Losing the Intelligence and Information War

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 2 months ago

 Sun Tzu — “If I am able to determine the enemy’s dispositions while at the same time I conceal my own then I can concentrate and he must divide.  And if I concentrate while he divides, I can use my entire strength to attack a fraction of his? (The Art of War, VI.13).

While the Department of Defense wastes time and effort on policy for military blogging, MySpace, pictures and e-mail, we are losing the intelligence and information war.  The national debate on the so-called “surge” warned the enemy that new and robust kinetic operations were coming, and specifically, to Baghdad.  Discussing the surge, we pointed out that AQI was previously reported to have been leaving Baghdad and heading for the Diyala province on orders directly from Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who wanted the fighters to avoid a direct house-to-house battle with U.S. forces.

The enemy are students of American politics, and the fact and timetable of the surge were bandied about in open forums and by politicians so long that they couldn’t possibly miss the fact that Baghdad was first and of primary importance.  Rather than die, they fled to fight another day.  Now it appears that we are watching Baghdad surge redux in Baquba.

U.S. troops hoping to directly confront al Qaeda militants in a major offensive in the Iraqi city of Baquba instead found themselves “swimming through a minefield”, a senior officer said on Sunday.

The operation in and around Baquba, capital of volatile Diyala province, is in its sixth day and is a major part of one of the biggest offensives by U.S. and Iraqi forces against the Sunni Islamist group in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion.

Some U.S. officers said they believed the initial combat phase of the offensive is nearly complete and any militants left could be confronted in the next 24 hours. Hundreds of militants were thought to be still holed up in Baquba’s western districts.

But others believe many al Qaeda fighters left Baquba after getting clear signals from U.S. commanders who have said for some time that the city was high on their list of priorities.

“It’s frustrating. You set up something that you know will work … now we know that most of the al Qaeda enemy got away,” said Captain Julian Kemper. “Our purpose was not to push them out somewhere else. It was to end it here.”

Lieutenant-General Ray Odierno, the deputy U.S. commander in Iraq, has said there was little doubt al Qaeda knew that a major offensive was coming.

They watched the news. They understood we had a surge, they understood Baquba was designated as a problem area,” he told Pentagon journalists on Friday.

Colonel Steve Townsend, commander of the 3rd Stryker Brigade, said the latest intelligence indicated some fighters were still inside an American cordon, which has been steadily tightened since the operation began.

The campaign in Diyala, north of Baghdad, as well as offensives in other regions around the capital, is expected to last several weeks.

After heavy street fighting on the first day, Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Baquba has shifted to the slow and dangerous job of clearing scores of buried bombs and booby-trapped houses.

A U.S. jet dropped a precision-guided bomb on one booby-trapped house, setting off a massive secondary explosion.

“Even though we’re not fighting an enemy soldier, we are swimming through his minefield,” Townsend told Reuters.

He expected the combat phase of the operation in Baquba to be over in the next 24 to 48 hours as his men re-checked areas to make sure they had not missed any concealed bombs.

Barriers and checkpoints, manned by Iraqi security forces, were being put up around three of the most troubled districts in west Baquba to prevent al Qaeda slipping back into the city.

Baquba is an al Qaeda stronghold that has also become a sanctuary for militants escaping a security crackdown launched in Baghdad in February.

Tens of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are engaged in the simultaneous offensives in and around Baghdad to deny al Qaeda sanctuary in farmlands and towns from where they launch car bombs and other attacks in the capital and elsewhere.

In Operation Marne Torch, an offensive targeting al Qaeda in Baghdad’s southern “beltlands”, Major-General Rick Lynch said 12 insurgents had been killed and 142 detained.

U.S. and Iraqi forces say they have killed 90 al Qaeda fighters around Baghdad, 55 of them in the Baquba operation.

With more U.S. soldiers engaged in offensives around the country the death toll for U.S. forces has begun to rise in June after hitting a two-and-a-half year monthly high in May of 126, the third highest monthly total since the start of the war.

Eighty U.S. soldiers have been killed so far in June, 28 of them in the past week.

Worse than simply missing some of the AQI leadership, we are now wading through a landscape littered with IEDs.  The knowledge the enemy had of our actions will redound to real casualties of American troops.  Until America learns to have a national conversation without invoking our military strategy, we will educate the enemy with our open deliberations.

Despite the World War II adage “loose lips sinks ships,” focus on blogs, MySpace, pictures, e-mail and telephone discussions is misplaced and wasteful.  The enemy doesn’t need to mine our personal communications to ascertain our strategy.  He only needs to listen to our public discourse.

  • Dominique R. Poirier

    I understand your point, Herschel. Who wouldn’t, anyways? All those open discussions surprised me at some point in the past; but, as ar as I can see, it seems that nobody cares. I know of some other occidental countries that they just do the exact opposite; to the point that all they make publicly available rarely relates to more than boring hackneyed and dusty accounts of wartime intelligence and strategy backing to the sixties.

    All this puzzled me and I wondered what could be the reasons justifying this American openness. For wants of further satisfying explanation I reached to the conclusion that the daily bulk of information publicly released on matters such as U.S. policy, strategy, military affairs and intelligence was too big to be read with all required dedication, filtered, properly analyzed, synthesized and understood. I acknowledge that the enemy is likely to reach to its own assumptions and to correctly identify and select the most serious blogs, websites, publications, and else so as to limit the bulk of open source to a digestible quantity.

    Now, if I were in the enemy shoes I would wonder the same and worry; precisely because things that are of interest to me would seem much too open to be credible. Where is noise and how can I identify it? Is that deception or truth? Hmm, maybe half deception, half truth.

    I have a good example that surges up in my mind while I am writing this comment, which is this polemic around a possible U.S. direct attack against Iran. Very contrary and contradictory opinions and strategies have been made publicly available about this question. For worse, if I may say so, in many cases those opinions, ideas and strategies originated in the minds of reputed and quite credible thinkers and scholars. I am pretty sure that the enemy knows all possible options about this question now; as I am pretty sure that he bloody doesn’t know which the right one is.

    If ever the enemy truly holds this intimate knowledge of the American-Anglo-Saxon people, culture and society, then he has been affraid at some point when he found in some book that Benjamin Disraeli said once: “Frank and explicit – that is the right line to take when you wish to conceal you own mind and confuse the minds of others.?

    Personally, that’s my way of doing things, usually.

    I swear it’s true.


You are currently reading "Losing the Intelligence and Information War", entry #528 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Department of Defense,Intelligence,Iraq,Media,The Art of War and was published June 25th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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