Essential Intelligence: The CIA’s Response to 9/11 – 9/26/19
Articles,  Blog

Essential Intelligence: The CIA’s Response to 9/11 – 9/26/19


# # (applause)>>CLIFFORD CHANIN:
It’s very nice to see so many familiar faces and so many
not-yet-familiar faces, and I’m certain this program
is going to bring you back for future programs here. Good evening,
I am Clifford Chanin. I’m the executive vice president and deputy director
for museum programs here
at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. And it’s my pleasure
to welcome you to tonight’s
very special program, which is delivered
in partnership with the
Central Intelligence Agency. As always, I’d like
to extend a special welcome to our museum members and to those tuning in
to our live web broadcast at 911memorial.org/live. On September 26, 2001, the American response
to the 9/11 attacks began when a small team
of C.I.A. personnel, code-named Jawbreaker, was sent into Afghanistan. The C.I.A. has enshrined
that mission in its institutional history by commissioning a painting by the artist James Dietz
in 2008 entitled, “Cast of a Few,
Courage of a Nation,” and installing that painting in a place of honor
at C.I.A. headquarters. I’m proud to tell you
that the C.I.A. has very generously agreed
to lend us that painting, as well as other
extraordinary materials for the special exhibition that we will be opening here
at the museum November 15, entitled, “Revealed:
The Hunt for Bin Laden.” The C.I.A.’s cooperation
with the museum, along with the cooperation
of other elements of the intelligence
and military communities, has provided us, the museum,
and through us to the public, with an inside account
of this extraordinary story. Many of the intelligence
and military people who took part in the long hunt, and then in the raid
on bin Laden’s hideout, will be telling their stories
publicly for the first time through this exhibition. Now, three years ago,
for the 15th anniversary of the Jawbreaker arrival
in Afghanistan, then-C.I.A. Director
John Brennan came to honor that date
by speaking at the museum. Tonight, for the 18th
anniversary of that mission– just 15 days
after the 9/11 attacks– we return on this date to mark
this extraordinary deployment and the work behind it with this program: “Essential Intelligence:
The C.I.A.’s Response to 9/11.” We’re honored to be joined by not one, but two
former acting directors of the Central Intelligence
Agency and one of those first Jawbreaker
paramilitary officers. They’ll discuss
how the agency responded in those crucial 15 days immediately following
the attacks. They’ll also discuss
how 9/11 ushered in a new era
of intelligence work. Our moderator this evening
is Michael Morell, a former acting director
and deputy director of the C.I.A., and he is one of the nation’s leading national security
professionals, with extensive experience in intelligence
and foreign policy. During his 33-year career
at the C.I.A., Mr. Morell served
as deputy director for over three years, a job in which he managed the agency’s day-to-day
operations and analysis, represented the agency
at the White House and Congress, and maintained
the agency’s relationships with intelligence services
and foreign leaders around the world. Mr. Morell also served
twice as acting director. He is now a senior
national security contributor for CBS News. He’s the host
of the national security podcast “Intelligence Matters.” He’s an expert voice
on “Axios” and a contributing columnist
for “The Washington Post.” He’s joined tonight by John McLaughlin
and Phil Reilly. In a career spanning 32 years,
Mr. McLaughlin served as acting director
of Central Intelligence from July to September 2004, and as deputy director
from October 2000 to July 2004. He was a U.S. Army officer
in the 1960s, with service in Vietnam. He comments on foreign affairs in various printed media
and on television, writes frequently on
intelligence and foreign affairs in a variety of publications, including a biweekly column
at www.ozy.com. During his C.I.A. service,
Mr. McLaughlin worked on nearly every part
of the world and supervised work on analysis, clandestine operations,
and technology. Our third guest, Phil Reilly, is a retired C.I.A.
senior operations officer with a decorated 29-year career. He’s also served
in the U.S. Army Special Forces prior to joining C.I.A. Among the many positions
he held there, Mr. Reilly served as C.I.A.’s
senior paramilitary officer and as chief of
the Special Activities Division. Mr. Reilly has had numerous foreign and domestic
assignments, including chief of station
positions in Afghanistan, Europe
and the Far East. Mr. Reilly
was the deputy commander of the first U.S. government
team to enter Afghanistan two weeks
after the 9/11 attacks. He is now a senior adviser
at Boston Consulting Group and a partner
at F.O.N. Advisors. He’s also
on the board of directors of Third Option Foundation, which supports C.I.A.’s
Special Operations cadre. Finally, a wonderful capper
for tonight’s program, it will feature as an episode of CBS News’s
“Intelligence Matters” podcast, hosted by Michael Morell. Now, as we know, that’s
a form that honors brevity. So I ask you to keep that
in mind when the opportunity
for questions arises toward the end of the program. Without further ado,
please join me in welcoming John McLaughlin
and Phil Reilly, in conversation
with Michael Morell. (applause)>>MORRELL:
Thank you very much, and good evening to everyone. Let me thank C.I.A.
and the 9/11 Museum for putting this event on and for inviting me
to moderate it, in moderated discussion with two of the best
intelligence officers with whom I ever worked. So I’m honored to be on stage
with both of them. Let me start
by asking both of you for your memories
of 9/11 itself. Where were you
when you first heard, and what was that day like
for both of you? John, do you want to start?>>McLAUGHLIN:
Well, of course, Michael, memories of that day
are vivid and many, and I could go on at length. I’ll just pick out
two or three quick impressions, because we’ll be talking about many other aspects of that
as we go along. I was on the seventh floor
of the C.I.A. I was in a staff meeting, talking about terrorism
and some other matters. I went into my office, and I realized what was going on
when I saw a television. Many of you will know
the first plane hit shortly before 8:00–
just after 8:00. The second plane,
a little later, and then a third plane hit
the Pentagon around 9:45. I had two major thoughts
that day. Let me say three. The first was, for a lot,
a lot of us at C.I.A., the thought was, “So that’s it. That’s it.” Because we had been predicting
an attack, expecting an attack,
warning of an attack, but we had not been able
to pinpoint time, target, or method. “That’s it.” I think the second major thing
I remember is, about 10:00 at that night, writing down on a piece
of paper, that first day, “Nothing will ever be the same.” And that paper
is archived somewhere. And the third thought I had was,
it’s really on us now to prevent this
from happening again. And no one else can prevent this
from happening again. Those are the main thoughts
that I had.>>MORRELL: Phil?>>REILLY: Yeah,
I was in language training, studying to go out to the field
as chief of station. And I think my initial reactions
were the same as everybody in this room,
and certainly in this city– was shock. And then anger. And then, perhaps, even rage. I knew it was different. It was different,
this was different. You know, if my grandpa had
to worry about Pearl Harbor as an event
that changed history, this was all ours. And I knew that it was going to be a different,
different response. And then maybe
a little selfishness. I did everything I could
to get in the fight. I wanted to get
out of language school. Serbo-Croatian did not
seem quite as important, uh, to the task at hand.>>MORRELL: Great. We’re going to,
we’re going to talk in detail about the, the effort
to go into Afghanistan and go after the Taliban, and go after Al-Qaeda. But maybe we could start with those first couple of days
after 9/11. What was happening
at the agency? What were you focused on, John? You and George Tenet,
and the director? What were you focused on? What were you doing? What were all the things that were happening
around you?>>McLAUGHLIN: Well, Michael, I think it’s worth starting
a little before 9/11, because there was a blend here. George Tenet, the director,
had begun quite early, in 1998, sending a letter to the agency
saying, “We are at war.” And sending a comparable letter to most members
of the Clinton administration at that time. Because we sensed that this was a very different sort of
challenge. The embassy bombings in Africa
had killed over 200 people. 17 soldiers– sailors–
had lost their lives on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen. And operationally,
we were leaning forward. Phil will know, probably,
many of the details, but I know
we were already in Afghanistan from 1998 forward, with small teams,
building a relationship with the group in the north
known as the Northern Alliance. I think we were the only part
of the U.S. government that maintained a relationship
of a working nature with the elements
in Afghanistan. So we were, in a way,
trying to get on war footing in the run-up to 9/11. We did not have the resources
and could not get the resources that we thought we needed. I always look back at
the Counterterrorism Center, Michael, and I say we were,
like, 300 people spread-eagled across a dyke
at that point, just sort of plugging holes. When the attacks occurred, I remember, that day, we went to, we evacuated
parts of our building. The Counterterrorism Center,
Center, stayed, because we knew the building
was a potential target. We put our leadership
in a, an adjacent building and set up a phone network
with the other parts of the intelligence community
and the policy community– Condi Rice, the president,
and so forth. And within about three hours, a young analyst ran
into our room and said, “Well, no debate,
this was Al-Qaeda.” And the reason he knew was, he had the manifest
from the airplane that had hit the Pentagon. And on the manifest
were two names of people we recognized to be Al-Qaeda. The names were al-Hamzi… Al-Mihdhar and al-Hamzi. And we suspected them
of being in the United States, and were on the hunt for them. So that was the clincher for us, that, “Okay, this is Al-Qaeda,
as we suspected.” During that day,
there was a video conference, a classified video conference,
with the president. At least one that I remember,
may have been more. But the one I remember, he went around through
the national security team– secretary of defense,
secretary of defense, C.I.A. director, secretary
of state, and so forth. And at the end
of the discussion– I have this written down
somewhere, because it was a very vivid
expression of mission– he said, “We must form
a worldwide coalition and we will destroy them.” So that was about the clearest
sense of mission that… The clearest statement
of mission that I’d ever heard
in my C.I.A. career. And then, for the rest
of the day, we just gathered our thoughts
and… began to plan
for what we would do. Now, we can talk more
about the nature of that plan, but that was a sense
for that first day or two. If I go a day or two later,
I’ll tell you, September 12– because the director
was in the White House– I was asked to go
to Capitol Hill. And I sat in the well
of the House of Representatives, and any member of Congress
could come and ask any questions
they wanted to ask. I was there with
the secretary of defense, the attorney general, the FBI director, who’d only
been in office a week– Bob, then, Bob Mueller had only been in office a week
at that point. And the questions came,
and frankly, everyone left and left me there. And I fielded questions
for about an hour. And then went back
the next day to do the same thing. And essentially,
their questions were… Well, I can tell you,
the three points in my briefing that I still remember were, I wanted to say
who we thought did this, what they might do next,
and what we were doing about it. Of course,
this was very early, so this was all very tentative and our best thinking
at that moment– the best we could do. On the second day, the 13th,
a congressman asked me, “Do you think the Capitol’s
a target?” I said, “Yes.” And at that precise moment,
a siren went off. Have you ever seen
200 congressmen stampeding? (laughter) Several people were almost
knocked down. But that’s about
the only funny thing I remember in that first week or so,
first few days.>>MORELL:
So there was a massive… John, you remember,
there was a massive movement of resources.>>McLAUGHLIN: Oh, totally.
>>MORELL: We… We sent hundreds of people
who worked on other things to go work
on counterterrorism. We created something called
the Red Cell.>>McLAUGHLIN: Yes.>>MORELL: If you could
talk a little bit about what the Red Cell was
and why we created it.>>McLAUGHLIN:
Yeah, yes, as I said, we, we were resourced,
but not as heavily as possible. We just started pulling people
off of everything and throwing them
on the terrorism target. The Red Cell was
an interesting experiment that turned out
to be a wise move and very successful. We took the most adventurous
thinkers we could find in the agency, the real eccentrics,
the people who… Talk about out of the box, these people
had never even seen a box. (laughter) We put them in a room, and we said, “We want you
to think like terrorists. “We want you to get
into their social milieu, “their intellectual milieu,
“their ideological milieu, “and imagine
what they might do next. “What’s their next target? “What are their objectives? How do they make
those decisions?” And we’d put food
under the door, you know, twice a day.
