This is an interesting story, but it is not of great importance. The British company involved is doing analytic work in support of a wide variety of US government connected reconstruction and logistical activities who need to have some organized group take available reports of incidents and government statements and produce analytic reports which tell them how dangerous any particular place or activity is on a given day. They want to know this so as to judge the risks of daily operations across the country. The media’s egregious inability to call intelligence activity anything but "intelligence gathering" results in an aura of spookiness hanging over this analytic activity which is altogether unjustified. This is scholarship, folks. Don’t let your uncle’s desire to let you believe otherwise about his job in Iraq fool you. It is just scholarship.
The military command in Iraq is not doing that job for this group of customers in any significant way. The military command in Iraq has failed and continues to fail to do intelligence collection and analysis adequately in support of the core activities of its combat and counterinsurgency forces in the war. Since it is a failure in that area, it can hardly afford to divide its available resources to do work for what it must, perforce, see as a secondary set of activities. Therefore…
My old boss and friend, LTG (Ret.) Ed Soyster, is quoted in this article as saying to the reporter that "if we had two million in the US Army we would not be having this conversation," i.e., the Army would be doing this analytic job for the CoE, contractors, etc. True, but that is not relevant to the main question which is "why has the US Army’s Military Intelligence establishment been such a failure in Iraq?"
What is the evidence of that failure?
We can not find the enemy.
Counterinsurgency war demands an ability to find among the population the individuals and small groups who are the actual fighters .
The exception to this judgment is the application by SOF forces of massive national intelligence collection means to the pursuit of a small number of "high value" takfiri insurgents like Zarqawi.
This SOF effort is only a small part of what the command in Baghdad is supposed to be doing with its forces. The troops that you see on television in Fallujah, Diyalah, the Triangle of Death," etc. are not SOF. They are the main forces; the army Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) and marine regimental combat teams (RCT) who are carrying the main burden of combat. These forces are effectively "fighting blind" against insurgent gunmen, IED implanters and militia armies.
The reason that is so is that the US Army has no effective clandestine HUMINT capability in Iraq. There is no ARMY (as opposed to DIA or CIA) organization designed to provide information support to maneuver unit commanders. If asked, the Army MI establishment will say that they "do" HUMINT. No, they don’t. What they usually mean by HUMINT is talking to someone, often a prisoner. Prisoners are human, but talking to them is not HUMINT in the sense that is generally understood in this context. That is the use of CONTROLLED local human agents on their own ground to determine the identity and location of the true effectives among the insurgent enemies. The US Army is not doing that in Iraq. If pressed on this point, the Army and the MI establishment point to what they call Tactical HUMINT Teams (THT). These teams are, in reality, made up of counterintelligence people, not espionage operators and the mission of the teams is that of "force protection" for the particular US combat unit that they are part of and with whom they move from place to place.
There are several things wrong with the theory and practice involved in these teams:
– The people in the teams are too junior, are not thoroughly trained, and are not led by officers who are themselves skilled HUMINT operators. It is a case of the "blind leading the blind." The Army no longer trains people adequately for this work and its policy of making officers managers of the intelligence process rather than participant leaders is counter-productive.
– The THT teams are not engaged in recruiting and "running" controlled sources. Their sources have not been vetted, trained and disciplined in the way that a true clandestine HUMINT unit would do. As a result, the information they obtain is inevitably mostly trash, often "planted" on them by insurgents or fabricators.
– The THT teams do not stay in one place in Iraq. In "olden times" army MI clandestine teams stayed in one place, operating from within defended locations, developed "assets" which had area coverage on a more or less permanent basis. These army MI units then provided direct support to maneuver units which came and went from the MI units area of responsibility. Clandestine collection units MUST stay in one place. HUMINT is about human beings. It takes time and prolonged association to establish the kind of relationships needed to do good HUMINT. It is not possible to do this kind of work well if the MI unit moves around.
– The THTs are integrated into the structure of the supported maneuver units. All too many brigade or regimental commanders have no sympathy or understanding of this kind of work. It makes no more sense to directly subordinate this kind of activity to an infantry brigade than it would to directly subordinate an air force fighter squadron to an infantry brigade.
We used to be able to do this kind of work in the US Army. See my post "The Missing Factor" on The Athenaeum.
General (ret.) Meigs’ IED Defeat Task Force is reported to have spent three BILLION dollars so far in trying to find an "answer" to the murderous toll that IED attacks are taking on US forces. His technical and other "solutions" destroy more IEDs all the time but the number of IEDs planted and the body count keeps going up.
The Army likes the present complete integration and homogenization of the MI into being just another part of the Army, a part that does not "disturb" the common peace in which army people can feel good about each other. The only problem with this is that this total integration and homogenization has failed to do acceptable work in a war that is not going well at all.
I like good comments on these blogs, so before you write one on this, make sure you have read what I wrote and understand it. Don’t tell me that locals will not spy for the United States or that such work is hard or dangerous. I have "been there, and done that." I also am not interested in the "not enugh linguists" argument. It can be done. Nor am I interested in the "gay rights" argument. pl