Archive for the 'Intelligence' Category



Sex for Information in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 7 months ago

In an interesting twist on intelligence-gathering, the CIA has found a new tool in its arsenal of weapons.

In an effort to win over fickle warlords and chieftains in Afghanistan and get information from them, CIA officials are handing out Viagra pills in exchange for their cooperation, the Washington Post reports.

“Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people – whether it’s building a school or handing out Viagra,” an agency operative, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Post.

The growing Taliban insurgency has forced the agency to get creative in how they obtain certain information from Afghan warlords and tribal leaders, including Taliban movements and supply routes.

CIA operatives use everything from toys and school equipment to tooth extractions to their advantage and note that if Americans don’t offer incentives, others, including Taliban commanders, will.

Afghan veterans told the Post that the usual bribes of choice – cash and weapons – aren’t always the best options because they can garner unwanted attention and fall into the wrong hands.

“If you give an asset $1,000, he’ll go out and buy the shiniest junk he can find, and it will be apparent that he has suddenly come into a lot of money from someone,” Jamie Smith, a veteran of CIA covert operations in Afghanistan, told the Post.

So rather than shiny junk, what’s better?

The ageing chieftains of rural villages, many of whom have wives who are much younger than them, have proved keen to accept the anti-impotency drug and in exchange give a mass of information on rebels’ movements and supply routes …

Jamie Smith, a veteran of CIA covert operations in Afghanistan, told a newspaper: “You’re trying to bridge a gap between people living in the 18th century and people coming in from the 21st century. So you look for those common things that motivate people everywhere.”

But not everyone is so happy.

I was disheartened and disgusted by Joby Warrick’s lighthearted coverage of the CIA’s Viagra bribes [“Little Blue Pills Among the Ways CIA Wins Friends in Afghanistan,” front page, Dec. 26].

Is the U.S. government “wholeheartedly committed to the full participation of women in all aspects of Afghan society,” as first lady Laura Bush stated on April 6, 2005? Or will women in Afghanistan continue to be sexual chattel to fickle aging and ailing warlords who can be bribed by American operatives so they can feel “back in an authoritative position”?

It seems that this operation spits in the face of every effort to advance the position of women in Afghanistan and throughout the world. Alas, maybe the CIA will continue to do “whatever it takes to make friends and influence people,” regardless of how many people have to be hurt in the process.

So this reader believes that sex hurts the woman to the very core of her ontological being, and therefore opposes the deal.  Whatever the case, it’s surely true that the CIA has undergone organizational learning from the days of the Clinton administration’s destruction of the HUMINT.

A Battleground for Intelligence Services

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 8 months ago

Iraq’s defense minister has weighed in with some interesting insights concerning the future of Iraq.

Iraq’s defence minister warned on Saturday that the Gulf would be infested by pirates and Iraq left at risk of attack by its neighbours if US forces leave the country too soon.

“Coalition forces are currently protecting the Gulf, and our navy will not receive its first ships until April 2009,” Abdel Qader Jassem Mohammed al-Obeidi told a press conference in Baghdad.

If those forces “withdraw precipitously, our gulf will become like the Gulf of Aden, where there have been 95 acts of piracy,” he said.

Obeidi was addressing journalists on his support for the controversial military pact that would allow US troops to remain in Iraq until the end of 2011, a deal now being considered by the Iraqi parliament.

The minister did not enlarge on his remarks or explain how the Gulf would become prey to pirates when one of its littoral states, Bahrain, is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

The Gulf, which supplies the bulk of world oil imports, is also bordered by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Iran, all of whose navies patrol the waterway.

Somali-based pirates have in recent months been plaguing shipping in the Gulf of Aden and in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa.

Obeidi also said Iraqi territory risks being attacked by neighbouring states, referring to Turkey’s bombing of Turkish Kurdish PKK rebels in their mountain hideaways of northern Iraq.

“Today, Iraq is the target of bombing from abroad but it is limited because the (US-led) coalition represents a dissuasion force,” he said.

“If it not there any more, the whole country risks being the target of shooting, even (the southern port of) Basra, and they will justify their actions by referring to information on a PKK base there,” the minister said.

Obeidi also said his country has turned into “a battleground for different foreign intelligence services,” without naming any countries.

“Iraqi security forces, backed by the coalition, must impose a limit on their activities, of which Iraqis are the victims,” the defence minister added.