(laughter) And, and give
them bathroom breaks. But they became a huge resource and very popular in Washington, because we would circulate
to a small group of people what they came up with
in the way of ideas. And I do believe that that… That really informed
our thinking. And another adventurous thing
along those lines that we did, later, but Jane Harman, who was the, at that time
the congressional representative for the area
that included Hollywood, said, “You know, screenwriters
are imaginative people. Why don’t I bring
some of them here?” And we actually collected a bunch
of Hollywood screenwriters in one of our conference rooms and said, “Okay,
for the next three hours, “we want you to be terrorists. “Make a terrorist movie for us. What might they do?” And through all of this,
I think we got a lot of ideas that helped us understand
what we needed to do. Those were just
some techniques we used, along with classic
intelligence techniques– collection of intelligence
with signals intelligence and human intelligence
and imagery from space, and all of the stuff
that we do.>>MORELL: Phil, when did you extricate yourself
from language training and show up with the guys
doing the planning?>>REILLY: Nearly immediately. I, I was picked to be
the deputy of Jawbreaker on the 13th, and we began to plan
immediately, even while the plan wasn’t
yet fully baked.>>McLAUGHLIN: Right.>>REILLY: We knew,
we knew we were going to war. There was an anticipation
of going with our military colleagues,
probably simultaneously. That ultimately didn’t happen,
as we can get into. But there was that,
so, I mean, for me, it was contact
with military counterparts. That’s usually
our Special Operations elements for the U.S. military. Tier 1 force is Delta Force,
SEAL Team Six, those kind of people, and other military elements. And a conversation started, anticipating what our response
would look like. Because we had, we had worked
together very closely. It wasn’t the first time we worked extremely well
with the U.S. military. We’d been in the Balkans
together. We’d been in Gulf War I
together. We’d been… going all the way
back in time. So we knew each other
and we had a lot of people seconded back and forth
to the various units. So, so the relationship
was very, very sound. But at that point,
it was, it was planning, which we didn’t yet have, what instruction
would look like. But we knew
that we were going. And we began to assemble
the makings of a team, what would be a small team.>>MORELL: So, so, John, before we get
to the war part of this, there was a, a… There was an effort
by the Bush administration to conduct diplomacy
with the Taliban. To try to get them to see reason
and try to get them to turn over bin Laden, and, and walk away
from Al-Qaeda. And C.I.A. actually played
a role in that diplomacy. Can you talk about that?>>McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, a couple
of things were going on all through that summer. Deputies that–
people at my level– were meeting in
the White House Situation Room. And the Bush administration,
to its credit, was trying to figure out, what is a way
that we can attack Al-Qaeda in some fundamental,
rooted-up way? And one of the thoughts
considered during that summer was, “Can we find moderates
within the Taliban “who are only Taliban members “because the leadership
gives them money and weapons, “and they have
no ideological affinity “with this movement, and break them away?” This was considered
in the White House area. “And, and then, “try to get them to help us
get bin Laden “and get him out of there “and take this whole thing down? Tear it apart?” That didn’t happen that summer. But after 9/11,
or in that immediate period, we had a station chief
in Pakistan who had been quite influential
in shaping our thinking about what was coming
and what to do subsequent to 9/11– the station chief being
our principal officer there. And he, Bob Grenier
was his name, he was asked to meet with,
to get in touch with Taliban, and essentially ask them,
tell them, that we wanted bin Laden. That we wanted, basically, to… Their help in turning the–
the Taliban leadership– hand Al-Qaeda over to us. We made that effort,
but it didn’t, it didn’t pan out. So it was, we were trying
everything in the book at that point to break up what was a terrible
movement in Afghanistan.>>MORELL: So, let’s talk
about the plan. So, Director Tenet,
George Tenet, briefs the NSC on the 13th.
>>McLAUGHLIN: Yeah.>>MORELL: So, two days
after 9/11, he briefs them on a plan
to go after Al-Qaeda. I don’t think you were
at that session at the White House. You were probably
sitting at the Hill answering all those questions.
>>McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, yeah.>>MORELL: But then, you,
you go with the director on the 15th to Camp David, where there’s even a more
extensive briefing of the plan. John, I want to ask you
two questions. What were the key elements
of the plan? And then, how is it possible… Second question is,
how is it possible that two days after 9/11, C.I.A. had a sophisticated,
extensive, well-thought-out plan
to go after Al-Qaeda?>>McLAUGHLIN:
That was ultimately adopted by the government.
>>MORELL: Yeah.>>McLAUGHLIN:
It’s an interesting story, because it goes back
to the Clinton administration. The Clinton administration
was obsessed with terrorism, as you would expect. They had witnessed the attacks
in Africa and the attacks
on the U.S.S. Cole. At one point, Sandy Berger,
the national security adviser, had us writing a memo to him
on Al-Qaeda, and where, what we knew
about it, literally every day. And at one point, in roughly
the last three or four months of the Clinton administration, they asked us to put together
what they called a “Blue Sky” plan. What they meant was, “Imagine you have no constraints
from resources. “You have whatever you need. What would you do to attack
Al-Qaeda and defeat it?” Because up to that point,
remember, we hadn’t been in there
fighting. There hadn’t been any bombing. We were observing remotely
with drones. We were collecting intelligence
and so forth. So we put together such a plan. I remember sitting
in my basement on a secure fax going back and forth
with Cofer Black.>>REILLY: Yeah.>>McLAUGHLIN: Who was the head
of the Counterterrorism Center. Me and my dog– who was not cleared for this,
by the way. (laughter) And coming to a point
where we said, “Okay, we got it–
this is a pretty good plan.” By that time, frankly, the Clinton administration
had just run out of time. We’re talking December. It was, so, there’s a month
to go or so. They can’t really
operationalize this plan. We put it on the shelf. We go through
the first nine months or so of the Bush administration. 9/11 happens, we take the plan
off the shelf and we say, “Okay, we’re ready to go.” And that’s… The president, by Wednesday
of that week, by the 13th– I spoke with
George Tenet about this, because I wasn’t
at that meeting– he said by Wednesday, the president had
a pretty good idea of the outlines of the plan. And then we laid it out in about a, you know, a 40-page
booklet at Camp David on the 15th. And it was a plan
for attacking Al-Qaeda in 90 countries
around the world, because they were global. What was the plan? Well, it had several elements. One was centered on Afghanistan, and that involved
sending in teams, building on the relationship
that we had established with the Northern Alliance– that rebel group
in the North, that Tajik group, Tajik-based group that was
in a civil war with Taliban. We’d built that relationship. Go in and meet with them. Ask what they need
to fight this more aggressively and to partner with us, and to work with us
on intelligence. Now, bear in mind,
we had at this point, by virtue of having worked
Afghanistan aggressively in the late ’90s, we had
over 100 recruited sources on the ground in Afghanistan, and we had eight tribal networks
working with us. So our teams went in
to work, to exploit that, and to build that relationship
with the Northern Alliance. The plan was
to then prepare the way for the U.S. military
to come in, in the form of Special Forces. The beauty of this arrangement
was, our intelligence
