Crisis and Confusion

This week's SpyTalk podcast features intelligence challenges from Europe to Afghanistan and beyond

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A half century ago last month millions of Americans were glued to their TV sets watching the shocking and heartbreaking U.S. evacuation of Saigon as North Vietnamese tanks and infantry closed in on the capitol. As Marine Corps helicopters lifted hundreds of desperate South Vietnamese to safety, thousands more who had worked with the CIA and U.S. forces were left behind to be executed or packed away to “re-education” camps.

Are we soon to witness something like that in Afghanistan? In the fourth edition of the SpyTalk podcast this week I talked with Janis Shinwari, a former Afghani interpreter for U.S. intelligence units (who, by the way, is credited with saving the lives of at least five American soldiers) who says thousands of his comrades are terrified about being left behind and murdered by the Taliban when U.S. forces leave in September. He tells of his own harrowing escape as Taliban death squads closed in on him and says the Special Immigration Visas that interpreters are supposed to be granted for their loyalty is mired in red tape.

People rightfully wonder how the U.S. made such fatal miscalculations as the Afghanistan nation-building effort and the tragic invasion of Iraq. And now we’re on the cusp of making other pivotal decisions with regard to both immediate threats and longterm challenges from China and Russia, not to mention Iran, North Korea, Islamist extremists groups making inroads in Africa.

How will we respond? Our own soundings offer little comfort. Jeanne Meserve, co-host of the SpyTalk podcast, has a fascinating interview this week with former top CIA analyst Mathew Burrows, who tells her that U.S. intelligence is so busy coping with immediate threats they “can’t see the forest for the trees.” (I’ll have more on this next week in my podcast interview with former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.)

Last but hardly least, Jeanne also has an extended talk this week with former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, about combatting “psychological warfare” disinformation attacks from Russia, China, Iran and even Venezuela. The U.S. and its partners among Europe’s democracies are developing a suite of weapons to respond, he tells Jeanne.

It’s all here in this week’s edition of the new SpyTalk podcast. We hope you’ll give it a listen at home, in your car, or just relaxing, here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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