Iranian Quds, Syrian intelligence, and so on, are in Iraq battling for preeminence – and the Iraqi Defense Minister knows it and makes it clear that there is more that must be done in Iraq. The roles filled by U.S. forces going forward will be fundamentally different that before, with focus on border security (e.g., the Marines in Anbar have their eyes trained on the Syrian border), training, backup of ISF, sea and air space security.

But there is a very real need to continue the high value target campaign that has been going on for months now in Iraq. Whereas in Afghanistan we have incorrectly attempted to employ a strategy of high value targets rather than counterinsurgency, in Iraq the counterinsurgency campaign has now given way to a campaign against high value targets, which is the right order.

This campaign won’t simply employ the U.S. military. The Captain’s Journal has made it clear that U.S. intelligence will engage Iranian intelligence or we will lose the region regardless of what happens in Iraq. Iraq is the primary battleground at the moment as noted by the Iraqi Defense Minister. But the covert war has been going on for years, and we must be willing to play “hard ball” in order to be in the same league with the Iranians.

And what would such U.S. engagement look like? We mustn’t forget Iranian General Qassem Suleimani, who is the primary commander of the Iranian covert war with the U.S., and to whom General Petraeus had to turn to request that the summer 2008 artillery shelling of the green zone be halted.

Bullying, arrests, much better human intelligence and targeting of people like General Suleimani must be employed or the covert war will be lost. The Israeli Mossad understands that they are engaged in a deadly serious effort for self-preservation and behaves accordingly. Thus far in Iraq, the effort has also been deadly for U.S. warriors. The full engagement of all U.S. resources is necessary to finalize the gains in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and this means actions that make some squeamish. But the squeamish should find other things to occupy their attention, and we must do what needs to be done.

The Role of International Intelligence in the Mughniyeh Assassination

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 6 months ago

As expected, there is world wide buzz over the involvement of the international intelligence community in the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh.  In addition to the public claims by Hezbollah that the Mossad directed the event, there is the assertion that the U.S. masterminded the plan.

A Kuwaiti newspaper reports that Hizbullah terrorist chief Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a car-bomb attack in Damascus on Tuesday, was in the midst of planning major terrorist attacks in moderate Arab countries when he was killed. 

Al-Watan reports that American intelligence had learned that Mughniyeh arrived in Damascus three days earlier with instructions from, and in coordination with, the Iranians.  His objective was to meet with Hizbullah leaders and coordinate a mass attack, for which he was to receive help from Syrian intelligence.

The American involvement in the killing is explained as being in retaliation for a recent car bomb attack that targeted a U.S. Embassy vehicle; three passersby (sic).

Another Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Siasa, reports that Mughniyeh took part, shortly before he was killed, in a secret meeting in the Iranian School in Damascus.  Also participating in the meeting were Syrian Intelligence Chief Gen. Aisaf Shwackath, Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, and an Islamic Jihad representative.  On the agenda: planned attacks in Arab countries that refuse to take part in the coming Arab League summit in Damascus.  The newspaper entertains the possibility that the meeting was merely a camouflage for Syrian involvement in Mughniyeh’s killing.

In addition to Mughniyeh’s atrocities against America and her interests there is no question that the U.S. administration was desirous of his demise.  Mughniyeh trained Moqtada al Sadr’s forces in Iraq, the Mahdi Army.  In fact, in case there was any remaining doubt as to the inclinations of Sadr and his followers, al Sadr declared three days of mourning after learning of the assassination of Mughniyeh.  As I stated in Assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, I continue to believe that the U.S. was not involved in the assassination plan, at least not directly.  The report of American involvement is possibly disinformation.  If the CIA was involved, it is a good sign of the resurgence of the field capabilities and human intelligence of the CIA.  This report sweeps from blaming the U.S. to Syria.  But Syria either looks inept or complicit.

A Western diplomat based in Damascus said the incident was a double embarrassment for Syria — “on account of (Mughniyeh) being here and because they could not protect him.”

“The Syrian security agencies have a lot of explaining to do as to how a hit like this could be carried out in a city that’s remarkably secure,” said Jon Alterman, head of the Middle East program at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Some in the security services were either caught unaware or are complicit in the killing,” he said.

Kuwait also had reason to want him dead.

The Interior Ministry confirmed Mughnieh’s role. Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Khaled al-Sabah was quoted Wednesday that “all of Kuwait is pleased by Mughnieh’s killing.” He was also quoted as saying that “The killing of the criminal Imad Mughniyeh was divine vengeance from those who killed the sons of Kuwait and threw them from planes at Limasol Airport in Cyprus,” the minister said.