could locate targets, Special Forces
could laser-designate them and bring heavy metal on. Phil can talk about that
in much more detail. Second part of the plan was to turn Pakistan
to our advantage. The Pakistani intelligence
service had been visiting us just a couple of days
before 9/11. In fact, the Pakistani
intelligence director was in Washington on 9/11. And our sense of the,
Pakistan at that point was, they were not prepared
to help us. They were in denial
about the danger that the Taliban presented. But, after 9/11,
part of the plan was to give them an ultimatum,
and this was delivered through Rich Armitage
and the secretary of state, who basically called him up. And if you’ve ever seen Rich,
he’s about 400 pounds.>>MORELL: Big barrel chest.>>McLAUGHLIN: Big barrel chest. You don’t want to say no to him. He called up
and said, “Make a choice. You’re with us
or you’re against us.” And Musharraf, then
the president of Pakistan, swiveled on a dime, changed his intelligence
director, and basically helped us. There are qualifiers
you’d put on that. Michael and I
were talking about it, but essentially,
the core element of the Pakistani
intelligence service that we needed to help us helped us. And… And then to… work around the world, increasing our resources, and the effect
of local intelligence services, in parts of the world
where Al-Qaeda was present and capable
of inflicting damage. And of course, there was a whole
domestic part of this, too, which was to work
with the FBI. There was not a Homeland
Security Department then, but to work with the FBI
in the United States to make sure that we had all of the bases
covered here. One of the big problems
in this time was getting people
to understand that we had to harden
the vulnerabilities in the United States. That this couldn’t
be present… prevented by just detecting
what they were going to do. We had– someone will
always get through. We had to harden the soft parts
of the United States against attack. So that was also part
of our thinking at this point.>>MORELL: John, how did
the president react?>>McLAUGHLIN: He… He bought it, in a word. I mean, we laid all of this out
at Camp David, and he said… The way Camp David worked
on the 15th, in the morning,
he just went around the table and he asked everyone in a kind of freewheeling,
brainstorming way, “What do you think
happened here? What’s your
interpretation of it?” And people were,
except for the C.I.A., I think, they were all over the map. There were people in the room
who were convinced this couldn’t have been done
by a terrorist group. It had, they had to have
help from a major partner– Iran or Iraq or someone. We argued against that and said, “No, this group is capable
of doing what you saw happen.” But there was
that kind of discussion, very loose, free-flowing. He said, after lunch,
“Take a walk, come back, then we’ll decide, what do we
make of all of this?” And it’s then
that we laid out this plan. Others laid out thoughts,
but without– I say this respectfully, and
without wanting to be critical– no one really had a plan
comparable to what we were putting
on the table. The military since then
has become, I would say, just brilliant at exploiting
their Special Operations forces against terrorism. At that time, they were not. This wasn’t where they were in terms of their thinking
and their deployment and their, their… use of their forces. So this was pretty much
on C.I.A., and then, I don’t know whether you want
to go there, Michael, but at… The president said, “All right, I’ve thought
about all this, “and I’ll think about it
over the weekend, and let’s get back together
on Monday.” He invited us
to the Cabinet Room, and then Monday, he had thought about it
over the weekend. And he went around the room
and he said, “I’ve made about 12 decisions.” And he pointed
to every cabinet secretary and said, “Defense, I want you
to get heavy military ready “to do something. “We’ll figure out
what it is later. “Treasury, there’s
a money angle here. “You need to start following
the money. “Justice,
you need to be thinking about the legal aspects
of this.” By the way, this day, the 17th, we had been given what’s called
a presidential finding, which is an order the president
signs for covert action that directs the C.I.A.
to do something. We don’t do it if it doesn’t
have a presidential signature. And he came to the C.I.A., and this is where
the phrase “first in,” I first heard it. He said,
“I want you guys first in.” He bought the plan. And he said,
“I want you on the ground “as soon as you can get there. “Prepare the way
for big military to come in. Work together
to take these people down.” And that was essentially what happened
between the 13th and the 17th.>>MORELL: So on the 17th,
the president says, “Go.” And on the 26th, you go into Afghanistan, Phil.
>>REILLY: Right.>>MORELL: How was it
that the agency was able to move so quickly
from the plan being approved to the action?>>REILLY: Right.
>>MORELL: Nine days.>>REILLY: Right, you know. That sounds
like an excellent question, and I’m sure the audience
wants to hear the response. Part of me, though, is,
that’s what we do. So there was nothing surprising,
in some respect, to, to how quickly we respond. C.I.A. has
a very strong organic paramilitary capability. Air, sea, land capability. 100% of its membership are prior
military service members. Most from special, elite units. Are platforms. We have the ability to… When I say organic, we have the people
and the platform and the means to lift up and go someplace very, very quickly. I mean, the president tomorrow
could say, “I need 20 people
in Ouagadougou.” We’re going to be there,
period. With our own organic capability. So we have the capabilities
to do it. We also had the right,
as mentioned before, we had the relation,
pre-existing relationships, which is critical. We knew some of the players
in Afghanistan that we were going
to rely upon to, to be our allies. And we haven’t said it yet,
but, but actually, all of our allies
around the world– because I invited
some of my British friends here this evening– they were absolutely
fantastic. Every one of them stood up
and said, “We are here to support you.” I mean,
there were some countries that may have come
a little bit slower, but our critical allies
threw everything they could at this problem set, as well. So we didn’t only
have the capabilities of the entire U.S. government
at our disposal, but we had all of our allies
from around the world being there. So, again,
we had the capability, we had the people, we had the means to get
over there, and we had the allies
on the ground. And so that all brought,
brought it together. And at some point, we should
talk about Ahmad Shah Massoud, his demise, and how that added
to the fervor…>>MORELL: Go ahead, go ahead,
talk about that.>>REILLY: Well, again,
the Northern Alliance was headed by a fellow
named Ahmad Shah Massoud. He was a, their,
a guerrilla leader. He was the only one
in Afghanistan at that point who owned terrain. He was against the Taliban. Mullah Omar wanted him dead. But he was aligned with us. Not the best of friends, but he let us come
in and out of there. He also provided us information. On the ninth of September,
two days before 9/11– again, he was assassinated
by Al-Qaeda in the Panjshir Valley. And he was such a beloved figure
that the, the… It did not disrupt
the Northern Alliance. It absolutely galvanized them. They were absolutely
rabid and furious that their leader
had been killed. Two days later,
the events occur on 9/11. And they saw the attack on us
as, in their minds, analogous– the loss of their leader
and us. And it actually bound them to us in a way
that it hadn’t been before.>>MORELL: Why do you think
Al-Qaeda killed Massoud when they did?>>REILLY: I think,
I think they thought it was going to fracture
the unit, because he was such a unique
figure, a beloved figure, that it would fall apart. Someone couldn’t fill
his shoes. And, but in hindsight, I think it was
a tremendous miscalculation.>>MORELL: Yeah, yeah–
so then…>>McLAUGHLIN: I said–
Michael…>>MORELL: Go ahead.>>McLAUGHLIN:
Phil mentioning our allies reminds me of something
