"I have thought of that in terms of what might be sensible to have for the German Army today. I recall that our counter-espionage wing asked to be given authority to operate spies in Afghanistan but that was turned down due to reasons of redundancy with our BND.
That is an old story the US army had with the CIA as well. And I don’t think it’s an accident that the British army created their FRU instead of calling in the MI5 and MI6. I am confident they did but that it was insufficient.
I think one problem is that there is a genuine risk of ‘fracticide’ from inter-service rivalries that invites exploitation by an opponent. There needs to be unity of command and information sharing. All units are modules that form an army. If SOCOM needs to have an independent intelligence wing, good, but then it must be under one command coordinating their efforts with the regular intelligence units, just like Special Forces need to be under one command (as opposed to a separate chain from Florida or DC). There is no way around it. That iirc was one of the things Sir Templar’s reforms made sure in Malaya.
It should also be made clear that the military is subordinate to political decisions in Iraq, made by say, the US ambassador. I believe in Klausewitz dictum that war is the continuation of politics with violent means. Without a realistic political approach determining the military objectives the US can win a thousand skirmishes and still not win the war. The unity of command issue extends well up to the White House level.
The analysis section <i>must</i> get input from all other information gathering sources and services – starting from intercepts, info from interrogation, field reports, reports from other services, access to databases. I also think that that, just like interservice rivalries, can be resolved if there only is the will.
So that means service A needs to know what service B thinks of their common source. It is desirable, I think, that one source is handled by one handler. I also think that there must be ensured that the intelligence gathering focus is right. I think a central service, and in the US that would apply to the DIA as much as the CIA, will be interested in a more strategic picture, wheras army commanders will be interested in tactical and operational informations to help them plan and conduct their operations to achieve their objectives. An army unit will reflect and deliver on army requirements, in that sense it is quite straightforward to have an army unit doing this.
That said, in a cold-war/ defense-of-the-homeland setting where your troops operate on your soil against an outside enemy there is hardly a need for this sort of capability. This requirement exists mostly for expeditionary purposes, peacekeeping or internal unrest.
I think Arun made a good point<blockquote>Presumably, one would want this clandestine HUMINT capability even if there is no overt threat at the moment?</blockquote>You need to have the skills available from the start when you go on such missions. Of course, that we can lament now, but things are they way they are. Question is what lessons you draw.
You need experienced handlers, spies. It takes time to build such expertise. There are few ‘natural spies’ I presume. That is a good argument for having a permanent capability. That also invites centralisation. Maybe such HUMINT units could be formed alongside the Green Berets, as genuine military intelligence HUMINT teams mirroring the regional focus of the Special Forces Groups, ready to be plugged into a regional command, reporting to a G2’s ‘spymaster’, who would also head the analysis section? It would have the benefit of sharing regional expertise and training with recruiting opportunities and cooperation, after all, Green Berets working with locals are also doing HUMINT work, albeit from a slightly different angle. That would decentralise such capabilities to where they are needed while still maintaining coherence.
With the chain of command issue and under the above premise it might be sensible to abolish SOCOM and to replace it by a Special Forces Equipment and Training Command, leaving tasking to regional commanders or task groups while ensuring that the specialises forces get the equipment they need (which that I don’t exactly mean the MV-22). Even though special forces are specially trained, likely every commander needs their unique capabilities when fighting an unconventional campaign. Insofar the current structure apparently seems to reflect cold-war requirements. If a regional commander cannot use specialised forces properly, replace the commander rather than taking the troops out of the chain of command.
Another point is how to keep the handlers ‘sharp’ in peacetime. Domestic use is fraught with peril, legal issues ignore. How do you make use of them without wasting their talent on spying on something as menacing as domestic peacegroups like ‘Grannies knitting for peace’ in war time and and ‘potentially violent undesirables’ in peacetime?
There needs to be perspective which I think is lost to some degree in America when I think about police and military spying on peacegroups and frankly political dissidents. I speak of the 1000+ personnel gizmo happy CIFA/TALON program, and the apparent infiltration of ‘groups of interest’. QED, there is a clear potential for misuse of such assets that bears the seed of scandal to undo even the sensible application of such tools.
One can always ‘lend them’ to other services when they are not required to maintain expertise, that will also help to create links between the institutions. Germany arranged for the GSG-9 counterterrorism force service in local police SWATs to (re-)gain practical expertise after they badly botched a terrorist capture in Bad Kleinen. I can imagine that a theoretician spy can be just as disastrous.
It would help to have a sort of MI5 service that could use such folks, without exposing them for law enforcement (in the sense that their work wouldn’t result in them having to testify in court). In Britain I would suggest the MI5 as a ‘parking station’. They can observe and are not forced to intervene when law is being broken. I don’t know which US intelligence gathering service would be comparable. If they need to temporarily leave the military to meet the standards of Posse Comitatus, so be it. If there is the will, there is a constitutional way to do it.
Maybe the US with their ‘global footprint’ has such requirements on a more regular basis. In that case they could be stationed overseas to build local contacts, and so contribute to base security. Considering the deployment periods to make such units work, develop sources, I think that such a HUMINT capability as an organic part of a deploying unit is not feasible.
Generally, handlers should receive language training and gain regional expertise, preferrably by sending them to the on ‘training assignments’, say, under pretext of Special Forces training missions to friendly countries.
The MI5-like organisation would also provide for a template from where to take expertise needed to create an army analysis capability. That could be done on the same ‘parking station’ basis as with the handlers.
As it is now the US would need to recruit folks who after initial selection and training learn on the job. For analysis they probably need to recruit historians, sociologists, indeed, Arabists, empiricists – I do not believe one can train soldiers in such a way quickly. For the handlers, I would search in formations with language skills and regional knowledge, probably, but not neccessarily, in the Special Forces. It is in my view more economic a use of effort to find someone who has the right mindset and skills and teach him to do the job and survive." Norbert Schulz (Confused Ponderer)