Most Kuwaiti dailies welcomed his assassination and recalled the hijackings, the killing of two Kuwaiti passengers and the series of bombings. The 17 prisoners consisted of 12 Iraqis who belonged to the Dawa party of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and five Lebanese, one of them Ilyas Saab, the brother-in-law of Mughnieh, according to Kuwaiti dailies. Kuwaiti courts convicted three of them to death and the rest to various jail terms. Three others were sentenced to death in absentia, allegedly including Iraq lawmaker Jamal Jafaar Mohammed of the Dawa party.

Yet it doesn’t end there.  Internal Lebanese politics and civil war (due to actions by Hezbollah) has taken its toll on the balance of power in the Middle East, and sabers are rattling.

There was alarm when Walid Jumblatt used the word “war” in a statement on Sunday in Baaqlin. The Druze leader’s words were harsh, even if he did not say that he welcomed war, but only made his willingness to fight one conditional on the opposition’s wanting war. But Lebanon has been split by a cold civil war for over a year now, and as the country commemorates the third anniversary of Rafik Hariri’s assassination today, Jumblatt’s rhetoric may have, paradoxically, helped stabilize the situation – even if stabilization remains a relative concept.

The assassination in Damascus of Imad Mughniyeh, whatever its larger implications, may actually bolster this modest stability. Hizbullah’s leadership will likely need time to assess where it is, and what Mughniyeh’s killing means for the party and its relations with Tehran.

Syrian security forces have arrested several Palestinian suspects in connection with the assassination, but this may be for show.  The smoke still hasn’t cleared concerning this assassination.  However, one thing is clear.  Mughniyeh was considered untouchable and to most unrecognizable,” a senior intelligence source said. “This is a monumental intelligence achievement.”

2-13-08 Intelligence Roundup

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 6 months ago

Four Arrested in U.S.-China Spy Case

The US on Monday announced a series of arrests in cases involving alleged spying by the Chinese government, including one where a Pentagon official was alleged to have helped Beijing obtain secret information.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Gregg Bergersen, a Pentagon employee with top secret security clearances, for allegedly providing a Chinese government agent with information about US weapons sales to Taiwan. In another case, Chung Dongfan, a former Boeing employee, was arrested for economic espionage involving US military programmes.

Pakistan Nuclear Technicians Abducted

Two employees of Pakistan’s atomic energy agency have been abducted in the country’s restive north-western region abutting the Afghan border.

Police say the technicians went missing on the same day as Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin, was reportedly abducted in the same region.

Russian Bomber Buzzed U.S. Ships

U.S. fighter planes intercepted two Russian bombers flying unusually close to an American aircraft carrier in the western Pacific during the weekend, The Associated Press has learned.

A U.S. military official says that one Russian Tupolev 95 buzzed the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz twice, at a low altitude of about 2,000 feet, while another bomber circled about 50 nautical miles out. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because the reports on the flights were classified as secret.

Pro-Pakistan Government Tribal Elders Killed by Bomber in Waziristan

A suicide bomber killed six pro-government tribal elders and wounded nine others in Edak village in North Waziristan’s Mirali sub-district on Monday.  Local people said that a pro-government peace committee had been in session when the bomber struck at 12.55pm. Tribal elders were planning to form a force comprising local volunteers to go after foreign militants in the area.

Witnesses said the suicide bomber entered the open courtyard close to Madressah Nizamia and mingled with the people who were attending the meeting.  Haji Nekam, a tribal elder who heads the Edak peace committee, was wounded in the incident. He had survived an earlier bomb attempt on his life by militants.  ANP leader Nisar Ali Khan, who is contesting polls from North Waziristan as an independent candidate, also suffered injuries. He was said to be stable last night.

Muslim Aid Leaving Pentagon

In a stunning turn of events, a high-level Muslim military aide blamed for costing an intelligence contractor his job will step down from his own Pentagon post, WND has learned.

Meanwhile, his rival, Maj. Stephen Coughlin, a leading authority on Islamic war doctrine, may stay in the Pentagon, moving from the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the office of the secretary of defense. However, sources say a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey is trying to block his new contract.

The top Pentagon aide, Egyptian-born Hesham H. Islam, came under a cloud of suspicion after reports raised doubt about his resume and contacts he had made with radical Muslims. He is expected to leave the government next month, officials say.

Islam and Coughlin recently quarreled over intelligence briefings Coughlin presented showing a close connection between the religion of Islam and terrorism. Coughlin’s contract with the Joint Chiefs, which ends in March, was not renewed.