really important. On the 12th of September, even though airports
were closed, one airplane landed. It was from the… I kind of choke up
when I think about this. It was
from the United Kingdom. And on that plane was the head of their foreign intelligence
service, MI6, the head of their domestic
service, MI5, the head of their SIGINT
service, the GCHQ, and the national security
adviser to their prime minister. And they came just to say,
on September 12, “We are with you. Anything you need from us,
you have.” And they came personally
to our headquarters and we had dinner that night. And… So when you hear
about the special relationship, it really is.>>MORELL:
So, Phil, how is it that you found yourself
on the first helicopter?>>REILLY: Well, I got picked
to be the deputy and we, we built a team. We knew we had a single
helicopter to get in initially. They had one single Mi-17,
an old Russian helicopter that we had had
rehabilitated and rehabbed and was in theater–
it was in Uzbekistan. In mothball status, actually, because we hadn’t been back
to see the Northern Alliance since January, actually,
the last trip, trip in. But it was quickly pulled out
and, and made, made ready. I mean, do you want me to go through sort of how we,
we got over there?>>MORELL: Absolutely,
absolutely.>>REILLY: Yeah, yeah,
well, no, the team was… We, we kept it to seven players. I got to pick them. We picked the best medic
in, in… field medic in C.I.A. We field…
the best field communicator. I picked
another paramilitary officer, another guy named Phil. And we had another case officer
named Chris…>>MORELL: They were all
named Phil. (laughter)
>>REILLY: Yeah, no. It’s confusing, we have aliases
and books of different names. I can’t keep it straight. But anyway, seven
and a three-person crew. Again, as taxpayers here, you should be proud
that we have the capability… The military trains people
to fly Russian helicopters. And so, we had
three expert crew members who were able
to, to get us over there. But we flew… Remember, most aircraft weren’t
flying at that point. We were able to get to Germany. We left the CONUS,
the United States, on the 19th, in a hurried operation. We went to Germany
to stage all of our gear. And there we did. We met up
with other team members. Some of the team members,
the medic was stuck in Gander. He had been flying back
when 9/11 occurred and wasn’t in, wasn’t able
to get to us. So we had to get him
out of Gander. We had a military aircraft
pick him up. And we had another operative
overseas, one of the team members
who flew into Germany. Staged in Germany
and then moved forward. We were going to have to go through two
former Russian satellites, I mean Tajikistan
and Uzbekistan. Not in that order– Uzbekistan
first, then Tajikistan. Tashkent and then Dushanbe. And they, again,
were former Russian proxies, and there was some resistance. So it actually delayed our entry
by, by several days, as there was some negotiation
as to how to, to get in. But ultimately,
on the 25th of, of September, the president
gave the, the go signal. We were cleared to go. So we took off the following
morning, very, very early. And we made our way
from Tashkent to Tajikistan. We had trouble getting
into Tajikistan. They were denying
even to the last second, as the helicopter was inbound. This would be our last place
to touch base before we headed
into Afghanistan, and they were refusing us entry. So, my other Phil, who has an excellent…
Russian speaker. We got him on the radio, and he just went at it
with the control tower. And, I don’t know
what he said. Because, so you couldn’t hear
anything going on anyway, in the helicopter,
it was so loud. But we got a thumbs-up
and we were able to land. So God bless Phil, and the team leader,
Gary, gave me a thumbs-up. Phil was pretty good. I guess we got,
we got the good Phil. So we were able to land,
take on last fuel. We took on
a single Tajik pilot to help us–
a Northern Alliance pilot. He was going to help us navigate
through the mountain passes. And talk about a small world, I met him this morning in
C.I.A.– he was there. We had a ceremony at C.I.A.
this morning. We were unveiling the helicopter
I’m describing to you. It was unveiled at the C.I.A.
compound this morning, and that Northern Alliance
Afghani is there. He’s been in,
he’s been a Green Card holder for the last five months, so… Anybody questions immigrant
status in this country, I got news for you. There’s a good American
right there. (laughter) So, we… We took off– daytime. Part of it was because of the
difficulty of the terrain. We had to go through a place called the Anjuman Pass,
which is 14,500 feet. Very, very heavy helicopter, fully, fully loaded–
extra fuel. I should say what we had. We had ten Americans–
three crew, seven of us. We had weapons, as you’d expect. What with the gear to survive,
because we didn’t know quite the environment
we were going into. And we had $3 million.
(laughter) In, in three boxes. So, in other words,
everything we needed. (laughter) I say the helicopter was
rehabilitated and rehabbed, but they were, actually, it was still pretty austere,
the conditions. Because I looked up
and Ned, the pilot– true name, Ned. He had a little Garmin GPS
affixed. (laughter) We were flying
by the Garmin GPS, you know? So we first, we first entered
Afghan territory and we actually were flying
over Taliban patrols. First time we saw them,
they were beneath us. And of course, they had one or
two functioning helicopters. So, they didn’t shoot at us, because, I guess,
they weren’t quite sure, “Who was that?”
You know what I mean? So, but we made it
into the Panjshir Valley midday of the 26th and were met there
by the officialdom of, the heads
of the Northern Alliance. The survivors– Ahmad Shah
Massoud had just died– they were still
in a state of shock. But they met us
with absolute open arms. And immediately, we got to work with the mission
that you described. Again, the mission
was to link up with the Northern Alliance, have them totally
brought onto our side– which they basically
already were– and facilitate the entry
of the U.S. military into, into Afghanistan. That was the primary mission,
and, of course, unspoken in the background was,
“Go after Al-Qaeda full bore.” But of course, the first two
had to be achieved.>>MORELL: So, John,
when did you hear that they had made it
into Afghanistan? And how was the president
informed?>>McLAUGHLIN: We heard
that when they landed, they were sending back cables. This, this was
the only communication coming out of Afghanistan. And as I recall,
one of Phil’s colleagues went down with us
to the Oval Office, and we had a cable that said,
“They’re on the ground. “This is what they’re seeing. “These are the content “of the first conversation
that they’ve had. So far, everything’s on target.” This was Hank Crumpton, and, as I recall,
usually in the…>>MORELL: So, Hank was sort of
the general in charge of the war
back at C.I.A. headquarters.>>McLAUGHLIN:
Yeah, he was the… I guess, you know,
in World War II terms, he was sort of
the George Marshall. Phil was the Patton. (laughter) And, you know,
normally in the Oval Office– where you’ve been many times,
Michael– you sit on a sofa
and you brief the president. And it’s all very like that. Hank squatted down on the ground
between the two of them, spread out a big map, and said, “This is where they
are, right here.” And sort of laid it all out and described most of
what Phil just described. For this period of time, the only information
coming out of Afghanistan that had an American origin was coming from these guys. And so, we were kind of
responsible for informing
the U.S. government about where all of this is. When you go
to a situation room meeting, it was kind of all on us to say, “Here’s where we are,
here’s where the situation is.” Yeah.>>MORELL: So, Phil,
how and when was D.O.D. merged into the,
into the operation?>>REILLY: We had constant
communication with D.O.D. and… But it took several weeks. They ultimately,
the first teams came in on the 19th of October. You’ve seen “The Horse Soldiers”
movie, right? It wasn’t led by an Australian
guy at the head of that team, as it was in the movie theaters, but there were two O.D.As.
