Small Wars Journal

21st Century Counterinsurgency Intelligence

Fri, 01/01/2010 - 11:31am
21st Century Counterinsurgency Intelligence - Seth Milstein, AFCEA Intelligence - Intelligence Essay Contest Winner.

Insurgency and counterinsurgency are radically different sides of the same coin - a truly asymmetric conflict. The intelligence demands for both sides are equally dissimilar. Effective intelligence for counterinsurgency has historically been a great challenge for those schooled in traditional military intelligence with its emphasis on fighting peer enemies in a symmetric conflict. Even with the modern gamut of collection and analytic capabilities, successful intelligence against insurgents remains difficult. History has good examples of effective counterinsurgency intelligence, notably the British experience in Malaya and more recently in Northern Ireland. British success owes more to effective organization and information management than to technology. Integrating their proven methods with contemporary technology offers the possibility of an intelligence system possessing far greater speed and flexibility, and requiring relatively low investment in equipment and training. Employing such a system is expected to drastically skew the battlefield in favor of the counterinsurgency effort, offering faster conflict resolution.

21st Century Counterinsurgency Intelligence.



Sat, 01/02/2010 - 5:35am

Intellgent and well written, it would seem to be useful for an environment such as Iraq.
However, AFG is a different kettle of fish for the insurgent to swim in. Significant factors limiting the utility of such a concept would include: a rural not urban environment; a much smaller number of counterinsurgents spread over a much larger area; the illiteracy of most of the counterinsurgents actually out on the ground and capable of conducting "contact" HUMINT (and most of the rest are only fluent in Dari, which means either your software needs to be able to translate the Arabic characters into English for the analysts, or you depend on a tiny number of bilingual analysts); and the presence of large numbers of "part time taliban" (for lack of a better expression) who by their nature would be far less susceptible to such methods. And I am light years away from being a geek, but it is not intuitively clear to me that the geography and infrastructure in country could support this.
Lastly, the reliance on the British examples seems to me to be overstated. The Empire (and the monarchy, in the case of NI) sent units and civilians to their areas for years at a time, which greatly facilitated intelligence collection, and that is a luxury completely absent in AFG.

alex azzam (not verified)

Fri, 01/01/2010 - 7:18pm

well, the British/Irish example is not that great, both sides share a lot of similarities which is completely different from Americans in Afghanistan or Iraq or Yemen, or African County.
to fight insurgents we need to think like them so we can get the right intel and the right tactics. An informant killed 7 CIA agents, where is the intel and where is the minds to think like the insurgents and be one step ahead. the main problem we have on all those countries is that we are seen as occupier and oppressor. The harder we push, the harder they fight. We need a different approach, peaceful approach that can help the population stand up for its interests. the "natives" see US supporting corrupt regimes and corrupt governments so the population pulls back and watch the extremists fight corrupt government and foreign occupier. we need to change the formula somehow and have the population fight both, corrupt governments and extremist groups.
we have to remember the road to hell is furnished with good intentions.