Pakistani Army Officers Recalled from Civil Posts

Pakistan Army on Monday called back all its serving officers from 23 civil departments, in what is being termed here as part of a plan to improve the image of the armed forces.

“More than 300 army officers are presently working in various civil departments and majority of them have been asked to report to the General Headquarters (GHQ) immediately,” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj-Gen Athar Abbas told Dawn here on Monday.

He said the army authorities had written a letter to the federal government asking it to relieve all serving military officers from civil departments.

The move is in line with a decision taken by the 106th Corps Commanders’ Conference on Feb 7. The conference was presided over by Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who had in an earlier statement, directed army officers to “stay away from political activities.”

The army chief’s decisions about reversal of officers from civil departments and restrictions on meeting politicians have been lauded by the civil society and all major political parties.

The induction of army officers in civil organisations has always been a controversial issue and has been questioned on different forums, including parliament.

The reversal of this policy is part of an ongoing diminution of the preceived power, authority and standing of the Pakistan army.  The army is seen as the center of gravity of Pakistan society, the king-maker, and the stabilizing force.  Or at least, this was once so.

U.S. Intelligence Failures: Dual Taliban Campaigns

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 6 months ago

In Taliban Campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we analyzed the Asia Times report that “Mullah Omar has sacked his own appointed leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, the main architect of the fight against Pakistani security forces, and urged all Taliban commanders to turn their venom against North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces.”  Mullah Omar hasn’t forgotten about Afghanistan, and his ultimate aim is to govern her again.  The focus on Pakistan internal struggles by Baitullah Mehsud is to Mullah Omar a distraction from what the real aim of the Taliban should be.

Our brief analysis of the data concluded that “both Mullah Omar and Baitullah Mehsud will likely continue operations, even if Omar intends to focus on Afghanistan and Mehsud intends to carry out operations first in Pakistan.  Even if there are fractures at the top levels of the organization, the loyalty of the fighters to the cause will supersede and overcome personality differences.  The fight, they say, will continue unabated, having temporarily subsided in the winter.”

Yet there were discouraging signs of U.S. intelligence failures, as Army Major General David Rodriguez stated that he didn’t believe that there would be a Taliban offensive in the spring of 2008, because “the Taliban and al-Qaida fighters see new opportunities to accelerate instability inside Pakistan.”  Much is also being made of the apparent lack of a spring 2007 Taliban offensive, but we also discussed the report by the Afghanistan NGO security office which totally disagrees “with those who assert that the spring offensive did not happen and would instead argue that a four-fold increase in armed opposition group initiated attacks between February to July constitutes a very clear-cut offensive.”

In Baitullah Mehsud: The Most Powerful Man in Waziristan, we followed up this report by studying the man and his beliefs and followers in Waziristan, and then provided further analysis regarding the future of the Taliban: “This power and ‘moral authority’ will prevent Mullah Omar’s attempt to sack him and regain control of the Pakistan Taliban from succeeding.  This data still points to multiple Taliban fronts in 2008: one in Afghanistan, and the other in Pakistan.”

These analyses are very clear and run directly contrary to the analysis of Major General David Rodriguez regarding the nature of the Taliban and their intentions.  Just today, Dawn provides us with the following analysis and reporting on the Taliban organizational split and what we can expect them to focus on in the coming months.

The Taliban in Afghanistan have distanced themselves from Pakistani militants led by Baitullah Mehsud, saying they don’t support any militant activity in Pakistan.

“We do not support any militant activity and operation in Pakistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Dawn on telephone from an undisclosed location on Monday.

The spokesman denied media reports that the Taliban had expelled Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.

“Baitullah is a Pakistani and we as the Afghan Taliban have nothing to do with his appointment or his expulsion. We did not appoint him and we have not expelled him,” he said.

A spokesman for Baitullah Mehsud has already denied the expulsion report in a Hong Kong magazine and said that the militant leader continued to be the amir of Tehrik-Taliban Pakistan.

“He has not been expelled and he continues to be the amir of Pakistani Taliban,” Baitullah’s spokesman Maulavi Omar said.

The Asia Times Online in a report last week claimed that the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had removed Baitullah from the leadership of the Taliban movement for fighting in Pakistan at the expense of ‘Jihad’ in Afghanistan.

“We have no concern with anybody joining or leaving the Taliban movement in Pakistan. Ours is an Afghan movement and we as a matter of policy do not support militant activity in Pakistan,” the Taliban spokesman said.

