Intelligence Support to Counterinsurgency
Books on Afghanistan
Blog Posts about Intelligence by AWN
"In no class of warfare is a well organized and well served intelligence department more essential than in against guerrillas"
The intelligence activities and functions of military units and other governmental agencies have been transformed over the past ten years (since 2001) as a result of the Global War on Terror (GWOT), Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Many of these organizations have had to shift their intelligence focus from the big land battle involving large maneuver formations to small infantry engagements conducting counterinsurgency. Courses of study have now been established to provide training in this new direction. Lucrative contracts have been awarded to civilian firms to provide additional intelligence support to the counterinsurgency fight in Afghanistan. Emphasis is now placed on the human terrain and cultural aspects of the indigenous population in order to support a population-centric strategy. 1. Military manuals now incorporate sections on Intel support to COIN. 2. Organizations and firms in the private sector are also providing publications that assist in the intelligence effort related to counterinsurgency (for a profit of course). 3.
This web page provides a collection of news articles, papers, publications, references, and reports about the intelligence support to the COIN or counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan.
Targeting Procedures. Over the past several years new concepts about intelligence within a COIN environment have been developed. One of these is the Find, Fix, Finish, Exploit, Analyze, and Disseminate (F3EAD) concept developed by Special Operations forces in support of their capture and kill operations. Another concept (interrelated with F3EAD) is 'Attack the Network' or AtN. One reference is ATP 3-60, Targeting, published by the U.S. Army in May 2015.
Intelligence Software. There are a multitude of sophisticated intelligence-based software systems designed to assist intelligence analysts in the gathering, analysis and dissemination of intelligence. Two of the most prominent systems are Palantir and DCGS. In November 2013 ISAF sent a memo to Forces Command identifying training requirements to maintain proficiency on the Distributed Comman Ground System-Army (DCGS-A). The document (FOUO) is posted on Miltary.com.
COIST. The U.S. Army's Company Intelligence Support Teams (COIST) are an important adaptation to the counterinsurgency fight in Afghanistan and the threat of IEDs. Those company commanders that implemented the COIST concept were able to reduce the threat of IEDs and better understand their operational environment. 14. Learn more about the Company Intelligence Support Team (CoIST).
Intelligence Disciplines. There are a number of intelligence fields that assist in developing the overall intelligence picture of the counterinsurgency environment. These include All-Source Analysis, Counterintelligence (CI), Human Intelligence (HUMINT), Technical Intelligence, Imagery Intelligence (IMINT), Measurement and Signatures Intelligence (MASINT), Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT), and Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT). Some new emerging areas of the intelligence field are also very important to the COIN fight and include document and media exploitation or DOMEX and Target Exploitation (TAREX). TAREX is sometimes referred to as Sensitive Site Explotation (SSE). There also seems to be an untapped field informally known as 'aviation intelligence'. 11.
Intelligence Reachback. One of the more evolving concepts in the intelligence field is the use of 'reachback' from Afghanistan to the United States for intelligence products and services. It is cheaper to keep an analyst in the U.S. than Afghanistan; especially if the analyst is sitting in front of a computer reading and writing reports. Reachback is very important in the initial stages of a deployment, for time-intensive research projects or for retrograde operations when authorized manning levels require big movements of personnel out of theater. However, there is a loss of fidelity in the accuracy and value of the information provided by the stateside analyst. 4.
Intelligence Agencies in Afghanistan. There are a number of intelligence agencies and organizations that support the intelligence effort in Afghanistan. In addition, many other organizations or units have intelligence professionals (military or civilian) that work within their respective intelligence sections. Organizations such as the NGA, DIA, DEA, FBI, and CIA are well-represented in Afghanistan.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). In many respects, members of NGOs have been 'in-country' longer than military personnel and some for several years. These NGO workers understand the culture, 'human domain', interact with the populace and community leaders a lot, and are great sources of information (if not intelligence). Although many humanitarians do not favor working with the military in areas of conflict; some will (some have to). An important contact within an NGO organization is the securty manager or director who keeps in tune with the prevailing security situation using sources and methods not available to the intelligence analyst.
