Michael Flynn

Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (since June 2009)

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Why He Matters

As President Obama launched his new Afghan strategy, the Center for New American Security (CNAS) released an unusual January 2010 report authored by Flynn about the state of U.S. intelligence in Afghanistan. It was not a flattering assessment from the senior intelligence officer in that country.

Although it was written beforehand, Flynn's report was released just days after the killing of seven CIA officers in Afghanistan by a Jordanian double agent in one of the agency's biggest blows.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: Director of Intelligence, Joint Chiefs of Staff (July 2008-June 2009); Director of Intelligence, U.S. Central Command (June 2007-July 2008); Director of Intelligence, Joint Special Operations Command (July 2004 to June 2007); Commander, 111th Military Intelligence Brigade (June 2002-June 2004)
  • Hometown: Middletown, R.I.
  • Alma Mater: University of Rhode Island, B.S. management science, 1981; Golden Gate University, MBA, telecommunications; a master's in military arts and sciences, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College; master's, national security and strategic studies, Naval War College
  • Spouse: Lauri Andrade

Path to Power

Flynn's has been working on intelligence on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the post-9/11 world.

He worked under, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, as the head of intelligence for the top-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which was credited with the June 2006 capture and killing of of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

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The Issues

In January 2010, Flynn released a report through the progressive foreign policy think tank CNAS that was highly critical of U.S. intelligence in Afghanistan.

The report faulted U.S. intelligence for focusing too heavily on counterinsurgency activities instead of paying attention to the political, cultural and economic realities of the civilian population. It says that the military is too focused on collecting and reacting to IEDs (improvised explosive devices), instead of answering key questions like whether a road they're thinking about paving is well trafficked, or which are the most popular mosque bazaars.

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The Network

Before his June 2010 ouster, Flynn worked closely with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, over the years as his chief intelligence counterpart at JSOC. JSOC was for a time being run by McChrystal protege Adm. William McRaven.

As the top intelligence officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he worked for Adm. Michael Mullen. He will have to work closely with John O. Brennan, President Obama's, top intelligence adviser, and James L. Jones, his national security honcho, in implementing his January 2010 CNAS report.


Campaign Contributions

Flynn did not give to political campaigns in recent cycles, according to Opensecrets.org.