“Had he been an Afghan we would have expelled him the same way we expelled Mansoor Dadullah for disobeying the orders of Mullah Omar. But Baitullah is a Pakistani Talib and whatever he does is his decision. We have nothing to do with it,” Mr Mujahid maintained.

“We have nothing to do with anybody’s appointment or expulsion in the Pakistani Taliban movement,” he insisted.

Baitullah, who has been accused of plotting the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto, told Al Jazeera in an interview that he had taken baya’h (oath of allegiance) to Mullah Muhammad Omar and obeyed his orders.

But the Taliban spokesman said the oath of allegiance did not mean that Pakistani militants were under direct operational control of Mullah Omar.

“There are mujahideen in Iraq who have taken baya’h to Mullah Omar and there are mujahideen in Saudi Arabia who have taken baya’h to him. So taking baya’h does not mean that Mullah Omar has direct operational control over them,” the spokesman said.

This places a clean face on the organizational split and allows the powerful Baitullah Mehsud to pursue his own (and al Qaeda’s) ambitions of overthrow of Musharraf’s government, while also focusing Mullah Omar and his fighters on their real aim of re-taking Afghanistan.  This follows and is entirely consistent with our own analyses.

The Bush administration isn’t satisfied with intelligence on the groups operating out of Pakistan’s Waziristan province.  The top NATO commander has also recently weighed in on Afghanistan, requesting better intelligence-gathering systems for the campaign, including “surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities,” Craddock said during an interview with The Associated Press. “I think we’re seeing now the value to cross check and reference different sensors and make sure we’ve got a better perspective.”  But sensors are of little value when basic intelligence analysis by a Military Blog such as the Captain’s Journal proves to be better than that of a Major General and his intelligence assets.

Concerning Iran, the National Intelligence Estimate, and Sunni Arabs

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 8 months ago

Concerning the poorly named ‘National Intelligence Estimate’ on the state of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a leading Iraqi newspaper Azzaman has an interesting editorial response.

U.S. President George W. Bush’s statements on dangers of Iran’s nuclear program have become almost meaningless and are made solely for rhetorical parade purposes indicating that Iran is about to reap yet another victory.

This means that war is a possibility only in the imagination of those betting that Iran is no longer a crucial player in the big powers’ geopolitics of the Gulf and Iraq.

As for the Arabs, they now look like simple-minded people who the U.S. administration could drag to the conference in Annapolis to sit down side by side with the Israelis in the belief that a war with Iran was imminent.

Washington has no more option left from now on but to appease Iran with regard to Iraq file. Washington needs Iran’s protection when the hour for withdrawal strikes.

Iran is not naïve and stupid. It has longstanding strategic interests in Iraq with a bearing on developing the country’s oil riches. It wants to link Iraq’s economy intricately with its own so that no government will be in a position in the future to shun Iran’s hegemony.

Washington was late in giving Iran the clean bill of nuclear health. But as arrangements for U.S. withdrawal are being made, it had no choice but to pursue the path of appeasement.

The U.S. should have signed a memorandum of understanding with the government in Tehran rather than Baghdad for plans calling for long-term military presence in the country.

It is not the first time the U.S. dupes the oil-rich Gulf states. The U.S. has deceived these countries several times in the past on fears of external threats.

But belatedly the countries have discovered the U.S. deceit. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad allayed these fears by appealing to them to enter into security partnership to protect themselves against ‘external dangers’ much far beyond the Gulf’s borders.

The Arab Gulf states have come to realize that Iran as a neighbor is the country to stay while America which has been using them has created the Iranian scourge for its own narrow political interests.

This is a scathing rebuke of the NIE and its conclusions.  There is obvious hatred of Persian hegemony in these words, but they are valuable if for no other reason than as a display of what Arab Sunnis think about the U.S. and its “appeasement” of Iran.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates fired at Iran soon after the release of the NIE, saying:

“Astonishingly, the revolutionary government of Iran has, for the first time, embraced as valid an assessment of the United States intelligence community — on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. And since that government now acknowledges the quality of American intelligence assessments, I assume that it will also embrace as valid American intelligence assessments of:

— Its funding and training of militia groups in Iraq;

— Its deployment of lethal weapons and technology to both Iraq and Afghanistan;

— Its ongoing support of terrorist organizations — like Hezbollah and Hamas — that have murdered thousands of innocent civilians; and

— Its continued research on development of medium-range ballistic missiles that are not particularly cost-effective unless equipped with warheads carrying weapons of mass destruction.”

