The Pentagon’s top intelligence officer declined to answer questions about the revelation last week of a classified report that concluded North Korea may be able to launch a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile.
Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which authored the classified assessment, appeared at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington to discuss a new study published by the organization, titled “Trends in Militancy across South Asia: A Region on the Brink.”
“I want to talk about South Asia today,” he said in response to a reporter’s question about his agency’s assessment of North Korea.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., made headlines on April 11 when during a House Armed Services Committee hearing he read what he said was an unclassified section of the report that concluded North Korea “has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles; however, the reliability will be low.”
In a subsequent interview with Military.com, Lamborn said he cited the document in a public forum to draw attention to the fact that the Pentagon plans to reduce funding for missile-defense programs next year.
“We should not be cutting missile defense, especially at this point in time,” Lamborn said. “The bellicose statements that North Korea is making should cause everyone to want to make sure that that part of our defense and that part of our national security is as strong as possible.”
Flynn also didn’t answer questions about the April 15 bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon that killed at least three people and injured more than 100 people in what some lawmakers have called a terrorist attack.
“It’s a real tragedy and the viciousness in the way this thing was executed is really sad,” said Flynn, who’s from Rhode Island. He said his nephew ran in the race and that his sister has participated in it “probably a couple dozen times.”
The bombing is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is collaborating with law enforcement agencies and the military. The Navy dispatched an explosive ordnance disposal team to the city and hundreds of members of the Massachusetts National Guard remain on hand to provide security, bomb disposal and communications services.
Lawmakers briefed on the investigation said the attack, with its two coordinated explosions and the discovery of at least two more explosive devices, had all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.
“We just don’t know whether it’s foreign or domestic,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said.
Flynn did say at least 27 militant groups operate in the South Asia region, which includes countries such as Pakistan, India, India and Nepal. In addition, about 20 countries with rising populations are “poorly governed, under-governed, not governed, and I think it’s really important that we understand that.”
The CSIS study warns the departure of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan may not translate into fewer attacks on Western targets in the region and elsewhere.
“Similar to the defeat and withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan [in] 1989, militant groups perceive a similar outcome for ISAF, and the United States,” it states, referring to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. “This sense of jihadist ‘victory’ may have an immensely stimulative effect both on locally-oriented militants … and on global actors.”
The CSIS study recommends for the U.S. to continue to devote intelligence and other resources to the region, target the financing of militant activities, and strengthen regional security and diplomatic alignments, especially with India, among other efforts.