Kilcullen to Me: “You’re a conspiracy theorist.”

Big Chief Counterinsurgent David Kilcullen prefers hagiography to reporting.


This photograph was taken in 2014 at a Washington seminar on Syria where I was finally able to speak directly to David Kilcullen about a story I was preparing about his contracting company, Caerus Global Solutions. As I reported in The Baffler this month, he refused to answer any questions about his publicly funded company, and instead told me this:

I don’t see you as a real reporter. I view you as a conspiracy theorist.

As veteran Matt Hoh told me after he read that, I should take his attack as a badge of honor. I do. Here’s what I reported about him.

True to the playbook of D.C.-based warmaking-for-profit, Kilcullen made the most of his ascension into guruhood by launching a consultancy, Caerus Global Solutions, to monetize the counterinsurgency movement. Within months, he had flipped the advisory work he did for McChrystal and Petraeus into a stream of lucrative contracts from the Pentagon, the State Department, USAID, and the NATO-led International Assistance Force in Afghanistan. In 2011, his first year in business, his company’s gross sales were $4.5 million, 97 percent of which came from Pentagon contracts, according to a government audit of Caerus I obtained. Most of that money was devoted to advisory work for ISAF on counterinsurgency and measuring the “stability” U.S. forces had theoretically created. One of his partners was MEP, the big CNAS donor. In 2013, Caerus and MEP teamed up on a Defense Intelligence Agency contract for Afghanistan that involved Caerus analyzing metadata obtained from NSA intercepts for U.S. “combat intelligence teams” in Afghanistan, according to documents I obtained.

But in 2014, Kilcullen’s company came under the scrutiny of the Defense Security Service, the investigative arm of the assistant secretary of defense for intelligence. I later learned that, while working with Petraeus in Afghanistan on a surveillance project funded by the Pentagon, someone in his company had accessed classified information that Kilcullen, as an Australian national, may not have been cleared to use. He denied any breach of classification rules, and told me for good measure, “I don’t see you as a real reporter. I view you as a conspiracy theorist.” But the breach and the audit of his company were confirmed by the Defense Security Service itself, as well as by one of Kilcullen’s business partners.

After the incident, Kilcullen’s media appearances and public-speaking gigs dropped dramatically. For a while, he shifted his focus to Australia, where he’s become one of the fiercest advocates for an expanded Australian military role—together with the United States—in the war against ISIS. By 2015, he’d returned to the think-tank world at the New America Foundation, where he works with his “Global COIN” ally Peter Bergen on an initiative on the “future of war.”

You can read the entire article here. I will be augmenting my story by posting key documents – watch this space.


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