But like those who went before him with Middle Eastern concerns and issues, Gates wrongly ascribes Aristotelian logic to the situation.  The radical Mullahs in Iran care not one bit about their inconsistency, and know all of the things that Gates discusses, while at the same time revelling in the release of the thinking of the U.S. ‘intelligence’ community.  So the damage has been done.

We have pointed out that the U.S. will be in Iraq for years, and possibly decades, due to the inability of Iraq to field armed forces capable of border security and conventional operations.  That day of reckoning to which Azzaman refers when the U.S. withdraws may not be coming for quite some time, and the dancing and celebrating of the Iranian elite may be a tad too soon.  Even U.S. field grade officers recognize the evolving mission for what it is: containment of Iran.

Behind a maze of concrete blast walls rising from a desolate desert landscape that once was the scene of pitched battles between the armies of Iran and Iraq, a new American base is springing to life.

Located 4 miles from the Iranian border near the Iraqi town of Badrah, Patrol Base Shocker has been home to 240 soldiers and contractors, including 55 U.S. troops, a handful of Department of Homeland Security officers and a contingent of soldiers from the Eastern European nation of Georgia since the base became operational in mid-November.

The base lacks the comforts of many of the larger U.S. bases in Iraq, but it is luxurious compared to some of the dozens of small patrol bases that have sprung up around Iraq as part of the new counterinsurgency strategy, most of which are intended to be temporary. Here there are trailers for soldiers to live in, hot showers, a dining facility and a cavernous gym complete with new running and rowing machines.

And though the U.S. troops here were deployed as part of the surge of U.S. brigades dispatched to Iraq earlier this year, they will not be withdrawn when the surge brigades are drawn down, something U.S. commanders have said will happen by the middle of next year.

Instead, the intention is to maintain “a continuous presence” in the border area, training Iraqi border guards, looking for smuggled weapons and monitoring the flow of goods and people from Iran, according to Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch of the 3rd Infantry Division, under whose command the base falls.

The new base along the Iranian border illustrates another shift in the U.S. military’s Iraq mission. From toppling Saddam Hussein to searching for weapons of mass destruction to defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq, checking Iran’s expansive influence within the new Iraq has emerged as a key U.S. goal.

Containing Iran “is now clearly part of our mission,” Lynch said in an interview during a tour of the base.

Clearly Secretary Gates and the leadership at the Pentagon is aware of the Iranian issue, and while we at the Captain’s Journal would like to have seen more done to “persuade” Iran to behave, the wheels are in motion.  But one lesson from the story must be that there is no valid reason and no legitimate excuse for divulging operational security.

In an atmosphere where the Department of Defense crafts regulations concerning military bloggers because they are concerned about OPSEC, it is strange that the national intelligence infrastructure would be so eager to release information that cannot be helpful to U.S. interests, and cannot help but be helpful to the enemy.  Regardless of the information communicated, it was a profoundly bad idea to issue the NIE.  Nothing good came from it.  As a result of the decision to do so, the Iranians are celebrating, and the Sunni Arabs are fearful and angry over being taken for fools once again.

Intelligence Relational Database?

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 8 months ago

Captain Tim Hsia, U.S. Army, has written a thoughtful and provocative article at the Small Wars Journal Blog entitled Intelligence Collection and Sharing. Captain Hsia begins by cataloging the sundy reasons for the paucity of good local and regional intelligence and other information.

When a unit assumes battle space within Iraq the first thing that a commander receives from his higher headquarters is a plethora of maps detailing major avenues of approach, religious divides, key figures, demographics, key infrastructure, etc. However, much of the intelligence is outdated or watered down, and the source of this data is often unattributed. The source of this intelligence is necessary in order to winnow the chaff from the wheat. The intelligence received from higher headquarters can come from multiple sources, which oftentimes can be suspect and unverifiable. For example, is this intelligence derived from an Iraqi Army soldier, Iraqi policeman, neighborhood councils, street vendor, coalition signal assets, or from the previous military units who have operated within the current Area of Operations? Additionally, this initial trove of intelligence oftentimes provides just the basics and does not delve into more important issues that commanders need to know, such as the amount of money U.S. forces have spent developing the local infrastructure, the number of discontinued projects and reasons for their discontinuance, the quality of local leaders, and the attitudes of those leaders toward the U.S. military.Counterinsurgencies are not won by more soldiers, cutting edge technology, or more lethal weapon systems. Rather insurgents are defeated when the pacifying force fully understands the local citizenry, when the people identify with the pacifying force, and when there is an abundance of timely information which allows the pacifying force to apply their intelligence to operations that result in overturning and disrupting insurgent activity. Despite the great advances in the U.S. military’s ability to leverage technology to gain intelligence, it has been less successful in storing and synchronizing the historical data compiled during the past several years in its campaigns in the Middle East.