CSOC. At one time the Consolidated Stability Operations Cell provide invaluable atmospherics from Afghan informants across Afghanistan on local communities views on security, governance, development and other issues. Many of the reports published by the CSOC were unclassified and could be shared with the Afghan security forces, NGOs, Afghan government and all Coalition military organizations. 15.
Intelligence Enablers. There are a host of organizations and units that can assist the intelligence officer or analyst working in Afghanistan. These include JIEDDO, Task Force Paledan, Task Force Odin, CAAT, Atmospheric Program - Afghanistan or AP-A, and Human Terrain Teams or HTTs. There are a number of aircraft such as the MC-12W that provide ISR support.
Full Motion Video (FMV). There are a number of intel collection platforms available to the intel analyst that offer FMV to include manned aircraft, drones, RAID cameras and PTDS. As COPs and FOBs close down the coverage offered by RAIDs and PTDS 9. will diminish - particular in the observation of LOCs for the seeding IEDs.
Intelligence Advisors on SFAATs. Each Security Force Assistance Advisor Team or SFAAT has an Intelligence Advisor who provides training, advice, and assistance to the intelligence officer and section of the advised ANSF element. 5. These Intelligence Advisors are a key element in the ANSF counterinsurgency campaign. As the quote at the top of this webpage indicates intelligence is at the forefront in a counterinsurgency effort. Intelligence driven operations are the offensive type of operations that will go a long way to defeating an insurgency. However, as the U.S. combat formations are pulled back from Afghanistan and ISAF discontinues combat operations as it transitions to "train advise and assist" the targeting of insurgents will suffer. Statements by ISAF that " . . . the Afghans are in the lead for security . . ." may be reassuring; however, the Afghan intelligence infrastructure and capability is lacking (excepting its HUMINT). Even with good HUMINT there is a lack of Intel sharing amongst the various ANSF elements (ANA, ANP, NDS, etc.). This provides a unique opportunity to the SFAAT Intelligence Advisor at the kandak, brigade, corps, and OCC-P level to both train their intelligence counterpart and to provide timely actionable intelligence on the insurgents to the ANSF so that the targeting of insurgent networks can continue. Two important factors come into consideration in achieving this goal - providing training and intelligence.
Essential Function 7 - Intelligence. In 2014 ISAF rolled out the Essential Functions (EF) which divided the Train, Advise, and Assist (TAA) work areas into eight EFs. Essential Function 7 - Intelligence is all about the TAA of the ANA and ANP intelligence organizations, functions, equipment, roles, processes, systems, etc.
What Makes a Good Intelligence Advisor and Trainer? An Intelligence Advisor should have the right age, rank, training, experience, and personality to be an effective advisor. This means that a 24-year old infantry lieutenant with no deployments is not the right individual to advise a 45-year old Afghan Intelligence Major at the kandak or brigade level who is intelligence school-trained with 20-30 years of fighting in Afghanistan. Yet, at one time in 2012, over 50% of the Intelligence Advisors on SFAATs were young infantry lieutenants. (Actually, this has not changed much - see story at footnote 10.) I am not sure the infantry lieutenant would know how to integrate "civil considerations" into a COIN campaign let alone know what the acronym ASCOPE 7. stood for. Things that make you go "Hmmmmm".
How do you Share Intelligence with your Afghan Counterpart? If the Intel report you want to pass does not say "DISPLAY ONLY TO AFG" or authorize you to release the document to the Afghans you have a problem. Until ISAF (and U.S. military) figures out how to write Intel reports that can be shared with the ANSF or with a "tear-line" then this problem won't go away. One solution is to ensure that the SFAAT Intelligence Advisors are Foreign Disclosure Officer (FDO) qualified 6. in the states prior to their Afghan deployment. Providing Intel to Afghans will become ever more difficult as SFAATs transition to Level-Two advising.
"Sharing intelligence with HN security forces and government personnel is an important and effective means of supporting their COIN efforts."
