President Obama is expected Friday to reveal a new strategy to send more civilian advisers, development money and possibly more troops to Afghanistan.
That plan should also include more intelligence assets, U.S. intelligence chief Dennis Blair said Thursday at his first sit-down with reporters since he took over two months ago.
"If you look at what we know about Iraq compared to what we know about Afghanistan, we know a heck of a lot more about Iraq on a very granular basis than we do about Afghanistan," Blair said.
Understanding Power Structures
Blair said U.S. intelligence does have a "very accurate" read on the overall situation in Afghanistan, but that tactical intelligence to support military operations is lacking.
"We need to ramp up the level of intelligence support in Afghanistan," he said. "And that will be a lot more than just making sure the villages are on the maps. It will be a granular understanding of local power structures, individuals. So I very much see a very robust intelligence support to operations there. And it's got to be better than it is now."
As for the enemy in Afghanistan, Blair says there is a distinction between what he calls the "Big Taliban" including "Mullah Omar and the gang" and "local Taliban."
"I think, as a rough rule of thumb, probably two-thirds to three-quarters of the Taliban are mostly local and have a local focus," Blair said. "I'd say probably one-third of the Taliban are in this central group around Mullah Omar, which has a larger agenda."
Mullah Omar and his followers are a "tough case," Blair says. But he agrees with the president's view that the larger "local" Taliban group can be turned if the Afghan government "can provide the basics of a good life."
North Korea, Mexico And The Economy
In addition to Afghanistan, Blair was asked about North Korea's plans for the rocket being erected on a launch pad on the country's northeast coast. North Korea says it wants to put a satellite in orbit, but there are suspicions the launch is actually a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM.
"I think North Korea is attempting to demonstrate an ICBM capability through a space launch," he says. "And that's what they're up to."
Blair added that North Korea is risking "international opprobrium and hopefully worse" if it does fire a missile.
Blair also took questions on Mexico and whether drug violence is pushing that country to the verge of collapse.
"Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state," he said. And he repeated it.
Blair argued that increased violence along the border is the result of Mexico's attempts to crack down on drug cartels there.
At the very end of Thursday's briefing, Blair turned to the global economic crisis.
Blair testified before Congress last month that the economic situation was so serious that it had surpassed terrorism as the top threat to U.S. security.
Asked for an update, he paused and then said: "Hasn't turned around yet."