Dennis Blair is our — your — Director of National Intelligence. Today he held his first news conference since taking on that job — and in his answers gave an intriguing tour of a dangerous world.
From our reporter:
MEXICO NOT A FAILED STATE
Asked about the security situation in Mexico, Blair was emphatic. "Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state. Let me repeat that, Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state." He attributed the spike in deadly violence to the Calderon government’s willingness to go after the drug cartels. Blair’s statement in effect nixes a report issued by the military’s Joint Forces Command that Mexico was on the verge of becoming a failed state. That report lumped Pakistan into the same category.
NORTH KOREAN MISSILE LAUNCH
Blair went further than he had in the past in suggesting that the North Koreans really do intend to show that they can launch an intercontinental ballistic missile. “North Korea is attempting to demonstrate an ICBM capability through a space launch…that’s what they are up to." He added that “most of the world understands the game they’re playing" — and added that North Korea risks more than just international criticism if it proceeds with the launch. "They’re risking an international opprobrium on them and hopefully worse when they successfully launch it or if they launch it at all."
NEED TO RAMP UP INTEL IN AFGHANISTAN
Blair spoke of how Afghanistan differs from Iraq, particularly when it comes to intelligence on local populations. "We know a heck of a lot more on Iraq than on Afghanistan," Blair said, and the U.S. needs "a granular understanding of local power structures." The solution? "The United States must improve its intelligence gathering in Afghanistan…We need to ramp up the level of intelligence support in Afghanistan."
Blair believes the solution in Afghanistan will involve a mix of military and civilian assets working at the local level, in combination with a similar approach out of Kabul. Finally, he thinks about a third to half of Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan are local Taliban, in other words not under Mullah Omar’s control, and could be turned through reconciliation because their concerns are much more about what’s going on their respective valleys.