Sharing Maps with the ANSF. One logical way to assist the Afghans is to provide them with maps of their operational areas. While there were some programs to help the ANA to be able to design and print their own maps this resided at the Corps level and the mapping sections were untrained, under-resourced, and not up to the task. At the same time the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) field offices attached to the U.S. Regional Commands and brigade level units would not print maps that could be releasable to the Afghans. The (faulty) reasoning for this was that the Afghans would not press forward with developing their own map making and distribution capability if we kept providing maps. While you can appreciate the NGAs stance on this matter you still have to scratch your head on this one. We did want the Afghans to win the fight - didn't we? As a work around many SFAAT Intelligence Advisors went to Google Earth for their mapping needs. This is also a common practice by Special Forces operational detachments that work with NATO and other nation's armed forces. 13.
Afghan Intelligence Capabilities. As mentioned above, the Afghan strong point is its HUMINT capability. History is replete with examples of spies and informants being used to gather information about others to include competitors in the world of commerce and about other armies and political factions. A HUMINT capability is sustainable for the Afghans - requiring human interaction and the use of email and cellphones. An additional capability resident within the Afghan National Army (ANA) is the Recce Tolay of the 4th Combat Support Kandak and the Recce Platoon of the Weapons Tolay of the infantry kandaks. However, these reconnissance elements are rarely trained in the skills required and hardly ever utilized in their doctrinal role.
Afghan Debriefing Academy. ISAF has worked with the ANSF in many areas to improve the Afghan capability to defeat the insurgents. One of these areas is to improve the Afghan intel collection. To this end the Afghan Debriefing Academy was opened in 2011 to train interrogators. 8.
Afghans Sharing Intel With Afghans or Not. While the NDS and other intelligence entities might have a good HUMINT network the information gathered does little good if it isn't passed to those units such as the ANASF, commandos, ANCOP, or PRC that can act on the intelligence (thus the phrase "actionable intelligence". Afghans are notorious for NOT sharing intelligence with their ANSF counterparts. In Afghan culture information is power. Another aspect of not sharing is an unwillingness to be proved wrong with inaccurate information - which is a source of embarrassment.
Contributing Factors to Lack of Afghan Intel Development. There are several factors that hinder the development of Afghan intelligence organizations. One is the low rate of literacy in the ANSF. Many Afghan intelligence officers and NCOs simply do not know how to read. Another negative factor is the lack of a secure Internet and email capability. There is some progress being made with the MoD and MoI Nets being set up; however, these are rarely found at brigade level and almost never at the kandak level.
National Military Intelligence Center (NMIC). This organization was established to provide timely, relevant intelligence products to senior officers, GSG2 staff, and other ANA units and organizations. The National Military Intelligence Center is based at Sia Sang.
Directorate of Police Intelligence (DPI). The DPI provides intelligence information for the arrest and prosecution of criminals and insurgents. The Directorate of Police Intelligence is part of the Ministry of Interior.
National Information Management System (NIMS). This computer-based intelligence system provides access to the MoI, MoD, ANA, and ANP for intelligence products and information. The National Information Management System (NIMS) operates over the Internet as well as on a Harris radio network. A lack of literate and computer-savy Soldiers as well as a distinct cultural hesitancy to share intelligence information hampers the effectiveness of the NIMS.
Wolfhound. This system was introduced into Afghanistan by the U.S. Army in 2009. Eventually ISAF figured out that the Wolfhound equipment would also be of use to the Afghan National Army and the system was deployed (2014?) to the ANA Military Intelligence Kandaks found at corps level.
National Targeting Exploitation Center (NTEC). This intel organization is a key element in the identification, detention, and prosecution of criminal, terrorist, and insurgent groups and individuals. The National Targeting Exploitation Center is a key element in the Afghan use of evidence-based operations.
Biometrics. It took a while but the Afghans, with a little help from the Coalition, was able to establish a biometrics department within the Ministry of Interior. The Afghan Automated Biometrics Information System (AABIS) is used to store biometric data (fingerprints, iris scans, and facial images) in a large computerized database.
Asey, Tamim, "Making Intelligence Work: A Call to Reform and Re-organize the Afghan Intelligence Community", Small Wars Journal, December 24, 2018.
