Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The COIN Myth II: Searching for Human Intelligence

Part I noted that two key requirements of our counterinsurgency doctrine – a legitimate host-nation government and a competent, trustworthy host-nation security force – will never be accomplished in Iraq or Afghanistan. Part II will illustrate the lack of reliable intelligence in our woebegone wars.

The counterinsurgency field manual that Gen. David Petraeus supposedly wrote but really didn’t says, "Counterinsurgency (COIN) is an intelligence-driven endeavor." That’s bad news for us, because our intelligence systems in both Iraq and Afghanistan can best be described as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. meets Inspector Clouseau.

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) recently published a report titled Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan. The authors, who include Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, deputy chief of staff for intelligence in Afghanistan, tell us that the intelligence apparatus in Afghanistan "is unable to answer fundamental questions about the environment in which U.S. and allied forces operate in."

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, says, “Our senior leaders – the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of defense, Congress, the president of the United States – are not getting the right information to make decisions with."

As tragic as the incident was, one can’t help but view the suicide bombing in Afghanistan that killed seven CIA agents and wounded six others on Dec. 30 as a prime example of what Flynn and McChrystal are talking about. It’s been amusing listening to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough echo the latest spin from his "inside sources" at the CIA’s excuse division, inside sources who have been telling the open media the same fables they’ve been telling Joe.

It’s what they always feared, Joe says, a double agent gaining their trust and turning on them, but the narrative of the bombing changes as fast as the reasons we invaded Iraq changed during the Bush administration.

It’s not entirely clear who the bomber, a Jordanian named Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, was actually working for, or if he was a double agent or a triple agent or a quadruple agent or just somebody who got mad at the Americans.

When the story broke, al-Balawi was an Afghan National Army soldier who walked into a gym facility and triggered his bomb, and the Taliban were the culprits behind the plot (the Taliban took credit for the bombing).

By Jan. 4, unnamed "Western intelligence officials" had told NBC that al-Balawi was a Jordanian doctor who had been a double agent for al-Qaeda. On Jan. 5, the Associated Press reported that unnamed "terrorism officials" said al-Balawi was a "suspected Jordanian double agent."

Al-Balawi was a known al-Qaeda sympathizer who had posted numerous posts on the Web that supported the terror group, the terrorism officials said. So the Jordanians slapped the cuffs on the good doctor and locked him up, then coerced him into helping them and their CIA buddies to capture or kill Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man. Jordan had gotten thick with the CIA by torturing prisoners the agency had rendered into their country illegally. Now Jordanian intelligence is trying to wash its hands of the whole affair, mainly, one imagines, because al-Balawi also managed to kill his Jordanian handler Ali bin Zaid, a member of Jordan’s royal family who Jordanian intelligence claimed was involved in "humanitarian work."

One of the CIA agents killed was said to be one of the agency’s most knowledgeable experts on al-Qaeda. You’d think an al-Qaeda expert would have known al-Balawi was an open al-Qaeda sympathizer and would have insisted that he be searched upon entering the compound regardless of what a super guy the Jordanians said he was. But no.

The Keystone Kops factor in the narrative continued to snowball. On Jan. 7, Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London reported that unnamed "U.S. intelligence officials" believed the bombing was planned by Osama bin Laden’s "inner circle."

Then, lo and behold, a posthumous video showed up on Jan. 9 in which al-Balawi said the bombing was revenge for the Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in August in a CIA drone attack. In the video, al-Balawi is sitting with Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, Mehsud’s successor.

CIA director Leon Panetta has rejected charges that the bombing deaths were the result of poor tradecraft, but CIA veterans disagree. One former field officer said of the incident, "Is it bad tradecraft? Of course.”

“The tradecraft that was developed over many years is passé,” says another veteran CIA field officer. “Now it’s a military tempo where you don’t have time for validating and vetting sources. … The espionage part has become almost quaint.”

We hear from various voices in the warmongery that the bombing proves how much the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda are in cahoots, but all it proves is that we don’t have a clue what’s going on in that region and that we probably never will find truly reliable human intelligence (HUMINT) sources in that part of the world. You can count the number of people who both speak the local languages and can pass a background security check on the fingers and toes of a rattlesnake.

Lack of good HUMINT isn’t the only thing that has our intelligence agencies stymied. Spy drones flying over Afghanistan are providing more raw video information than we can keep up with. According to the New York Times, a group of "young analysts" stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and elsewhere watch every second of the live footage, but only a small fraction of the archived video has been retrieved for further analysis. The Air Force plans to add 2,500 new analysts to help handle the volume of data. One has to wonder where the Air Force plans to find 2,500 trained imagery analysts and how young they will be.

I’m willing to concede that the CIA and the rest of our intelligence apparatus in Af-Pak seem like bumblers only because their task is an impossible one. But that only serves to point out that the overall mission – counterinsurgency – is being doctrinally driven by something that’s impossible to achieve, thereby making the counterinsurgency itself a mission impossible.

In Part III: Mission creeps and economy of farce.

16 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:27 AM

    You get it all wrong, when you imply that these "wars" are "failures" because they are not conducted rationally.

