The New York Times
As President Obama moves to ramp up the United States’ presence in Afghanistan, he might benefit from the lessons learned by one of the C.I.A.’s legends of covert operations, Bill Lair. Mr. Lair ran the C.I.A.’s covert action in the 1960s in Laos, which at its height included 30,000 Hmong tribesmen battling Communist insurgents.
I met Bill Lair when he came to the C.I.A.’s training center in Virginia in 2000 to speak at the graduation ceremony for my class of trainees. His agency career had started in the 1950s in Thailand, where he trained an elite force called the Police Aerial Reinforcement Unit. By the early ’60s, Mr. Lair was in neighboring Laos, trying to build an anti-Communist resistance. Corruption was endemic, poppy cultivation was widespread and the poorly educated Hmong tribesmen of northern Laos were barely out of the Stone Age. Yet Mr. Lair and his unit quickly taught the Hmong to resist the Communist tide using guerrilla tactics suited to their terrain and temperament.
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