Bechtel, Caroline, What the Army's Return to
Large-Scale Operations Means for the Intelligence Warfighting Function,
Modern War Institute at West Point, May 8, 2018. Intelligence functions
are shifting from supporting counterinsurgency and stability operations to
preparing for and supporting 'the big fight'.
USAID, Curbing Illicit Financial Flows in
Afghanistan, Aga Khan Foundation, April 2016. 54-page paper on money
laundering, terrorist financing, and Hawala.
Eisler, David F., "Beyond Finding the Enemy:
Embracing Sociocultural Intelligence in Stability Operations", Small
Wars Journal, July 14, 2015. A former Army officer and veteran of
Iraq and Afghanistan discusses the importance of the human domain in
stability and counterinsurgency operations.
Howcroft, James. "Intelligence Challenges in Urban
Operations", Small Wars Journal. The author provides
recommendations for the intel analyst in dealing with the populations of
an urban environment.
Adams, Brian and Graham Williams, "Targeting
Challenges in the Advising Environment", Small Wars Journal, February 19, 2014. The authors explore the problem sets that an SFAAT had
in working with the ANSF.
Schoch, Karl K. and Kevin A. Pavnica. "Grey
Targeting at the Troop/Company Level: Using the CoIST to Understand the
Human Terrain", Small Wars Journal, July 25, 2013. Two LTs who
worked intel in Logar province in 2012-2013 with the 173rd provide insight
into CoIST training and operations.
Katz, David. J., "Fitting Intelligence to the
Fight: Lessons from Afghanistan", Small Wars Journal, July 20,
2013. Paper examines the different requirements in information needed to
conduct population-centric counterinsurgency operations and with
intelligence used for lethal targeting.
Ingram, Christopher. "Targeting and Intelligence
at the Company Level: Lessons Learned from a CoIST in Afghanistan",
Small Wars Journal, June 18, 2013.
Beljan, Robert. "Afghanistan: Lessons Learned from
an ISAF Perspective", Small Wars Journal, May 30, 2013. Part of
this LL essay deals with the importance of intelligence in Afghanistan.
Counterinsurgency (COIN) Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Operations. Report by the Defense Science Board Task Force on Defense Intelligence, February 2011. Accessed on the Office of the Secretary of Defense website here January 2012. (Adobe PDF).
Counterinsurgency from Below: The Afghan Local Police in Theoretical and Comparative Perspective. By Joe Quinn and Mario A. Fumerton, CAAT, November 2010. Accessed on Ronna-Afghan website here on January 10, 2012. (Adobe PDF).
"Partnership Till it Hurts" The Use of Fusion Cells to Establish Unity of Effort Between SOF (Yin) and Conventional Forces (Yang). By Paul Lushenko, 2010. Accessed on Small Wars Journal here January 2012. (Adobe PDF).
Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan. By MG Michael T. Flynn, January 2010. Accessed here on the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) website on January 18, 2012. (Adobe PDF).
"The Role of Intelligence in Sustainment Operations". By LTC Meeks and MAJ Brundige. Army Sustainment, PB 700-10-01 Volume 42, Issue 1, January - February 2010. Accessed here on January 19, 2012.
"Why Defeating Insurgencies Is Hard: The Effect of Intelligence in Counterinsurgency Operations - A Best-Case Scenario". By Moshe Kress and Roberto Szechtman. Operations Research, Vol. 57, No. 3, May-June 2009, pp. 578-585. Accessed here on NPS.edu January 2012. (Adobe PDF).
"The Importance of Intelligence in Combating a Modern Insurgency". By Kevin Reamer, Journal of Strategic Security, 2 (2): 73-90, 2009. Accessed here January 2012.
"To Provide Focus: Intelligence and Counterinsurgency". By LTC Daniel Villeneuve, Canadian Army Journal, Vol. 10.4 (Winter 2008), 58-73. Accessed here January 2012. (Adobe PDF).
Analytic Support to Intelligence in Counterinsurgencies. By Walter L. Perry and John Gordon IV, RAND Corporation, 2008. Accessed here on RAND website on January 18, 2012. (Adobe PDF).