    They are not meant to be conducted rationally. They are smashing successes; they allow many to make mounds of moolah and nice careers killing sand negroes, who don't have a significant association for their advancement in North America, and they allow politicians to prevaricate and pilfer prolificly without having to profess that the policies pursued between 1988 and 1996 are not sustainable in the long-term, which cannot be done without offending ignorant and brain-washed yokel voters.

    The tragedy for all involved is that the faster a train moves at the time it crashes, the bigger the carnage; but even the stupidest sometimes learn from train wrecks. And sometimes the stupidest die in train wrecks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good point. I'll address this issue to some extent in Part III.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If our "leaders" are not getting the right "intelligence" to make decisions. Then no decisions should be made.
    The American people have a very short memory span. Their knowledge, or even awareness of foreign affairs is even shorter.
    Mistake after mistake is not a mistake. It is just suppose to look like one.
    The Pentagon is now in the process of setting up global energy transfer chokepoints. Think [shipping lanes]. Yemen and Somalia are top of the list.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous6:16 PM

    i will translate this two parts of Coin Myth on polish language and post it on my blog in thursday or friday in news from Iraq article I hope that you will post III part soon so maybe I will make translation an add it too

    ReplyDelete
  5. Part III is up for you, Anon. Thanks for making the effort to translate for me.

    Best,

    Jeff

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous3:12 PM

    Then, lo and behold, a posthumous video showed up on Jan. 9 in which al-Balawi said the bombing was revenge for the Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in August in a CIA drone attack. In the video, al-Balawi is sitting with Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, Mehsud’s successor.

    I think that there is mistake how it's possible that al-Balawi is succesor of Mehsud so if he is his successor so why they send him in suicide mission. If he was probably commander- this is my opinion from this phragment- he will probably go on suicide mission only when there is new chance for victory.

    I'm not sure but there is mistake and his successor is Hakimullah Mehsud this surname is in one of articles of asia times and here is link to other

    Hakimullah Mehsud successor of Baitullah Mehsud http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/uncategorized/hakimullah-mehsud-successor-of-baitullah-mehsud_100236777.html

    ReplyDelete
  7. You're right. It's a cut-and-paste-o.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This nds card article is definitely eye-opening and inspiring.

    I love this nintendo ds article since it is one of those which truly convey useful ideas.

    I appreciate your bright ideas in this ez flash vi article. Great work!

    Excellent point here. I wish there are more and more dstti card articles like that.

    I really like this dstt card article, and hope there can be more great resources like this.

    What an inspiring article you wrote! I totally like the useful m3 dsi info shared in the article.

    This is the best r4 article I have ever found on the Internet.

    Good job for writing this brilliant article of r4 dsi.

    Bright idea, hope there can be more useful articles about r4 sdhc.

    Thank you so much for sharing some great ideas of ak2i cards with us, they are helpful.

    We share the opinion on acekard 2i and I really enjoy reading your article.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I greatly benefit from your articles every time I read one. Thanks for the glasses info, it helps a lot.

    I love this eyewear article since it is one of those which truly convey useful ideas.

    What an inspiring article you wrote! I totally like the useful eyeglasses online info shared in the article.

    Thank you so much for sharing some great ideas of cheap eyeglasses with us, they are helpful.

    Bright idea, hope there can be more useful articles about cheap kids glasses.

    I really like this child eyeglasses article, and hope there can be more great resources like this.

    I appreciate your bright ideas in this child glasses article. Great work!

    I like your ideas about children eyeglasses and I hope in the future there can be more bright articles like this from you.

    This children glasses article is definitely eye-opening and inspiring.

    Excellent point here. I wish there are more and more kids eyeglasses articles like that.

    I totally agree with you on the point of kids glasses . This is a nice article for sure.

    This is the best kids sunglasses article I have ever found on the Internet.

    You have given us some interesting points on unisex glasses. This is a wonderful article and surely worth reading.

    We share the opinion on unisex eyeglasses and I really enjoy reading your article.

    Great resources of unisex eyewear! Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Good job for writing this brilliant article of metal glasses.

    It has been long before I can find some useful articles about metal eyeglasses. Your views truly open my mind.

    I am glad to read some fantastic metal eyewear article like this.

    Great article, it's helpful to me, and I also like the useful info about plastic glasses.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It's hard not to be sexy in a pair of high heels,specially the christian louboutin shoes. GHD hair strengthener is absolutely the best which can be seen everywhere.Not only women around the world love them, but also some professional hair stylists can not work without them.
    nike air max 2009 are become more and more popular,so when you go outside,you will see people wear nike air max 2009 shoes or nike low shoes everywhere.
    MBT Shoes have special multi-layered soles that are designed to change the way you walk,so you workout your entire body while you wear them. They're supposed to tone your legs, back and stomach, and improve balance, posture, and varicose veins.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Really trustworthy blog. Please keep updating with great posts like this one. I have booked marked your site and am about to email it

    to a few friends of mine that I know would enjoy reading..
    seslisohbet
    seslichat
    sesli sohbet
    sesli chat
    sesli

    ReplyDelete