on a redeployment of resources to Iraq at this time (see Early March 2002). [New Yorker, 10/27/2003] In 2009, Graham will tell a Vanity Fair reporter: “In February of ‘02, I had a visit at Central Command, in Tampa, and the purpose was to get a briefing on the status of the war in Afghanistan. At the end of the briefing, the commanding officer, Tommy Franks, asked me to go into his office for a private meeting, and he told me that we were no longer fighting a war in Afghanistan and, among other things, that some of the key personnel, particularly some Special Operations units and some equipment, specifically the Predator unmanned drone, were being withdrawn in order to get ready for a war in Iraq. That was my first indication that war in Iraq was as serious a possibility as it was, and that it was in competition with Afghanistan for materiel. We didn’t have the resources to do both successfully and simultaneously.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]

Entity Tags: Thomas Franks, Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, War in Afghanistan

In mid-March 2002, Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin informs senior members of the president’s national security team that the CIA is cutting back operations in Afghanistan. Presumably the CIA there are to be used in Iraq instead. [Washington Post, 10/22/2004] Newsweek will later report that around this time, “The most knowledgeable CIA case officers, the ones with tribal contacts, were rotated out.” The CIA station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan, a fluent Arabic speaker and intellectual, is replaced by a highly unpopular chief who admits to only having read one book on Afghanistan. [Newsweek, 8/28/2007] More CIA personnel will move from Afghanistan to Iraq in late 2002 and early 2003 (see Late 2002-Early 2003).

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council, John E. McLaughlin

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, War in Afghanistan

Around April 2002, most Predator drones are withdrawn from Afghanistan and apparently moved to the Persian Gulf region for missions over Iraq. Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) will later call the Predator “just about the perfect weapon in our hunt for Osama bin Laden.” He will later comment that their removal is “a clear case of how the Bush administration’s single-minded focus on Iraq undermined the war against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.” [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 121; Washington Post, 10/22/2004; Rashid, 2008, pp. 134] Additionally, over the next years, all new Predators built are sent to Iraq and none to Afghanistan. A former Central Command official will say in 2007, “If we were not in Iraq, we would have double or triple the number of Predators across Afghanistan, looking for Taliban and peering into the tribal areas.” [New York Times, 8/12/2007]

Entity Tags: Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, War in Afghanistan

An RC-135 “Rivet Joint” spy plane.An RC-135 “Rivet Joint” spy plane. [Source: Defense Department]In May 2002, the US Air Force’s only specially-equipped RC-135 “Rivet Joint” U spy planes—credited with having successfully intercepted the radio transmissions and cellphone calls of al-Qaeda’s leaders—are pulled from Afghanistan to conduct surveillance over Iraq. In June 2003, some RC-135s will finally return to support operations in Afghanistan. Retired Air Force colonel Rick Francona will later comment, “It’s not just the platform itself, it’s the linguists that man the platform. They were being really overworked.” He also says, “I don’t think there is any question that the effort against al-Qaeda was degraded.” [MSNBC, 7/29/2003; Guardian, 3/26/2004] NSA satellites are also “boreholed,” (redirected) from Afghanistan to Iraq. [Atlantic Monthly, 10/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Air Force, National Security Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, War in Afghanistan

Robert Grenier.Robert Grenier. [Source: Kroll, Inc.]Robert Grenier, head of the CIA station in Islamabad, Pakistan, and then promoted to head of the Iraq Issues Group, will later say that in late 2002 to early 2003, “the best experienced, most qualified people who we had been using in Afghanistan shifted over to Iraq.” The CIA’s most skilled counterterrorism specialists and Middle East and paramilitary operatives move to Iraq and are replaced in Afghanistan by younger agents. Grenier will say, “I think we could have done a lot more on the Afghan side if we had more experienced folks.” A former senior official of the Pentagon’s Central Command involved with both wars later says that as war with Iraq draws closer, more special operative units like Delta Force and Navy SEALs Team Six shift to Iraq from Afghanistan. “If we were not in Iraq… we’d have the ‘black’ Special Forces you most need to conduct precision operations. We’d have more CIA. We’re simply in a world of limited resources, and those resources are in Iraq. Anyone who tells you differently is blowing smoke.” [New York Times, 8/12/2007] Other special forces and CIA were moved from Afghanistan to Iraq in early 2002 (see Early 2002).

Entity Tags: Robert Grenier, Navy Seals, Central Intelligence Agency, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment--Delta, US Central Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, War in Afghanistan

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