“Well, no, there were not,” Dempsey answered. “There were several things that surprised us about [the Islamic State], the degree to which they were able to form their own coalition both inside of Syria and inside of northwestern Iraq, the military capability they exhibited, the collapse of the Iraqi security forces. Yeah, in those initial days, there were a few surprises.”...Lessons learned? It doesn’t seem so: Nearly a year later, the United States was blindsided again by the collapse of Ramadi. What’s wrong?The first answer is that the CIA must work with partners to build spy networks inside the Islamic State. Recruiting jihadists is not “Mission: Impossible.” The Islamic State is toxic and has made enemies wherever it operates. But to work this terrain, the agency will have to alter its practices — taking more operational risks and reducing its lopsided emphasis on drone strikes and other covert tools....Let’s be honest about what it would mean to fix the problems Morell describes. CIA officers would have to get out of protected enclaves to spot and recruit the principal agents who, in turn, could find sources within the jihadist lair. Staying “inside the wire” isn’t just ineffective, it’s dangerous, as became tragically clear in 2009 when a Jordanian double agent entered the CIA sanctuary in Khost, Afghanistan, and killed seven Americans.
For decades, the CIA and the military have tried to fix intelligence problems by relying on National Security Agency surveillance. But the jihadists have gone to school on the leaks about U.S. capabilities and learned to mask their operations. Gathering intelligence against this 21st-century jihadist adversary, paradoxically, will require the kind of old-fashioned spying and resistance operations we associate with the CIA’s founding generation in the OSS.