that came in on the 19th, but we had been coordinating
back and forth. They’d set up a base in
Uzbekistan, Karshi-Khanabad, and the Fifth Special Forces
Group. And this was near and dear
to my heart, because before C.I.A.,
I had been in Special Forces. They were the proper tool
for this operation, okay? The only element
of the U.S. military trained to work
with foreign forces, trained linguistically to do so. And all of the teams
are self-contained– medics, and demolitions experts,
and communicators, where each team member’s
cross-trained. They were ideal
for this mission. And so the U.S. military
picked the right tool. And that’s how
they ultimately came in. Again, because we had worked
together over the years in other campaigns
in different places– obviously
not of this magnitude– we had personal relationships. So the commander
of the Fifth Group, then-Colonel John Mulholland– he retired not too many years
ago as a three-star general– was my counterpart,
and we were able to coordinate each one
of these infiltrations.>>MORELL: And this,
at the end of the day, was a remarkable success. So, two-and-a-half months
after the day that you flew in, the Taliban had been defeated, Kabul was liberated
from the Taliban, the National Council
had appointed a new Afghan president, and a quarter of the Al-Qaeda
senior leadership was either dead or captured, in two-and-a-half months. Really a remarkable
accomplishment. I want to ask both of you
if you were surprised at how quickly, how quickly
the Taliban fell, and how quickly this played out.>>McLAUGHLIN: You know,
it’s, it’s a hard question. Yes and no. Yes in the sense that when you
go into something like this, you never really know
how it’s going to come out. One of the things I take away
from my time in government is, when you begin engaging
in violence, you don’t know where it’s going. You just don’t. So there was an element of,
“We’re not quite sure where this is going.” But as it took hold
and developed, that’s when I would say no,
I wasn’t surprised. There was a sense building
in the United States… In fact, there was an article in, probably in the “New York
Times,” as I recall, in roughly this timeframe,
November or so, saying, “We’re stuck,
we’re in a quagmire, “this will take months. We’ll never be able
to finish this.” There were actually papers
written by other agencies in the U.S. government that alleged the same thing, worrying that we were
in a quagmire. I remember when I saw one
of those papers, our reaction was, “No, Kabul’s
going to fall in 24 hours.” Because we had people
on the ground who were giving us,
well, ground truth. And that was our assessment. There was a discussion
in our government about whether it would be
dangerous to allow the Northern Alliance, the allies that Phil
was working with, mostly Tajik elements?
>>REILLY: Mostly Tajik.>>McLAUGHLIN: Because of the
tribal tensions in Afghanistan, the… You get further south,
you’re into Pashtun areas. Um, there was a belief
in some parts of our government that if we were to let the
Northern Alliance go into Kabul and take it over, that it would lead
to some kind of a bloodbath or ethnic cleansing or such. We did not think so. And we, our feeling was,
“These are our allies. “We have told them
we are supporting them. “If we were to hesitate
at this point “to allow them
to push all the way, we’ll lose them–
we’ll break our word.” And I think Phil
would probably say, that’s the most important thing
in this part of the world, in the world, is keeping your word. And so we won that argument, and the teams pushed into Kabul
and it fell by November. So… Yes, you never know
how it’s going to work out. But as it went along,
no, I wasn’t surprised. I could see we were going from
strength to strength there.>>MORELL: Phil?>>REILLY: Yeah, just… The Taliban
are a guerrilla force, a capable guerrilla force that is still killing our people
every now and then. You still read about it. Um, at that point, though,
they were trying to play like a static army. They actually had trench lines
dug around them. The Northern Alliance, to the north of Kabul
was a series of trenches with Taliban positions. They were very easy to identify and give the coordinates,
ultimately, to the U.S. Air Force, as it was in the west,
up in the Takhar front. You know, I went up there
one day to plot enemy positions, and my Afghan allies knew
every hilltop. “Oh, those are Uzbeks,
those are Pashtuns over there. And they’re from this region.” And so we were able to report
all that very, very accurately. I tell one quick anecdote
on that, there was an artillery duel
going on when I went up
to the Takhar front. Again, my mission was not
to engage personally in this. It was to go identify
where the enemy is and have them destroyed
by all our superior forces. But I felt really strongly
at one point to go over to that artillery
and crank off a round, and fire the first round
in response, technically. But that wasn’t my job,
so I didn’t do it. And we just, I mean… So, we’ve given a lot of credit
here, as we should, to the teams. And by the way, our team
went into the Panjshir, and then a series of teams
went around the country– Alpha… Teams Alpha,
Bravo, Charlie, Delta, X-ray. And each one of those had a
Special Forces A detachments attached to it. So incredibly strong capability. Three to four C.I.A. officers, one of which definitely
linguistically qualified in Dari or the local language, and then a Special Forces team with direct superior
connectivity to the U.S. military. And, really, so these people
were in static positions. And when the U.S. Air Force
started, they were destroyed. They had to run for their lives. So it didn’t surprise me,
either, that, that they crumbled
the way they did. Now, some crumbled
back into the woodwork and they remain guerillas
to this day. But as a standing army, they
were destroyed and they fled.>>MORELL: I want to ask you
both about Mike Spann. Phil, what happened?>>REILLY: Mike Spann
was a ground branch officer, a colleague. Yeah, Mike was the first
American killed in Afghanistan, on the 25th of November 2001. He was at a prison camp interrogating or debriefing
prisoners with another agency officer– who I met this morning,
by the way, the survivor– when the prisoners rose en
masse, and they were overcome. Mike was killed
almost instantaneously trying to extricate
from the prison. And his colleague did get out
after killing many of the enemy. Actually, some British SBS,
Special Boat Service– Royal Marine types– were in the immediate vicinity
and helped him exfiltrate. But that’s how,
that’s how he perished. He was absolutely a phenomenal
young… former Marine. Just married
another C.I.A. officer, had a one-month-old son, and the first American killed.>>MORELL: John, do you remember
how you heard?>>McLAUGHLIN: Uh, yes. I don’t remember precisely
where I was and so forth, but I think I heard
on the way to the White House, and, of course, we– George
Tenet and I– went to Dover to meet Mike as he was brought
back from Afghanistan. He was the first American
killed. One thing that happened
as a result of his death, some then-retired C.I.A.