The Vital Role of Intelligence in Counterinsurgency Operations. By Colonel David J. Clark. U.S. Army War College, March 15, 2006. Accessed here on January 18, 2012 on the Homeland Security Digital Library of the Naval Postgraduate School. (Adobe PDF).
"Organizing Intelligence for Counterinsurgency". By Kyle Teamey and LTC Jonathan Sweet. Military Review, September-October 2006. Accessed here in January 2012 on U.S. Air Force University website. (Adobe PDF).
"People, Partnerships and Collaboration: Understanding and Improving Intelligence in Counterinsurgency". An article in the Josef Korbel Journal of Advanced International Studies. By Matt Calvin, University of Denver, M.A. Candidate, International Security. Accessed here on University of Denver website January 2012. (Adobe PDF).
Grau, Lester W., "Guerrillas, Terrorists, and Intelligence Analysis", Military Review, July-August 2004, pages 42-49. Accessed here.
FM 3-24, Insurgencies and Countering
Insurgencies. Headquarters, Department of the Army, May 2014. See
Chapter 8 - Intelligence.
Chapter 8 "Intelligence" of FM 3-24,
Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies.
FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency. Headquarters,
Department of the Army, December 2006. Chapter 3 "Intelligence in
Counterinsurgency" and Appendix B "Social Network Analysis and Other
Analytical Tools" is must reading for the SFAAT Intelligence Advisor.
FM 3-24.2, Tactics in Counterinsurgency.
Headquarters, Department of the Army, April 21, 2009. This companion to FM
3-24 provides Appendix A, "Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield"
with a COIN perspective. See pages A-1 to A-6.
Joint Pub 3-24, Counterinsurgency Operations, 5 October 2009. See Chapter V. Intelligence Support to Counterinsurgency. Accessed here on dtic.mil website January 2012. (Adobe PDF).
ATP 2-01.3, Intelligence Preparation of the
Battlefield/Battlespace, HQs, Department of the Army, November 2014.
ATP 2-22.9, Open-Source Intelligence, July 10, 2012. HQs Department of the Army.
DoD Instruction, DoD Human Intelligence
(HUMINT) Training, Feb 25, 2015.
research, field guide, magazine, training and resources on cultural
UAVs and Drones in Support of COIN. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs, sometimes called "Drones" have played a big role in fighting the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
This British organization is an intelligence and security organization
providing a Signal Intelligence capability.
December 22, 2015. "Intelligence Gap Fuels Extremist Rise in Afghanistan", The Wall Street Journal. The extensive spy network was anchored by bases and outposts operated by the U.S. and its NATO allies.
December 28, 2014. "GCHQ ran string of front-line listening posts in Afghanistan". The Telegraph.
December 17, 2014. "Afghan spy chief laments intelligence vacuum as foreign troops leave". Reuters.
August 12, 2014. U.S. Army Provides Intelligence Systems to Afghanistan, AFCEA. Wolfhound man-portable signals intelligence system fielded to ANA.
May 14, 2014. "Military Intelligence battalion on mission in Afghanistan". Fort Hood Herald. This article provides background on the recent deployment and mission of the 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan in 2013-2014.
July 31, 2013. "Intelligence roundtables bear unexpected fruit". DVIDS. SFAAT for ABP Zone 1 in Nangarhar teaches Afghan Border Police to conduct intelligence-based and intelligence-driven operations.
July 13, 2013. "Why We Serve: ANA intelligence officer forecasts Afghanistan's future". DVIDS. An intelligence officer with the ANA 2nd Kandak 207th Corps in Herat speaks about his job.
July 2, 2013. "Intelligence Soldiers Adapt in Afghanistan". Paraglide.
June 25, 2013. "Afghan intelligence struggles to thwart Kabul attacks". Global Post. Article states that Afghans will need access to Western intelligence to stop Taliban.
June 19, 2013. "Intelligence face-to-face an important first". DVIDS. US and Afghan intelligence officers meet to discuss operations and insider threat.
