August 27, 2021

Intelligence and counterterrorism experts Phil Mudd and Cedric Leighton were on CNN's New Day to talk about how the U.S. will track down those responsible for yesterday's Kabul airport attacks.

"I want to listen to what President Biden is now promising in response to these attacks. Here is what he said," John Brianna Keilar said.

For those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this, we will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.

"Okay. What does that look like, do you think? What will that look like?" Keilar asked.

"Well, Brianna, I would say we're talking a classic counterterrorism operation in this case, now it could be a drone strike. It could be a commando raid. It could be any number of things," Leighton said.

"There are a lot of options the president has in these cases but all of this depends on intelligence and it has to be precise intelligence in order to get to that last mile of really, what are we doing here and what -- is this leadership? Is this another type of target? So it depends on the targets that they have and it depends also on how easy it is for us to find them. It may take a while to do this."

"That would require human intelligence. People on the ground this is where ISIS-K is. The U.S. doesn't have that, Phil. But Americans do not want to be in Afghanistan. These attacks we saw yesterday just re-enforced that they do not want U.S. troops in Afghanistan," Keilar said.

"Don't sell them short. If you look at the intelligence picture -- here the easy way to look at it if you're outside the business, we get a piece of spectacular intelligence that says ISIS-K is over there, hit them with a drone strike. That's not how the game works. It's not necessarily Americans, we have relationships with commanders that go back to the Soviet times when I was working this problem in the early '90s," Mudd said.

"Those relationships will endure after the Taliban is there because here's a secret, those commanders are the same people who opposed the Taliban now. You don't need ISIS intelligence. To them, you might say we're the foreigners. We're the people who speak differently. Somebody there -- Jordan, Saudi Arabia, snippets on the technical side, snippers of a wire that said 'I heard Joe did this. The people from Joe's team did this.' It's a collage of stuff that might come over 6 to 12 months. It's not a quick snapshot where somebody comes in with a magic piece of intelligence. It will happen. It will happen."

"Do you think really the president wants to wait that long?"

"Oh, I think politically he probably doesn't but as Phil said, this is not a quick fix kind of thing. Remember how long it took to get Bin Laden. There are so many factors in this and it is a collage. Putting all these different pieces together," Leighton said.

"The technical piece, the over the horizon piece, the kinds of things President Biden is talking about. All of that makes a big difference. Those are the kinds of things that need to come together in order to do this right and we have to do this right."

Berman asked Mudd what capability would the U.S. have to retaliate once they were out of the country.

"Boy, that is the right question. The intel is gonna be very difficult, but it come together. But think of two different scenarios. Scenario one, the one you had 60, 90 days ago, you have in the theater a drone capability, that drone capability is armed. You obviously have U.S. military and airborne power on the ground in Afghanistan, maybe in neighboring countries. Now your standoff, off an aircraft carrier in the Arabian peninsula, maybe if you're lucky, some presence in central Asia. So the intelligence, it changes -- the intelligence not only has to be good. Like intelligence you might have acquired 60 days ago. The intelligence has to be so good, it has to be durable enough that you can get on target in six, eight hours. What it means the time to get on target will be longer."

Can you help us out?

For nearly 20 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.