Friday, July 24, 2009

US Intelligence Gathering in Afghanistan Expanded

US intelligence gathering in Afghanistan expanded

By RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jul 23, 8:44 pm ET

WASHINGTON – U.S. military authorities in Afghanistan are assembling a potent intelligence-gathering operation to help defeat the Taliban insurgency, a senior Defense Department official said Thursday.

A combination of unmanned aerial vehicles and sensor-laden aircraft with links to ground forces will give commanders an "unblinking eye" over the war-torn country, Michael Vickers, the Pentagon's top special operations official, said.

Use of high-technology assets proved essential in Iraq, he said, and are key to negating the Taliban's ability to plan and carry out attacks around the country.

"Systemically taking apart the network through intelligence-led operations is a very important feature of modern counterinsurgency," Vickers said.

But he added that victory in Afghanistan is up to the Afghans.

"We want to bring every available technology we can to bear, but ultimately it will be won and lost on the ground, and it will be won and lost by the Afghan people," he said at a meeting with defense reporters.

The stakes are growing higher in Afghanistan, where President Barack Obama is adding thousands of more troops to defeat the Taliban. The Islamist regime was ousted in 2001 after a U.S.-led invasion, but has made a strong comeback after U.S. military forces were shifted to Iraq.

About 68,000 U.S. troops will be in the country by fall, more than twice as many as were there last year. The growing violence has made July the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Vickers said more Predator unmanned aerial vehicles will be sent to Afghanistan. The Predator can carry missiles to hit targets on the ground. A large fleet of missile-carrying Reaper drones is being readied for Afghanistan, he added.

Manned C-12 aircraft are also providing surveillance and gathering intelligence in Afghanistan.

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