April 11, 2013. "Afghan Withdrawal Risks U.S. Intelligence Collection". Bloomberg.
August 17, 2012. "Intel Sharing with Afghans Presents Challenges". Small Wars Journal.
June 5, 2012. "Building An Intel Structure in Afghanistan". Defense News. MG Robert Ashley, DCoS Intelligence for ISAF, talks on Afghan intel apparatus.
May 2012. "Too Much Information, Not Enough Intelligence". National Defense Mag.
January 9, 2012. Counterinsurgency, What Do You Really Know? Keith Boyea's Blog. A writer wonders if knowing the "human terrain" is doing any good.
July 19, 2011. Counterinsurgency, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Operations. Journalist's Resource.
May 25, 2011. Task force blasts DOD for mishandling intelligence operations. Stars and Stripes.
March 17, 2010. "Outsourced Intel in Afghanistan". Danger Room at Wired.com. Duane Clarridge running an operation gathering "force protection atmospherics".
1. Report to Congress on the Implementation of DoD Directive 3000.05 Military Support for Stability, Security, Transition and Reconstruction (SSTR) Operations. By Secretary of Defense, April 1, 2007. Accessed here on defense.gov website January 2012. (Adobe PDF). See page 20 for comments on how to improve intelligence support to stability operations.
2. Joint Pub 3-24, Counterinsurgency Operations, 5 October 2009. See Chapter V, "Intelligence Support to Counterinsurgency". Accessed here on dtic.mil website January 2012. (Adobe PDF).
3. See Cultural-Intelligence.Net at www.cultural-intelligence.net to view a website providing information (and publications for sale) on "socio-cultural knowledge".
4. See "Telecommuting to war: Why we put an Intel team at DIA HQ when we deployed". The Best Defense, Foreign Policy. Writers from 1/101st Brigade outline the plus and minus aspects of a reachback team supporting an infantry brigade (SFAB) in the North of Kabul (NoK) area of Afghanistan.
5. For a description of the duties of an SFAAT Intelligence Advisor see an article entitled "Advising as We Withdraw From Afghanistan", Army Magazine, August 2013, page 54-55.
6. It is not hard to become FDO qualified. The DoD
Defense Security Service offers an online U.S. Army Foreign Disclosure
Officer Certification (GS401.CU) that is web-based training and takes
approximately 23 hours to complete. CENTCOM also runs a five-day long
course that provides certification as well.
7. For a definition of ASCOPE see Appendix B to FM 3-24, "Social Network Analysis and Other Analytical Tools" available under Military References on this page.
8. For more info on the Afghan Debriefing Academy read "Military intelligence battalion strengthens Afghans' intel capability", US Central Command, February 8, 2011.
9. PTDS is an acronym for Persistent Threat Detection System - a large balloon with a very capable camera system that provides FMV to a tactical operations center (TOC). See a picture and description here on PTDS by Lockheed Martin.
10. 1LT Jonathan Ramey, 3BCT 1st Div serves as an intelligence adviosr to the 3rd Zone ABP. Read story here "Map-reading course brings success to ANP operations", DVIDS. February 10, 2014. Available at this link.
11. For more on aviation intelligence read "The Un-Tapped Potential of Aviation Intelligence", Small Wars Journal, by Jillian Marie Wisniewski, March 3, 2014. Available on SWJ website here.
12. For more on NGOs as a source of information and intelligence see "Intelligence in Complex Environments", by Stephen Draper, posted on Small Wars Journal on August 1, 2014. Draper presents a strong case for why NGOs are sometimes better positioned to provide information and why the military should work with them when it seems appropriate. (Accessed here on 1 Aug 14).
13. Read on how Special Forces teams share map data with their partner units in Afghanistan and around the world in "How US Special Forces Uses Google Maps", Defense One, January 7, 2015.
14. Read more in "Why COIST Matters", by Victor R.
Morris in Small Wars Journal, March 25, 2015.
15. For more on CSOC read an article by Diego
Chojkier entitled "U.S. Spymasters Swat Their Fly on the Wall",
National Interest, April 28, 2016.
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