officers organized something called the C.I.A. Officers
Memorial Foundation, thinking that we were heading
into a different time for the C.I.A.– this would be a dangerous time. This is an organization
that I chaired for seven years. Michael was on the board. It raises funds,
as does another group, the Third Option,
that Phil has been involved in. Raises funds for the education
of children whose… who have lost a parent
in C.I.A. service. And we have now sponsored
over a hundred kids. And, I would tell you this– there are now 129 stars
on the wall at C.I.A. Each one is carved, when a C.I.A. officer
loses their life, in the marble wall in the lobby. More than a third of those
have been carved since 9/11. So the officers who formed
this organization back in 2001-2002 were very prescient about this being a particularly
dangerous time for the C.I.A.>>MORELL: I’ll tell you
that I was with George Tenet when he told the president
about Mike Spann, told the president
how it happened, and… And I remember the president… And Shannon was Mike’s,
Mike’s wife. And George told the president
about Shannon and how she worked with us. And the president looked at
Andy Card, his chief of staff, and said,
“I want to call Shannon. I want to do that today.” One more question
and then we’ll, we’ll go to questions in the audience. And question for both of you is,
how did this… How did 9/11,
how did this period of time, how did the fact that we were
in the lead in this war, how did, what effect
did this have on the agency as an institution?>>McLAUGHLIN: Well, it… had
a revolutionary effect, I think. At a material level,
a mundane level, we received a lot of resources
that we hadn’t had. In the 1990s, we had been
reduced in resources by about 23%, because the Cold War was over. And post-9/11, people realized,
this is our instrument for fighting Al-Qaeda, and we got a lot of… We got new authorities,
as we were given legal authority to do things that we had never
been asked to do before that allowed us to be
much more aggressive and direct in fighting Al-Qaeda. It led to an unprecedented
integration with the U.S. military. Phil is right, we had always
been close to them in certain areas. But as the years went on
after 9/11, I would say the integration
became intimate. And so today, I think one of
the incredible capabilities the U S. has–
I hope we don’t lose it– is the ability to marry up
civilian-produced intelligence with military power in a way that we… I don’t think we could have done
before 9/11. It also meant our officers were socialized
in a different environment. That is to say, they matured
and came to, they… Particularly people… We had… Before 9/11, we had about
65,000 resumes a year for jobs. After 9/11, it shot up
to 180,000. People wanted to serve. Officers, like some
on Phil’s team, had been ready to retire
or in retirement, came back. And so… And young officers who joined
in that period of time have now known 18 years of war. That’s the first generation
of C.I.A. officers raised in war, if you will,
since World War II, when the Office of Strategic
Services, the forerunner of C.I.A., was created. And so everyone goes. I would… Michael may know
the percentages, but even among our analysts, a large percentage of them
have served in the war zones, and that’s different. And I think it… I said at the very beginning, when Michael asked me
for my memories of that day, and one of them was,
this is on us to prevent again. I think that notion
of first line of defense was always there theoretically, but 9/11 made it real and urgent in a way that things before
had not.>>MORELL:
And Phil, I’m sure you felt that when you were in the field
after 9/11.>>REILLY: That’s right.
That’s a tough question. You don’t want to follow a
former acting C.I.A. director on an answer like that. You know, everything, everything
John said I think is right. It was a very special time, and borne out of the most,
the worst of tragedies. But the feeling that was
in the building, where… You talked about,
people came out of retirement. People, senior people, just
wanted to do anything to help. And that was a rare time. I think there was, at the time,
where you felt like everyone had to serve. People have had
three, four, five, six, seven war zone tours now
since then. Although, I’ll be honest, it has a bit crested. And it’s 18 years,
maybe it should. And there’s fewer people
doing it now. And, you know, people having
successful careers who, who haven’t served. So it’s… for ten years there,
it was pretty remarkable. But you have people in that…
you know, it’s different. It’s changed.>>MORELL: Okay, let’s, um,
let’s turn to you guys. Please, yes. (inaudible)>>CHANIN: Who would like
to ask a question? Gentleman in the back, please.>>AUDIENCE MEMBER:
Phil, how long were you actually in Afghanistan
before you returned?>>CHANIN: So the question was
how long you were in Afghanistan before you returned.>>REILLY: Yeah, the first stint
was 45 days, but I would go back repeatedly. Ultimately, I became the chief
of station in Afghanistan, so I’ve spent about
two-and-a-half years there.>>CHANIN: Another question–
sir.>>AUDIENCE MEMBER:
So, one thing revealed by 9/11 was a lack of coordination
between the C.I.A. and the FBI. An example, the FBI guys
(inaudible) those two guys on the manifest that you knew
were in this country, the FBI wasn’t told. And some in the FBI say, if they’d known,
maybe 9/11 is prevented. What do you think about that?>>CHANIN: So the question is
about the coordination pre-9/11 between the C.I.A. and FBI, particularly the presence
of two of the eventual hijackers in the United States.>>McLAUGHLIN:
That’s a complicated… Michael and I may have something
to say about that. That’s a complicated story, and it’s not been told… So complicated it’s never been
quite told right. I think… I think I’m confident
FBI did know they were in the country. We had a large number
of FBI officers embedded in our Counterterrorism
Center, and their mission was to report
back to their leadership whatever we had in the way
of information about terrorists. And I think,
at C.I.A. headquarters, we have emails, I believe,
that show we were emailing
that information to FBI. I don’t think they have emails
that show they received it. So that’s another complication. And that, that contributes
to the debate. It may be true
that we did not make out a formal piece of paper that… It has a particular technical
name, about transmitting information. But there is no…
there was no policy at C.I.A. to withhold those names
from the FBI, and… You know, at C.I.A., we try not to get
in the blame game with people, because, frankly, we’re so used
to taking blame that we know how it feels. So, you know, we don’t get
in those food fights. But, you know… We did watch-list
those two individuals on August 23, okay? And any agency
in the U.S. government can watch-list
terrorist suspects. C.I.A. was the only one
that did. So there was knowledge
within the U.S. government that these two people
were on a watch list. Now, before I go blaming anyone, let me say, the U.S. government
at that time did not have
the policy instruments to implement watch-listing
the way we do it today. That’s a whole other story. That’s a revolutionized process. Today, if you did that, those people would not get
on an airplane. But back at the time of 9/11, there were only 35 air marshals
in the U.S. system. You were still allowed to bring
air… on an aircraft knives of seven inches. We were not, as a country, prepared to even deal
with the knowledge that two of those people
were in the United States.>>MORELL:
I’ll just add one thing. There is a, there is a myth, there is a conspiracy theory
that says that we didn’t want to tell
the FBI about those two because we wanted
to go recruit them, and we didn’t want the FBI
to do that. That is totally inaccurate.
>>McLAUGHLIN: Yeah.>>MORELL: Not true. A number of inspector generals
have looked at that question, and yet the conspiracy theory
and the myth persist.>>CHANIN: See who else we have. Other question?
Gentleman here.>>AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah,
can you speak to the ability of Osama bin Laden
to exfiltrate himself from the Tora Bora region
over into Pakistan, and how we were unable
to prevent that? There’s a lot of conflicting
information as to the conflict within the various services that inhibited our ability
to effectively prevent that.>>CHANIN: So the question is
about Osama bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora, which,
just by way of advertisement, we take this up in the
exhibition that I mentioned, which will open on November 15,
thank you. Please.
