A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan

Still reading this (found in The Guardian).


However, it is a blunt, objective piece that I doubt that we would have written, let alone released.
I have been out of the 'game' for some time now so I have no recent operational experience to base my comments on other than reading through this paper.

I would say that its just as well the Americans have taken ownership of a strategically weighted document with the words "making intelligence relevant' in its title. For God's Sake surely this is not the right title to use because to me (as a civvy) it simple says "We have not been making intelligence relevant for the last 5 years" 8O

I would like to think that in all our UK military operational experiences we have always worked to a Commander's IRs - and therefore from a UK perspective the words 'intelligence' and 'relevant' should never conflict.

Quote me if I am wrong but if any serving UK Military Officer or DIS bottom shiner had put his name to this you would have thought he would already be picking up his P45?
In the process of reading it - as the OP says, unlikely statements like this would be published in UK:

"The most salient problems are attitudinal, cultural,
and human. The intelligence community’s standard
mode of operation is surprisingly passive about
aggregating information that is not enemy-related
and relaying it to decision-makers or fellow analysts
further up the chain. It is a culture that is strangely
oblivious of how little its analytical products, as they
now exist, actually infuence commanders.
It is also a culture that is emphatic about secrecy
but regrettably less concerned about mission efec-
There's not too much that's surprising in here, except that some of it needed saying in the first place. Illuminating that some of the senior mission commanders seem to be having difficulty imposing their vision above narrow local (nationally driven?) objectives. Agree that the focus for analysts at regional level needs to be on the environmental factors rather than low level fire fighting, but the devil as always will be in the detail - is drought, crop failure, migration, sustainable economic growth a J2 or J9 issue? Certainly there is a J2 impact, but J9 will lead - however it is unclear whether the paper recommends integrating a J2 approach into the J9, or giving J2 a greater say in the analysis of where the J9 should go. I am also unsure what purchase the 'information clearing houses' will have and would suggest that they need to be more active in searching out and distributing information amongst ISAF/UN/ANA/ANP/NDS/NGOs and that some parties may need to be dealt with separately. But isn't that just routine liaison? Certainly a lot of what is being recommended was being done as part of normal business by ISAF elms although it could be improved and US nationals were somewhat in the back seat - so this may be more of a cultural issue for the Americans

Final quick observation on this 'down and dirty' reaction - if commanders leave it to the J2 to tell them what their PIRs are then you get the situation described in the paper. Bit like the one where everyone writes their own job description - instead of me telling the boss what I think my job should be shouldn't he be telling me what he expects? And please - use the RFI system, otherwise J2 can only default to pushing out the same old stuff.
Piglet_Files said:
Quote me if I am wrong but if any serving UK Military Officer or DIS bottom shiner had put his name to this you would have thought he would already be picking up his P45?
You would be surprised P_F.
Mmmm. Two fairly damning papers from two Major Generals in the past couple of days.

So, thus far the British MOD isn't capable of managing its part of the Campaign and most of the Int set up is up the chute.

Oh and Obama has severely criticised the whole US Intelligence effort.

So who is getting it right?
And amusingly for a document which seeks to make life easier and the intelligence better targeted they have released a pdf which is almost unreadable on screen in its current layout...


Book Reviewer
msr said:
And amusingly for a document which seeks to make life easier and the intelligence better targeted they have released a pdf which is almost unreadable on screen in its current layout...
Works for me.
No problems reading the PDF thista! I am worried that I find I agree with it. We are too focused on finding and killing the Taliban instead of providing a safe area for infrastructure imporovement and allowing J9 and NGOs and environment in which they can work. Fine, send out the mean green dealers of death, but once in location findout what the locals want and then create an envrionment that allows that to be completed. Also, listen to what the locals want/need ( I particularly liked the anecdote about the well) and not what we, as westerners, think they would want/need.

I also agree that we are conducting an anti-insurgency campaign and not a COiN one. Wish I had thought of that phrase. and in future I think I will have!!!!
Currently, information this basic to a coordinating a successful counterinsurgency literally is inaccessible to the people who need it most. This failure not only jeopardizes an operation, but also exposes international efforts to ridicule for their ineptitude
This never happened in my day Hurrumph!

[/tounge in cheek]

Pass the free NGO fertiliser over will you ?

........First, they distributed their intelligence analysts down to the company level, and second, they decided that understanding the people in their zone of influence was a top priority.
I wonder how much of this is down to the lamentable failure of Govt agencies other than the military to deliver ? Lacking drive and purpose from above the military, funny old thing, gets stuck into killing people and breaking things. We and the cousins may be tinkering with ROE and so on but the basic assumption appears to be that if we play whack-a-mole with the opposition for long enough then a miracle will happen and peace will break out. That miracle is not, can never be delivered by the military though.

