Spying After Kabul: The Human Factor

Penetrating the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS-K is nigh impossible now, a CIA veteran tells us


Top former CIA operations official William D. Murray says the loss of the CIA station with the evacuation of the American embassy makes penetrating the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State—always a Herculean task—all the more difficult. In an extended discussion with SpyTalk co-host Jeanne Meserve, Murray says it will be “very difficult—not impossible, but very difficult” to see inside the terror groups if the embassy, does, in fact, shutter completely, as seems to be in the offing.

Murray went on to weigh the options for U.S. intelligence post-departure, and he wondered whether his old outfit will choose to do “the hard thing”—recruit agents, which requires great skill and patience by the CIA’s case officers. The best technical capabilities, like satellites, drones and communications intercepts, he added, don’t add up to much without “the human factor”—spies inside the enemy’s camp.

Listen to the whole fascinating conversation here.

Meanwhile, Islamist militants and ter…

This post is for paid subscribers