(laughter)>>REILLY: Yeah, I know… He undoubtedly was there. Retrospectively, we know that
through intelligence means. And he fled across the border
to safe haven in Pakistan, where he resided
in various places until he ultimately was killed. There was some disagreements about how it should be
prosecuted, Tora Bora campaign. Very remote region– that region of Afghanistan,
I will tell you, in summertime,
it’s difficult to operate in. In wintertime,
it’s almost unbelievable. And I’m just curious,
you asked, asked that question, because about two weeks ago, I was
with General Tommy Franks. General Tommy Franks
was the commander, the overall commander. I was speaking
at his leadership academy. And this, and this came up. And, you know,
the simple notion is that he didn’t want
to commit the troops.>>AUDIENCE MEMBER:
Right, that’s where I’m going.>>REILLY: Exactly. And there was a C.I.A. officer
on the ground, the second Jawbreaker. I call him the second. The guy followed us in. He, he sort of thought that perhaps they should have
prosecuted more vigorously. Look, the military commander’s
got to make that decision. I’m coming down on the side
of the U.S. military. I mean, hindsight’s 20-20, but to just drop troops
into those conditions without the full resources
available… So you’ve got to remember,
this is early December. We still didn’t have
the footprint we have there now. This was very early on. Taliban had just been
rooted out. It was not the right call
to have sent those people in. So, again, I’m backing sort
of the military on that call. And, again, we didn’t even know
he was there at the time.>>AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, but
we had a strong suspicion…>>REILLY: Right…
>>CHANIN: Sir, we’ll just…>>MORELL: So I’ll just add
one piece of color here. So I was still President Bush’s
briefer at the time. And I walked in to brief him
in Crawford, over the holidays, and he said, “What’s new?” And I said, “Mr. President, bin Laden has escaped
from Tora Bora.” And I had never seen
the president mad before. But he was mad,
and he shot the messenger. He shot me.
(laughter) He said,
“How could you let this happen?” And I’m thinking,
“I didn’t do this.” And he said,
“What is your plan now?” And luckily, George Tenet came
up on the screen just then… (laughter)>>CHANIN: All the way
in the back.>>AUDIENCE MEMBER:
Thank you for your service. I’m just curious…
(inaudible)>>CHANIN: So the question is
about the current negotiations with the Taliban.>>McLAUGHLIN: Well, I think
they’re stalled at the moment. But if you went back to the time
before they were stalled, the agreement
that the negotiator– a former ambassador, Khalilzad– had announced was that we would remove
our troops over a period of time, contingent
upon assuring compliance with a Taliban promise that they would not invite
Al-Qaeda back in and permit terrorism to run amok
in Afghanistan. And it sort of was frozen
at that moment. Now, the problem here is,
can you… I think it’s questionable
whether the Taliban can ever actually share power
with an elected government. It runs against everything
in Sharia law, the Sharia law
that they endorse formally. And so I think
that’s a shaky proposition. The Taliban currently, by, I think, official
U.S. government estimates, controls or contests still about 40% of the territory
in Afghanistan– controls or contests. And so I think we have to be
very careful in coming to an agreement there. The idea is to have
the Taliban then go into a subsequent negotiation with the existing
Afghan government, or whichever one is in power, and come to a power-sharing
arrangement. The two mistakes
we have to not make if we get out of Afghanistan are the two big mistakes
we made in Vietnam. One is to be blind
to the consequences. You won’t remember,
perhaps, our frantic exit from the roof of
the American Embassy in Saigon because the North Vietnamese
had broken the agreement and invaded. So we can’t let ourselves
get in that position. And, second, we can’t abandon
friends of ours in Afghanistan– people who have worked with us– who would probably be targets
of Taliban that didn’t follow
the agreement. That’s essentially
what happened in Vietnam with many people. So we can’t make
those two mistakes. That said, I think, you know,
there is an American… The public is probably tired
of this. And, and there’s a lot
of sentiment in Congress for finding a way
to wind it down. We just have to do it,
and if we’re going to do it in an honorable way
that isn’t predicting disaster before our eyes.>>CHANIN:
We will take one more. The gentleman right there. (audience member
speaking off mic)>>CHANIN: Yes, so how the
evolution of approach evolved from the beginning
throughout the conflict.>>McLAUGHLIN:
Uh, that’s a tough one. Maybe Michael wants
to chime in on this, as well. I, you know, I often say
we won in Afghanistan twice. We won in this period when Phil
and his teams were in there, and, and one of our officers
was actually instrumental in rescuing the president–
the first president, Karzai– from a difficult,
life-threatening situation. And he becomes
the first free president, freely elected president,
of Afghanistan. There is tremendous corruption
in Afghanistan, and I think we had
that situation under reasonable control, up till about 2006. And at that point, things began
to change in Pakistan. Musharraf began losing power. He made some agreements
with tribal elements along the Pakistani-Afghan
border that didn’t pan out, and that border became again
a much more useful sanctuary for terrorists in Afghanistan. So the pressures began
to rise there. And then I think corruption just
overcame the Karzai government. The new government under Ghani
has been struggling, as well. What I would say, you know, when I think back over our time
in Afghanistan is, it’s easy
to say all of the things that didn’t go well
or that aren’t going well. All that said,
nine million children are going to school
in Afghanistan; one-third of them are girls. There were very few kids
in school in the Taliban period. That’s out of a population of
about 16 million, thereabouts. No girls went to school. Anyone who looks at development in countries
that are in need of it knows that the main way to change the country
that is struggling is to educate the women. And so I think we have… And one-third of the members
of Parliament are women. So I think
if the Taliban come back in, they’re going to confront
a very different Afghanistan than the one
that they once governed. And you have to think
about whether they could just suppress all of that
and crush it, or whether there would now be a different fiber and foundation
in Afghanistan that would successfully
prevent that. Prediction is really hard,
isn’t it?>>MORELL: I think…>>McLAUGHLIN: Especially
about the future. (laughter)>>MORELL: I think the point
I would add, and maybe, maybe
we can finish on this, is, the really remarkable
and important thing at the end of the day is all of the efforts, whether they’re to defend
the homeland or taking the fight
to the enemy– as we did in Afghanistan
and as we did around the world– is, there was never
another successful attack on the homeland and there still hasn’t. And that just didn’t happen. Al-Qaeda tried numerous times
to attack the homeland and failed because of the
efforts that I just mentioned, to include, to include
the use of U.A.Vs. So I think, you know,
we didn’t get everything right. Some things
still aren’t going right in places like Afghanistan, but the homeland
has been protected.>>CHANIN: I think that is a
very appropriate note to end on, and to thank these gentlemen
for coming here at the museum, making this extraordinary
presentation. I’m going to ask everybody
to keep their seats until our guests leave. But on their way out, please join me in thanking
Phil Reilly, John McLaughlin, and Michael Morell. (applause)

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