Some of it may also be that delving too far into the reality causes senior officers to get leaned on hard by their political masters for fear of embarassment; after all, a hard look at uncomfortable reality may well lead one to the conclusion that we have backed and continue to back the wrong horse in Karzai; that AFG has not been and will not be a viable nation state with borders as currently drawn; and that our chief achievement to date has been to convert old school confined to AFG anti-drug Taliban 1.0 into the modern, network enabled, drug-powered, multi-national Taliban 2.0. And to create the conditions for AQ franchises to flourish elsewhere.
Is it just me, or does the media reporting bear absolutely no resemblance to the actual contents of the report while trying to insinuate a link between Gen Ferry's thoughts and the Detroit airline bomber incident? (Odd thing to do since Ferry is arguing that less effort should be put into targeting, and more into understanding environmental issues, motivations etc for long term payoff and also confines himself to theatre intelligence)

And I should be surprised, why?
OOTS. I am struggling to make the link between "failing government agencies" and a failure of unit and sub-unit level commanders understanding of their role in Directing the Int Cycle within their AOR. .
Seems fairly clear when you look at the backgrounds of the Authors

This paper, written by the senior intelligence officer in Afghanistan and by a company-grade officer and a senior executive with the Defense Intelligence Agency, critically examines the relevance of the [bold]U.S. intelligence community [/bold] to the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.
Then consider the recommendations:

Among the initiatives Major General Flynn directs:

• Select teams of analysts will be empowered to move between field elements, much like journalists, to visit collectors of information at the grassroots level and carry that information back with them to the regional command level.

• These items will integrate information collected by civil affairs officers, PRTs, atmospherics teams, Afghan liaison officers, female engagement teams, willing non-governmental organizations and development organizations, United Nations officials, psychological operations teams, human terrain teams, and infantry battalions, to name a few.

• These analysts will divide their work along geographic lines, instead of along functional lines, and write comprehensive district assessments covering governance, development and stability. The alternative – having all analysts study an entire province or region through the lens of a narrow, functional line
One thing you have to remember is that the US intelligence community, institutionally and culturally, works very differently from their British counterpart. Their efforts are led almost exclusively by intelligence requirements and the intelligence services are very tightly directed from up on high. They don't have a lot of opportunity to use their initiative or allocate resources to explore areas that their customer hasn't stipulated. There's a world of difference between the US NIC and the UK JIC in this regard. The US community is adamant that they not do not involve themselves in policy prescription, only analysis, and they will accordingly stick strictly to the task they've been given. If the policy-makers want to know about their enemy, then that's what the intelligence community will focus on. On the other hand, the JIC has the freedom to make recommendations and suggest other ideas that the policymakers might want to explore.

Having said that, there's nothing to suggest that anyone doing all-source analysis can't incorporate the recommendations of this report. Is there really much of a need to devote scarce covert assets to discover information that could just as easily be found out through open sources (like 80-85% of the raw intelligence take is anyway)?

Maybe the problem is that, from the policy-maker's perspective, int from open sources just isn't as sexy (or believable) as the int from covert methods. Although the US Int budget has skyrocketed in the last decade, there's still a bureaucratic pressure to make it appear to the customer that they're getting value for money. When you're paying almost $50 billion a year, getting an intelligence estimate that is derived largely from reports by 23yr old State Dept political officers and PRT members probably is going to make you gag a bit.
So, as someone who is not up on these things...

Are the problems of analysis down to the personal biases and experience of the analyst? Lack of cultural understanding etc?
An interesting read, Having worked in Intelligence for most of my career it seems that the hierarchy in Afghanistan have documented a problem that has been known for years by practitioners be it in Law enforcement or Military.

i.e. the intelligence product is only as good as the collection plans. The majority of analysts have a history of being directed/tasked by management who believe they know what the problem is. Most (id say 75%) of the knowledge the management have is media driven, statistics or anecdotal.

We use to use a phrase “budgie smuggling” which was a sarcastic remark made about a senior officers suggestion of intelligence gathering and collection plans.

For example if the press said we had a budgie smuggling problem and made enough noise politically then the management would tell you that we are going to stop budgie smuggling from Monday and set up an operation including an incident room proactive teams, surveillance capacity etc etc.

No one would even look at what the problem was in the first place like which budgies, what are they wanted for, who wants them etc etc

I know it’s a bad example but the system is driven by a need for results so management are driven by a need to please.

Having read the report it seems that some one wants to put their foot on the ball.
adastra said:
OOTS. I am struggling to make the link between "failing government agencies" and a failure of unit and sub-unit level commanders understanding of their role in Directing the Int Cycle within their AOR. .
How can they direct when they have no idea what direction they should be pointing in ? I read the report to say that they get what they need as far as the enemy is concerned, so what else is there, absent guidance from those with alleged primacy in those areas ?

And I'd echo the whole source "sexiness" bias comments; I'm sure anyone who'd been around a while has seen it. It's a Cold War hangover of course.

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