On Wednesday, Dec 5, our host Jan Miyasaki speaks with Justin Elliott, an investigative reporter at ProPublica, to speak about his piece Meet the Think Tankers: Advising the U.S. Military in Kabul. Justin began his piece amidst the media frenzy regarding former CIA Director General Petraeus’ extra-marital affair, and was struck by the reference in the Washington Post’s story regarding Petraeus’ time running the war in Afghanistan between summer 2010 – 2011. Justin explains that he brought over experts from conservative think tanks to Kabul to provide military advice, and had given them positions there to have strong influence over the way the war was led. This created some controversy back in the U.S. Many think tankers were brought to Afghanistan and Iraq for short periods of time, supported by the military, and flown around the countries. Justin explains that bringing the think tank experts served two purposes for the military: “one, for the military to get advice from these think tank experts, and the other, for the military to influence these experts who are playing prominent roles in policy making in the US.” Justin explains that this is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Justin speaks about the think tankers themselves, “it seems to be people from the mainstream think tanks, and those loosely affiliated with those parties”. Among the think tank mentioned are the conservative American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institute (which has a Democratic party leaning), and Center for New American Security (also a Democratic party leaning). The experts brought in to Iraq were not from one party alone, Justin says, “It was clearly not a partisan thing. It shows that in some of these military matters, there’s less of partisan split in Washington and among foreign policy making community than there are with a lot of other issues.”
Listen to the interview here: