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Transcript: Phil Reilly talks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters" podcast

CBS NEWS - WASHINGTON BUREAU

INTELLIGENCE MATTERS - INTERVIEW WITH PHIL REILLY

CORRESPONDENT: MICHAEL MORELL

PRODUCER: OLIVIA GAZIS

MICHAEL MORELL:

Phil, welcome to the show. I think our listeners are in for a very special treat today.

              PHIL REILLY:

Thank you. Very happy to be here.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

What made me think about asking you to be on this show is an interview that you recently gave to USA Today-- when it published a story about the CIA bringing to its museum at CIA headquarters, the exact Russian Mi-17 helicopter that flew the first CIA team into Afghanistan after 9/11.

And you gave them an interview because you were one of the ten officers-- seven paramilitary and a three-man flight crew that were on that helicopter. And I want to come back to that. But let me start, Phil, by asking you, how you made your way from the Special Forces to CIA. Did someone tap you on the shoulder? Did you just apply? How did you end up at CIA?

              PHIL REILLY:

That's a good question. I was tapped on the shoulder, essentially. I was a young NCO in the in the 7th Special Forces Group and thinking about what was next. My three-year enlistment was coming up. I was going to re-up and maybe try for the Delta Force when someone introduced me to the agency liaison officer at Fort Bragg, whose job it is to liaise with the U.S. military and not poach, but in fact that's part of his job as well, is to look for officers --

              MICHAEL MORELL:

It's the unwritten part of the job.

              PHIL REILLY:

It's the unwritten part of the job, the part you can get in trouble for. And he put me in contact and submitted my package -- or helped me submit it for the paramilitary field.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And in his pitch, he gave you a sense of what life would be like?

              PHIL REILLY:

He did. He was a storied, old-time paramilitary officer himself who'd spent a lot of time in Southeast Asia and had quite a reputation. And so-- and I knew a bit about their activities. And so when he described what they did and what they do, I was immediately interested.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And when you were in the Special Forces, did you have any interaction with CIA? Because today, there's a tremendous amount of interaction, right? Did you have any then?

              PHIL REILLY:

One of my team members was seconded at one point or claimed to have been seconded to an agency operation. But that was the extent of it. I had operated in Central America and I know the agency was there, but no, I had had no interaction. They were almost mythical figures.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Phil, we've had both analysts and case officers on the show, but you're the first CIA paramilitary officer that we've had on Intelligence Matters. And I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what paramilitary officers at CIA do. I think there's a lot of crazy ideas out there about what they do. Within the constraints of protecting classified information, can you give us a sense of what a paramilitary officer actually does every day?

              PHIL REILLY:

Right. And my response, depending on when you asked it during the history of CIA, would be different, from 1947 to currently. But a paramilitary officer today is an operations officer, trained to collect HUMINT intelligence, but who comes to the CIA having already had significant experience in the U.S. military, Special Operations, be it any of the services-- Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, usually in one of the Special Operations elements, sometimes with the Joint Special Operations Command, the most elite elements of the U.S. military. So they come with a set of skills and then receive the additional training of an agency HUMINT officer. So it's a unique--

              MICHAEL MORELL:

So this is one of the things--

              PHIL REILLY:

--skill set.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

--that's actually misunderstood inside the agency, is that you have the same training as all other case officers have to recruit assets and run those assets for CIA.

              PHIL REILLY:

Exactly. As a staff officer, paramilitary officer, that is exactly the case. When I was coming up through the ranks, you did not have a guarantee of receiving HUMINT training at the farm. And you would get it episodically-- we'd get slots occasionally, whereas now it's a routine regular thing for all of our staff personnel in the paramilitary ranks, to have that training and have that dual capability.

There's a strong push to have our officers, paramilitary officers, also do conventional case officer tours overseas, where you're collecting intelligence and doing recruitment operations in conventional, such as they are, environments, and then also going and operating in paramilitary environments.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And what's the difference between a traditional environment and a paramilitary environment? We're talking about a warzone essentially?

              PHIL REILLY:

Yeah, I really am. When I say "traditional," I'm thinking about a U.S. embassy environment in a First-World, Third-World country, doesn't really matter, but in a conventional diplomatic environment-- in a place where we may have liaison relationships with the host governments, we may not have liaison relationships.

But it's very conventional in the sense that your modus operandi is very standard and known and the way we operate. Paramilitary environments are obviously all warzones. And there's a gray line between what they are. They're very much different. You don't have the infrastructure of-- oftentimes of a U.S. embassy environment-- much more rustic, much more, you know, dangerous-- equally dangerous-- environments.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And that training you have as a military officer, that's where that really pays off.

              PHIL REILLY:

It really does. You know, we also provide our personnel-- all agency officers, where they operate in those hostile environments-- to receive additional training. And I think it's very sufficient for the places that we go.

But there's no doubt that the military training we come to the agency with from the U.S. military helps that situation. And bear in mind that when I came aboard in the mid-'80s there were no active wars going on. Central America was going on and I had done some activity there. But today the recruits that are coming into the agency could have ten or 15 years' combat experience, given what our nation's been doing for the last 20 years.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. So when I first asked the question about what paramilitary officers do, you said it depends on what timeframe you're talking about, right? So, what's the difference between what a paramilitary officer might have done in the 1970s and 1980s and what they do today?

              PHIL REILLY:

It's a great question. When I came onboard, there was even a pejorative term used for paramilitary officers-- "knuckle-draggers"-- that they only did the paramilitary operations. And by the way, no dishonor in that.

And some may have been typecast as only doing paramilitary, where the idea being a fully capable operations officer and paramilitary officer all rolled into one. In fact, that's the title of the (UNINTEL PHRASE) of PMOOs, paramilitary operations officers-- which is now the norm-- was very atypical or unusual in the past.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

All right, so let's go back to that Mi-17 helicopter. Spend some time talking about that. Where were you on 9/11?

              PHIL REILLY:

I was in foreign language class. I was going out as the chief of station on our overseas assignment and suffering through a very difficult language on that terrible morning.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And what do you remember about that day?

              PHIL REILLY:

Well, I was at an out building. And when it went down, I, like all of America-- we're transfixed to the TV, horrified. And that horror turned to anger very, very quickly. And you know, I was on the phone that day to my former office that dealt with Special Operations -- Special Activities at the time-- Center asking to, you know, 'Put me in coach. I'm ready to come back.' And that's exactly what I did that day.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

You know, I think one of the interesting things, Phil, for you and I to keep in mind here, is that a large number of our listeners who are college students were not even in kindergarten yet on 9/11. So, for many of them, they don't have a 9/11 experience, right? This is really, really interesting how much time has passed.

              PHIL REILLY:

It is. And-- you know, it's not novel to me, but describing it as "our generation's Pearl Harbor," I've heard before. And I use that line. I wasn't around for Pearl Harbor. I wasn't born yet. But I could imagine the way our country felt as it geared up, ultimately to go to war. That was the way I think many, many people -- certainly in the U.S. at large -- but certainly in the U.S. military and CIA, we geared up for that type of response.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And the fact that 9/11 happened and you experienced that gave you a better understanding of what Pearl Harbor must have felt like.

              PHIL REILLY:

I think so. I definitely think so. I mean, again, it was horror and anger. There was a lotta anger and rage -- controlled rage -- but I think it focused so many people for the response that came. And then we could maybe get into it, but fairly successful response.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

You know, I remember that night at CIA -- the night of 9/11-- there were people, retirees who had retired, some recently and some years ago, who came to the gates and said, "I want to come back. I'll do whatever needs to be done." I mean, just remarkable.

              PHIL REILLY:

You're exactly right. And I have a number of those examples in my mind of people doing that. It makes me almost well up here thinking about the sacrifices people made. They were willing to do anything.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. Okay, so how is it possible that CIA was ready to insert a team into Afghanistan only 15 days after 9/11? How is that possible?

              PHIL REILLY:

Well to be honest, it's one of those reasons why CIA exists and why there is no other organ in the U.S. government that can do what CIA does. We had -- "we" -- when I say that, I mean, members of the Near East Division, a very successful element of CIA that dealt with that part of the world, had longstanding relationships with many of the people on the ground and had the capability to engage with them and react and also pave the way for our coming in a very, very fast fashion.

It would not have been the same had we not had those preexisting relationships. Now again, many people who weren't our friends quickly got in line when they realized what the U.S. government was about to do. But those that were allied with us really came forward.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

There's also an agility, right? There's also an agility to the organization that's hard to convey to people. I remember when Director Petraeus first came to the agency. He ordered that something be done. And then several days later asked me when he was going see the plan for this thing (LAUGH) that he asked for. And I said, "A plan? It's already done." Right? So there's an agility there that's hard to overstate.

              PHIL REILLY:

There really is. And we have the organic assets. And that's platforms and personnel that can lift up and go very, very quickly. And it's tremendous support infrastructure across the organization that enables us to do that.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. So what was the overall mission after 9/11 in Afghanistan? And what was the specific mission of that first flight?

              PHIL REILLY:

That first team, our team, the NALT, Northern Afghanistan Liaison Team which was codenamed JAWBREAKER -- that was our call sign on the radio -- was to go in and link up with the Northern Alliance.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

These are the folks who we had the long-term relationship with.

              PHIL REILLY:

Yeah, exactly. Northern Alliance was under the command, until the 9th of September 2001, under Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was an ally, in -- the only free portion, non-Taliban-controlled portion of Afghanistan in the northeast Panjshir Valley region of Afghanistan. He was assassinated by Al Qaeda on the 9th of September. And two days later, obviously, the horrific events of 9/11 occurred.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Al Qaeda pretended to be a journalist team--

              PHIL REILLY:

Exactly. Al Qaeda infiltrated his compound as a journalist team. And then blew up their camera, actually was where the charge was. And he was killed.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Why do you think they did that? Did they think that he would lead a charge against the Taliban?

              PHIL REILLY:

He did. He was an enemy of theirs. They would've killed him at any opportunity. But that was definitely choreographed. And it really backfired on them. As brilliant a leader as he was-- and he was a great guerilla leader-- there's no doubt about it, it galvanized Northern Alliance people.

I have never seen a people that -- where he was so beloved by the people of the Northern Alliance. I had grown men when they recounted their experiences with Ahmad Shah Massoud, that they would break down talking about the beloved figure that he was.

So, when we came to the ground, the Northern Alliance, in their minds, equated their loss of Ahmad Shah Massoud on the 9th of September with our loss on the 11th of September. It was all in their mind, one attack. And even though the disparity of the two events was drastic, in their minds, we were now one team. And it really worked well--

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And there was no need to convince them.

              PHIL REILLY:

Absolutely not.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

They were ready to go. So how was it that you were chosen to be part of that first time?

              PHIL REILLY:

There was a little bit of -- and you're well aware of this -- an internal scrum in CIA was the Counterterrorism Center or the Near East Division got to lead a response. And in a short arm wrestle, the Counterterrorism Center won that.

There were a variety of people -- Cofer Black and other very strong figures -- who brilliantly articulated why that would be the case. And then Gary Schroen was chosen to lead the team. There could not have been a person better chosen. He spoke the language of the area. He had had experience in the area. He had met Ahmad Shah Massoud, which was a tremendous bone fide establishment. But they knew there had to be a huge paramilitary component to this.

So Special Activities Division picked me-- because, again, I was in language school and somewhat free, if you will-- that they could pluck me out and put me in that position. I had never met Gary. I'd only heard of him and his reputation. And it was well-founded, his reputation. And we immediately clicked and formed the team.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Do you remember the flight itself?

              PHIL REILLY:

Oh, I do. I do. I remember it pretty well. This is the actual infiltration flight?

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah, yeah--

              PHIL REILLY:

Yeah, yeah. That was the twenty-sixth of September. That's exactly right. Yeah. I do.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Can you say where the flight started from? Or not?

              PHIL REILLY:

Yeah. You know, it's-- well, I believe we can. I mean, we started in Tashkent and went to Dushanbe, and then from Dushanbe-- Tashkent would be Uzbekistan, Dushanbe would be Tajikistan. And then ultimately entered into Afghanistan.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And into the Panjshir Valley.

              PHIL REILLY:

Into the Panjshir Valley, exactly right. We had ten Americans at that point, seven on the team. And if I could-- it's not a correction, but there were actually two paramilitary officers -- myself and an individual I picked -- two pure, brilliant case officers, Gary Schroen being one of them, a communicator, a medic and an additional officer.

And then the three crew members-- two pilots and a remarkable crew chief who not only fixed -- they maintained the helicopter, but the generators, vehicles and anything else we needed. So that was ten Americans. We picked up a local Afghan pilot who actually knew the valleys, who would actually fly with us.

Because at that point, that helicopter was very primitive in its avionics. It's been upgraded subsequently. But we had a GPS affixed in the cockpit, which is what guided them, not the actual, you know, avionics of the helicopter--

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Do you remember what was going through your mind as you were flying in?

              PHIL REILLY:

I don't know that it was nerves per se, because we knew we were going to an ally. But still, there was significant unknowns as to what was going to happen. We also had to fly over, at some points, what was Taliban-controlled area.

And in fact actually we saw a patrol of Taliban at one point underneath us. The risk to be honest at that point, was the quality of the airframe and frankly the altitudes we had to fly at. The Anjuman Pass is 14,500 feet. That's high for a helicopter. We're up at 15, 16,000 feet --

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Because the air is so thin?

              PHIL REILLY:

Air is so thin. We're in a heavy bird, extra fuel. We did it, because it's a tremendous workhorse and we had unbelievably skilled pilots. But that was a little dicey. But when we did hit the ground, we were met immediately by a Northern Alliance, well, we've been colleagues. And it was immediately a positive reception.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And can you then describe, Phil, in general terms, the next couple of months, right. From that moment when you landed in the valley to the overthrow of the Taliban in Kabul, how did that play out?

              PHIL REILLY:

Yeah. We started work immediately. One of the case officers who's prolific in his reporting, we sat down with the Northern Alliance and we began to map out the enemy positions. There was a northern front called the Takhar front, and then there was the Kabul front down along the northern perimeter of Kabul proper.

And we went to those locations, various elements of our team. And we started with GPS and other means-- started to document exactly where the enemy positions were, so that we could feed that back to the U.S. intelligence community, specifically the U.S. military to help them with what was coming in terms of airstrikes.

We also started to fund some of the elements that we were working with. We also organized support flights to air drop supplies that they may need, everything from food to ammunition, and began to pave the way for the U.S. military to come into theatre.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And while you're doing this, there's an effort going on in the south, right, to bring together the Pashtuns who would work with us.

              PHIL REILLY:

There was.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And--

              PHIL REILLY:

There weren't teams on ground in country yet, but yeah, were efforts to organize elements that had been resident in Pakistan-- we're talking about Hamid Karzai and other elements. And that organizing effort went on simultaneously.

I mean, ultimately, as you know, there were multiple CIA teams co-located with U.S. Army Special Forces, which had been where I'd come from many years prior. And it really was a synergistic animal at each one of these bases, at each one of these teams that operated together.

A handful of agency officers-- many of them with the HUMINT training and the language ability to communicate in that immediate area and oftentimes a preexisting relationship with perhaps the person we were dealing with and then the horsepower of the Special Forces aid attachments  that deployed with us.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

So I don't know if you know this, but, you know, at that time I was President Bush's daily intelligence briefer. And he wanted to know every detail about know was happening in Afghanistan. So I had this big military map. And every day I would take it in and unfold it on the table and would show him, right, where the different units were and what Taliban units were being struck. And you know, he wanted it done, done, done, done, done, right? And it was remarkable that it got done in the time period it did.

              PHIL REILLY:

Well, you know, it's funny because when we were on the ground we were prepared to host-- actually, we were prepared to go in with our military colleagues. And there was some wrangling within the Beltway that I don't fully understand why the military didn't deploy with us immediately.

As we prepped to leave even northern Virginia, we were-- I personally, at least, was on the phone with counterpart military elements and Special Operations elements to talk about how we were going to work together. And the anticipation was, we were going to greenlight and go together. But as it was, we did deploy initially on our own. But the first aid attachment -- and that was ODA Triple Nickel -- came in on 19 October. We set up the helicopter landing zone, myself and Doc, Doc who'd been a Vietnam vintage Special Forces soldier.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Wow.

              PHIL REILLY:

And we thought it was kind of cool to have the SF element actually doing the landing zone. But they came in under that same period of darkness-- Team Alpha, which went up to work with Dostum in north, also infiltrated. So ODA and other Special Forces aid attachments -- 595 actually deployed as well that same night.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

So after your initial service in Afghanistan, after the defeat of the Taliban, you come back to CIA. And you go work in our Counterterrorism Center as the chief of operations.

              PHIL REILLY:

That's right.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Very senior job. And you have an interesting experience with someone who's a current member of Congress.

              PHIL REILLY:

That's exactly right. I came back and, late November, early December of '01, and reported to CTC Special Operations department, which was created to run the CIA response to the events of 9/11. And I walk into that vault, and it was absolute maelstrom of activity-- people running to and fro, phones, and racing back and forth.

And I saw a young man-- total lanky African-American kid, who was really just excelling at everything. And he seemed to be completely on top of his game. And I found out later that day, I said, "Who is that guy?"

              MICHAEL MORELL:

"He must be in charge or somethin'."

              PHIL REILLY:

"He's gotta be in charge. I mean, he must be fairly senior to boot." His name was Will Hurd. He was a-- what's called a pre-CST. He hadn't even started clandestine service training yet. Agency often brings on people a little bit younger and then preps them before they start their training. And Will Hurd, of course, ten years later, after a successful ten years with CIA, runs for Congress and is a congressman from Texas.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And serves on the House Intelligence Committee and is doing--

              PHIL REILLY:

The House Intelligence Committee --

              MICHAEL MORELL:

--very well, and has been a guest here on Intelligence Matters before.

              PHIL REILLY:

So you can't make it up, but, very, very impressive.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

But Will will love that story.

              PHIL REILLY:

Okay. (LAUGH)

              MICHAEL MORELL:

That's great. You then spent some time in Iraq. Correct?

              PHIL REILLY:

Yeah.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

In fact, during some of the worst of the fighting there. Do you feel as some did that the fight in Iraq was taking away from the real fight in Afghanistan? Or not?

              PHIL REILLY:

Well, was it taking away? Well, yeah, we were splitting resources. Was the real fight in Afghanistan? No. I think there was a real fight going on in Iraq at the time. We had a lotta U.S. troops on the line. So, I don't know that one was better than the other. I mean, certainly, I'll be honest with you, most people considered the Afghanistan effort the more righteous campaign, because--

              MICHAEL MORELL:

--that's where Al Qaeda was, right?

              PHIL REILLY:

--that's where Al Qaeda was. And it was a different--

              MICHAEL MORELL:

After 9/11, they were across the border in Pakistan.

              PHIL REILLY:

Right. It was different with Iraq. But not to say that it wasn't a righteous mission in and of itself, once you're there. I mean, I always told my people at the station, you know, "When you're working with the U.S. military and your intelligence is protecting U.S. lives, just literally tactically on the ground, I mean, it's worthwhile what we're doing."

              MICHAEL MORELL:

So you ultimately end up back in Afghanistan as the chief of station.

              PHIL REILLY:

Right, '08, '09. Yeah, 2008, 2009.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

The senior-- for people that don't know-- the senior CIA officer in country is the person responsible for all CIA officers in country and all CIA activities there. That must have been kind of special, right? You're on that first flight in, and then just a few years later, you are back as the guy running the show.

              PHIL REILLY:

Right. It was great. It remains probably my high point assignment as chief of station there. But to go from when it was just a couple of us sitting in the Panjshir Valley with a couple of firearms to the massive presence that is there now, and operating so efficiently-- it was pretty (UNINTEL PHRASE). And then, of course, the U.S. military was there in full vigor. State Department was there. We had an active, huge U.S. embassy. It was a completely different dynamic.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And you left in early December of 2009.

              PHIL REILLY:

Yeah.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Something happened in Afghanistan on December 30th of 2009. Can you talk about that?

              PHIL REILLY:

Sure. That was the suicide bomber attack in Khost where we lost a number of our-- seven, I guess--

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Seven.

              PHIL REILLY:

--seven or eight--

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Seven. Yes.

              PHIL REILLY:

Yeah, one Jordanian and--

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And Khost was a city in eastern Afghanistan.

              PHIL REILLY:

East Afghanistan, close to the Pakistani border that provided critical intelligence on Al Qaeda activities within Pakistan, and for that matter when they crossed the border. It still, to this day, serves as a front line defensive position. But at that time, it was also, along with Jalalabad, the critical place for the collection of intelligence on Al Qaeda.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

So where were you when you heard?

              PHIL REILLY:

I was back home when I heard. I'd left the country on 9 December. And of course, Jennifer Matthews was the base chief killed in that attack. And I remember high-fiving her on the aircraft as I left country as she was coming back from her first short break at home.

It was a gut punch, because a number of friends-- I guess, six people were seriously wounded as well, including a number of friends. It was a tough one. I knew a number of the people involved and who had perished in the attack. It was very, very tough. It was tough for the entire agency population.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Were you at Dover when the bodies--

              PHIL REILLY:

Yes.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

--came home?

              PHIL REILLY:

Yeah. No, I and a lot of our colleagues went to Dover for the repatriation. It was very tough.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

You know what I remember about that is Director Panetta met with the families before the repatriation. And I remember he just -- he forgot all the classification rules. I mean, he told them everything about what those officers were doing-- why they were there, why it was so important. And I just remember watching in their faces, you know, it gave them a deep, deep appreciation of the sacrifice of their loved ones.

              PHIL REILLY:

That's right.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

A remarkable moment.

              PHIL REILLY:

I mean the sacrifice was too great. But the cause was a very, very noble one, what they were trying to do.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

You know, thanks for sharing all that because I think it's very important for people to know the risks that CIA officers face in doing their job. Phil, let me just switch here and draw on your experience in Afghanistan and ask you a few questions about your thoughts on where we are today. Did you support the president's decision for U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan?

              PHIL REILLY:

I do. Absent U.S. troops there-- or U.S. presence, a strong presence-- helping to fight the enemy presence there, I don't think the Afghan government can do it on its own. So you would have a greater problem if we would leave.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

A couple of Afghan experts from our former place of employment told me way back then, back when I was working, that if the U.S. left, the Taliban would be knocking on the door of Kabul in a couple months.

              PHIL REILLY:

I fully agree with that.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And is there any doubt in your mind that if the Taliban came back to power, that they would provide safe haven to Al Qaeda?

              PHIL REILLY:

I think they would. I think they would. Yeah. I mean, unfortunately, Al Qaeda's got other places to go now. There's a lot of ungoverned spaces now in conflict areas that they could go. But yes, I do believe they'd give safe haven again.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

So that's the stay argument, right?

              PHIL REILLY:

Right.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And I'm supportive of the president's decision. I think it was exactly the right thing to do. So that's the stay argument. But even with us there, right, the Taliban today control more territory than at any time since you flew in on that Mi-17. It's kind of remarkable.

              PHIL REILLY:

Yes.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

So what do you think is the best outcome that we can hope for here?

              PHIL REILLY:

That's a very, very tough question, because I don't see any resolution to our current stance. And I don't think that, you know, my grandchildren should be going to Afghanistan, but I don't see how we can remove the capability that is there-- the U.S. government capability that is keeping things in check. And mind, just keeping things in check from the Taliban regaining power. It can't stop suicide bombs and attacks throughout the capital. The enemy can do that with impunity and does.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

And both the Taliban and ISIS.

              PHIL REILLY:

And ISIS, both. And, of course, ISIS wasn't there when I was there. They're there now. So, the off-ramp part is very, very tough for me. You know, we had over 100,000 troops there. And we had a very large State Department and international presence, trying to do what essentially was nation building, and trying to do reconstruction in all the various provinces. It didn't work.

Almost none of those efforts exist now. They've all disappeared. And the projects that many of them were focused on have gone away or not come to fruition. So I don't see how we're going to do it with a small number on the ground. And the cost, the cost at what the West is putting into the Afghan government to keep it afloat-- if that was ever to disappear, that would also lead to collapse.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Right, right, right. So, boy, it's hard, right?

              PHIL REILLY:

Yes.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Phil, just two more questions for you. What was it like spending a career at CIA? What's your main takeaway? What will you always remember?

              PHIL REILLY:

It was an absolutely great career-- I mean, and a life. And not just-- but working for that organization where every day was an adventure-- I mean, very few people, you know, I think, want to go to work. And I'd often be -- when I was in D.C., I'd be at the desk at 6:30 in the morning.

And you wanted to go. You want to turn on that machine and see what was there, because, you know, you're offline at night. I accessed the classified information. You come in in the morning and you turn that machine on, and the world is there in front of you and you're off to the races. It was just fantastic.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

I usually tell people that there wasn't a single day where I didn't want to go to work.

              PHIL REILLY:

Exactly right.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

I used to tell people I looked forward to Mondays, not Fridays, right? And people look at me, like, "What's wrong with you?" It was absolutely true.

              PHIL REILLY:

It's true.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Final question. The "Talibar." (LAUGH) Can you tell folks what that is?

              PHIL REILLY:

Yeah, that was a bar, actually-- oh, okay, within the station spaces--

              MICHAEL MORELL:

In Kabul.

              PHIL REILLY:

--in Kabul in our station, where you could get a drink within moderation. But it -- because it'd been there for a number of years, it picked up all the various souvenirs, people posting things on the walls and--

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Everybody who came through would sign their name, right?

              PHIL REILLY:

Sign their name--

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Sign their name.

              PHIL REILLY:

--and you had various pieces of ordnance, inerted ordnance all over the place and weapons and-- inerted. And it was a great place to really decompress at the end of a long day.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

So-- I mentioned to you this earlier before we started recording-- my goal someday when we're done in that particular location and all that is torn down, that we bring the Talibar back to the CIA museum-- maybe put it next to that Mi-17.

              PHIL REILLY:

I think that's a great idea.

              MICHAEL MORELL:

Phil, thanks for taking the time to be with us.

              PHIL REILLY:

Thanks. Thank you.

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