Jason Vest

Jason Vest is a Senior Correspondent for The American Prospect and a
contributor to the Boston Phoenix and The Nation, specializing in intelligence
national security affairs. He also holds an Ochberg Fellowship with the
University of Washington's Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. Recognized by
American Journalism Review in 2002 as an "Unsung Hero of Washington
Vest has previously done staff stints at the Washington Post, US News & World
and Village Voice. He covered the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war
(1999-2000), as a correspondent for The Scotsman, and was awarded a 1999 Fund
Investigative Journalism grant to examine both the war and media coverage.

Originally a reporter for alternative weeklies in Indiana, Vest has also
written for The Atlantic Monthly, Columbia Journalism Review, Mother Jones,
AlterNet and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, among others. His
work for
the Prospect in 2004 has been supported by grant awards from the Foundation
for Constitutional Goverment and the Ettinger Foundation. His book on national
security during the current Bush Administration will be published by Wiley &
Sons in 2005.

Recent Articles

Why Warnings Fell on Deaf Ears:

W hat did the president know and when did he know it? Following revelations that the White House had reason to suspect an imminent al-Qaeda attack last year, even The New York Times has noted that the perennial post-Watergate question seems entirely appropriate. Nor should it be put exclusively to President Bush: In most countries, the directors of the internal and external security services would have resigned by now. But there is also a danger in overemphasizing the stock Washington scandal question, when equally important questions go unanswered. Such as, if the Bush White House was warned, why didn't those warnings resonate? Why wasn't the threat posed by al-Qaeda -- the only entity in recent years to attack U.S. government installations -- foremost in the administration's mind? There are a lot of potential replies to that question, but the short answer -- and the most convincing one -- is that the Bush administration was still fighting the Cold War. Hence its unhealthy obsession...

Mountain Men:

S cott Shuger seems to consider actual research and reporting to be too much of a chore. His response to my American Prospect Online article on the United States Army's military preparedness for mountain warfare merely defends the Pentagon's spin. In this case, the spin is that the U.S. military is just fine as is, and even if it isn't, it doesn't really matter. Personally, I'm not surprised, given that Shuger seemed to like the idea of there being a Pentagon unit devoted to duping reporters. I didn't "opine" anything about the Army's 10th Mountain Division. My piece reports that the 10th is still what the Army says it was when it was reconstituted in 1985: a general purpose light infantry division "designed to meet a wide range of worldwide infantry-intensive contingency missions," not a unit with a particular specialty in mountain warfare. My sources? I cite both a Senate investigation of the 10th's condition and a recent piece in one of the U.S. Army's own publications that's...

Some Things To Consider About Afghanistan -- From Those Who've Been There

From 1988 to 1992, freelance photographer Patrick O'Donnell was based in Peshawar, Pakistan, and often traveled deep into Afghanistan -- frequently in the company of Australian journalist Anthony Davis, who remains a leading authority on Afghanistan, and photograher Robert Nickelsberg, who briefly returned to Afghanistan earlier this year. Another friend of O'Donnell's, David Dienstag, spent much of the 80s either lobbying in Washington for the Federation for American-Afghan Action or carrying a Kalashnikov with the mujahedin who fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. I asked the four what advice they had for those now contemplating American military action in Afghanistan. They agreed on several points. Their warnings were echoed by other old hands, including the veteran American intelligence officer whose analysis of the situation was requested by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. His brief report (a copy of which was leaked to me) was delivered last week. Their advice...

Mountain Division:

In a recent Slate "Today's Papers" column, Eric Umansky drew attention to a Wall Street Journal item reporting the impending arrival of 1700 British troops in Afghanistan at the U.S. military's request. Quite rightly, Umansky was most interested not in what was included in the dispatch, but what wasn't. "Given that the US presumably still has plenty of troops available," he wrote, "it would have been helpful if the paper had asked why the US requested the deployment." While I can't report the official American rationale -- the Pentagon doesn't seem to be in any hurry to return my calls -- there are some points worth examining in order to answer Umansky's very worthy question. The tentative summation? The United States asked for the British because the United States doesn't have adequately-trained forces (or, at least, ones ready to go), and because the bulk of the forces we used in Operation Anaconda weren't the right ones in the first place. And this highlights some real shortcomings...

Trouble at High Levels

L ast fall I interviewed a number of current and former CIA officers who worked the Pakistan-Afghanistan border during the days of the mujahideen's fight against the Soviets. I also spoke with current and former military officers with combat experience in Vietnam, the Gulf War, or the Balkans. The war in Afghanistan was in its earliest stages then, and most of the people I interviewed asked me to keep their comments off the record for the time being, "hoping against hope," as one put it, "that this will all work out." Yet the general sense among them was one of reservation -- not because they thought the Taliban would hold on to power but out of concerns about the state of U.S. military strategy and intelligence. Would the United States field the right troops at the right times in the right places? Would the best people be sought out and listened to in devising strategy and tactics? Were American forces really prepared to fight in the rugged, high-altitude conditions of Afghanistan?...