When a unit redeploys to the states they usually dump all of their electronic files to their counterparts in no systematic or coherent manner. This is the ideal situation, though if they are on a more limited timeline they might just pass off the most essential information. With units being continually shifted around Iraq with little or no notice to respond to increased violence in different areas, it has been almost impossible for units to properly pass off their intelligence to the next battle space owner or more importantly to future units that will operate in their sector. At best the problem a commander faces is an abundance of information that is improperly cataloged. Oftentimes however it is the worse case scenario in which commanders and diplomats encounter, a difficult situation where they have little to no information regarding a region or locale

As a sidebar note, if Captain Hsia is arguing for a small footprint model of counterinsurgency, he has history with which to contend (the problems in Operation Iraqi Freedom II and III caused by inadequate force size and force projection, as well as the problems in Afghanistan from the same). But continuing with the point of his article, he advocates a rather remarkable solution to this problem.

A way to remedy the chaotic state of intelligence management is to create a central intelligence collection platform that will allow any unit to upload operation summaries, economic analysis, tribal networks, environmental analysis, and graphical overlays into a central site that future commanders can access when they assume an assigned battle space. Currently all military units in Iraq and Afghanistan have access to a worldwide SIPR (secure Internet protocol router) network which allows them to access, view, and transmit secret information. Expanding this network to encompass a more centralized program of data sharing would not require any additional hardware. A fusion of geography and intelligence within a centralized network can ensure that commanders arrive at any location with the necessary intelligence derived from years of work by previous agencies and military units that have already provided a framework for understanding the enemy and the people in his assigned area. Commanders could then be spared the countless man hours recollecting data that has already been captured thru blood, sweat, and tears. A solution to the current intelligence blackhole would be to collect, store, and sift this data into a intel site organized in a manner replicating stock market data.

The appeal for such a system is strong. I started the category The Anbar Narrative in order to begin to capture snippets of perspectives and information regarding the campaign in Anbar in its various manifestations. I have exchanged perspectives with Lt. Col. Gian Gentile at the Small Wars Journal in which I have taken the position that the campaign in Iraq can be at least partially categorized as a counterinsurgency, while he has clearly said multiple times that it is only a civil war. Gentile’s perspective doesn’t affect the Anbar narrative, but it does go to show that the region and locale within Iraq can deeply affect the way a participant sees the situation. In Anbar and to the East around Ramadi, the Anbar narrative became all about tribes “flipping.” In Fallujah, tribal sheikhs were irrelevant and kinetic operations, gated communities and biometrics were the order of the day, and the muktars were much more important than the sheikhs. To the West in Haditha, fighters from Syria were problematic and earthern berms were necessary to isolate the area from outside influences. In Basra, the story is one of competing Shi’a gangs and thugs in a struggle for power. In Kirkuk there is a mixed Sunni, Shi’a and Kurdish population, and like Baghdad, civil war might be a better description of the circumstances. No single narrative fully explains the complexity of the Iraq experience. Combined with personalities, monies spent successfully and wasted, and other exigencies of the battle space, one can easily be overwhelmed by the data and information. And if we cannot even get our history right while the campaign is ongoing, how can we expect to pass on more particular and detailed information with precision?But the solution Captain Hsia profers is overwhelming as well. Note well what is being advocated. Graphical overlays, potential enemy information, (probably) census information, operational summaries, and on the list goes. All of this would have to be in a database, searchable on name (enemy), operational details (e.g., what were the locations and patrol sizes when IEDs were encountered, were distributed operations successful against enemy snipers, etc.). This means that such a database would have to be a relational database. This means that those who enter the information and access the information would have to be trained in this relational database (search query criteria, required entry information and formatting, etc.). This means that in order to deploy such a system across the armed forces in a consistent manner, a defense contractor will be at work for years to develop such a system and training for its operation would be implemented only over subsequent years in order to put it to use.We have noted with lament that the U.S. armed forces is at war, and the public has not yet mobilized for this war. Defense Secretary Gates is having trouble deciding to wean the Army off of a fifty year old cold war by re-deploying from the European theater, and the Afghanistan campaign suffers from a lack of force projection. And yet we are discussing millions and years more to deploy an integrated relational database for battle space intelligence!We like the idea, but we are realistic about it. It pays to profer the idea when its need is seen, but it also pays to point out the scope of the project. This scope is likely to kill the project before it ever gets off the ground.

