US troops may be leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, but the CIA isn't. The agency's stations in the two countries may see staffing levels fall off a bit, but they'll remain its biggest overseas locations for years, officials tell the Washington Post. The Obama administration is counting on the spies, along with Special Operations forces, to protect US interests as troops depart. "I would say the agency will be the last to leave," says one CIA veteran. "We were the first to get there."
In Iraq in particular, spies are shifting into the more familiar role of watching an increasingly hostile and turbulent government, while also suppressing al-Qaeda. In Afghanistan, the CIA will take on a more paramilitary role, actively combating the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and working more with Special Ops in the process. The agency also controls teams of Afghan counterterror forces that it funded and trained. Still, the agency's footprint will have to shrink; like all intelligence agencies, it's facing budget cuts.