The attacks of 9/11 which seem so long ago caught the United States by surprise. There were some warning signs that were missed by our intelligence and law enforcement agencies but pointing the finger isn’t the purpose here. The last 16 years has our forces fighting a different kind of war, with a different set of parameters. But we shouldn’t forget the hard lessons learned thru the decades of the Cold War. Because we’re going to need them.

After the collapse of the old Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, our intelligence agencies were gutted. Some ex-CIA operatives in the media have opined that as many as 1000 trained operatives left the agency in the aftermath as budgets were being cut and clandestine-trained operatives were leaving in droves. Alex Finley a former CIA operative wrote an interesting piece where she talked about the need for the return of the Cold War espionage tactics that can be found here:

The war on terror was different, and it has been much harder to gain inroads into the inner workings of terror groups that operated in failed states, in austere environments. The agency pumped new blood and money into their Counter-Terrorism Center and their employees now worked closely with military personnel. Their mission was/is to track and target the enemy.

Due to the nature of the areas that they’re operating in, intelligence operatives couldn’t walk the streets, ala James Bond and Jason Bourne as the threat was far too high and the need for security was paramount. They were forced to work thru Middle Eastern partners, which was a radical change from traditional Cold War espionage operations.

That goes for the Special Operations Forces as well, with the troops fighting a war which has dragged into the latter half of a second decade, the intelligence requirements are geared around the targeting of insurgent groups and specific leaders.

And while the War on Terror isn’t going anywhere for the near future, the threats to the US aren’t just in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Other parts of the globe are heating up and our SOF, already operating at an incredible tempo will find themselves in other global hotspots.

It is important to remember that intelligence lessons learned in the Cold War can be and should be used in other areas where the risk for conflict are high. The CIA has in the last five years beefed up their African intelligence gathering capability with different surveillance aircraft, both manned and unmanned. Human intelligence (HUMINT) and the live sources of information require more time to set up.

In case anyone hasn’t noticed the Russians, once again have been pushing their influence far past their borders and their bellicose intentions, despite how our president perceives Putin, is an area of concern. Russian efforts to undermine the US are everywhere, the Chinese are beefing up their navy, have opened a base in Djibouti and are currying favor with many of the US’ Latin American allies as well as Iran.