Losing the Intelligence and Information War

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 1 month 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

Intelligence Bulletin #1

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 5 months ago

Intelligence bulletin #1 covers the following subjects: [1] Iran’s Quds forces, [2] international war against the CIA, [3] recent combat action in Ramadi, [4] State Department unauthorized absence in the global war on terror, [5] British pullback from Iraq and the Mahdi army, [6] Iranian activities inside Iraq and Israeli concerns, [7] the M-16, [8] speculation on thermobaric weapons inside Iraq, [9] the wounded, and [10] A-10 flyover video.

Iran’s Quds forces

The Quds Force is an arm of the IRGC that carries out operations outside of Iran.  The AP recently reported on Iran’s highly secretive Quds forces being deeply enmeshed within Iraq:

Iran’s secretive Quds Force, accused by the United States of arming Iraqi militants with deadly bomb-making material, has built up an extensive network in the war-torn country, recruiting Iraqis and supporting not only Shiite militias but also Shiites allied with Washington, experts say.

Iran likely does not want a direct confrontation with American troops in Iraq but is backing militiamen to ensure Shiites win any future civil war with Iraqi Sunnis after the Americans leave, several experts said Thursday.

The Quds Force’s role underlines how deeply enmeshed Iran is in its neighbor — and how the U.S. could face resistance even from its allies in Iraq if it tries to uproot Iran’s influence in Iraq.

But as quickly as the connection between the Shi’ite insurgency and Iran is pointed out, the report equivocates, saying “still unclear, however, is how closely Iran’s top leadership is directing the Quds Force’s operations — and whether Iran has intended for its help to Shiite militias to be turned against U.S. forces.”  This line is parroted in a recent Los Angeles Times article on the same subject, as the subtitle reads “Does the government control the Quds Force? Experts aren’t sure.”  Picking up on the same AP report, Newsday says the same thing.

As I discussed in The Covert War with Iran, the deep involvement of the Quds Forces, Badr Brigade and other Iranian personnel assets in Iraq is undeniable.  But it is fashionable to bifurcate the actions of the Quds and Badr Brigade from the “highest levels of government in Iran.”  Even General Peter Pace does this, recently saying after reviewing the intelligence on Iran’s involvement in Iraq, “that does not translate that the Iranian Government per se, for sure, is directly involved in doing this…What it does say is that things made in Iran are being used in Iraq to kill coalition soldiers.

Announcing the Intelligence Bulletin

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 5 months ago

I have been blogging for more than half a year now, and the evolution has occurred from short, cantankerous posts to more sweeping analyses generally on one of several themes and usually dealing with issues associated with Iraq, counterinsurgency, weapons and tactics, policy and warfare.  These broader, more sweeping analyses were modeled after the work that David Danelo, Michael Fumento, Josh Manchester and Westhawk have done.  But I have found that I am constrained by several things that make this uncomfortable to me.

First, this style of writing is generally third person, emotionally disconnected, and reads more like term papers for college.  It is also more difficult and time consuming to generate, and I usually cannot draft more than an analysis per two or three days (and sometimes not that frequently).  I will continue to generate these analyses, but if I stick exclusively to this style, there is a vast swath of news and information that we are missing.  I am missing the opportunity to provide commentary on it, and the readers are missing the opportunity to respond with comments.

Further, the exclusive focus on a single theme (or a few themes) for each article is constraining, and I want to be able to convey larger quantities of information and analyses than this style allows.  So I am introducing the “Intelligence Bulletin.”  Of course, it will convey only open source information, so no OPSEC will be compromised.  However, recent events have convinced me once again that no matter how much time or energy a person has, no one can find and digest all of the available information.

By calling this the Intelligence Bulletin, the hope is not merely to rehearse old news, but rather, to find trends, patterns, and little-known but important stories.  Since I cannot find and analyze everything, the readers are invited to use the comments forum to follow up on my analyses.  Of course, as always, rude and insulting comments will be deleted.  I am not sure how all of this will transpire in the future or how many of these I will write, but hopefully we can weave together some important ideas into a tapestry that makes the issues that interest us more understandable.  If it doesn’t work out, there is nothing lost except a bit of effort.  Finally, readers can send links and analysis themselves that I can use as a building block for future bulletins.


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