Since “Guerrillamerica” is no longer up, I asked Sam Culper if he would write some “guest post” articles that were along the “Intel” line, and his expertise (Some claim Intel expertise, Culper has the boafides). Here’s the first, enjoy.
Intelligence is about supporting the warfighter. The Intelligence Cycle, our intelligence requirements, our collection methods, and the results of our analysis is about informing our commander about enemy activity in his battlespace so that he can make well-informed, time-sensitive decisions. Without this intelligence, our command is left blind to the enemy situation, and so are our warfighters. I want to briefly tackle two issues in this guest article. The first is that we as the intelligence element live and work to support the warfighter. The second is that the warfighter has an obligation to enable the work of intelligence.
Intelligence Support to the Warfighter
Imagine a team going out on patrol in the Arghandab Valley, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, a hot bed of Taliban activity. (On second thought, no. Imagine that your close friends are going out on patrol in the Arghandab Valley.) What intelligence do they need to know in order to survive? Here’s a short list:
- How many Taliban fighters are in the area?
- What level of resistance can this team expect?
- What types of weapons will the Taliban fighters have?
- What are the observed tactics of the Taliban in the area?
- What tactics can we expect to be employed by the Taliban in the area?
- How heavily have the roads been mined by the Taliban?
- Where are IEDs likely to have been emplaced in the area?
All these questions represent intelligence gaps (in reality there would be a great deal more of these questions), and the more information we have, the better we can answer these questions. The better we can answer these questions, the more likely it is that we can save the lives of our friends and enable them to kill more of the enemy. The truth is that good intelligence saves lives and takes lives; the question for organizations in conflict is who has the better intelligence. (Consider that a British officer, after the American Revolution, opined that the Americans didn’t outfight the British to win, they outspied them.)
If we can’t collect information and produce accurate intelligence, then we’re leaving our guys nearly blind. This is the difference between going into a championship fight knowing who your opponent is, and finding out who you’re fighting once you get in the ring. The latter is a very bad way to do business, and the former isn’t accomplished without intelligence.
So if you’re a warfighter without intelligence support, then building that capability should be your first priority. There are some basic intelligence tasks that can be performed by a team, but even that distracts from the mission. The job of the warfighter is to be the best shooter, mover, and communicator he can be, so he can’t be required to develop his own intelligence on top of that mission.
But as in the Army where “Every Soldiers is a Sensor,” the more information of intelligence value the warfighter can observe and report, the better the intelligence that can be produced.
The Warfighter’s Role in Intelligence
Some might think of intelligence as a one way street, where information flows from the Analysis & Control Element (ACE, or the 2-shop) out to commanders and other decision makers. In reality, if we want a more robust intelligence effort, then we need to be collecting information from the troops on the ground, too. Although not typically considered intelligence collectors, the warfighter indeed has a role in intelligence collection. The irony here is that the warfighter is often the first to collect information of tactical intelligence value and is always the last to use it. We say that ‘intelligence drives the fight’ because the warfighter is the end user of the intelligence we produce.
It’s very good practice for the Intelligence Officer (or in the case of community security, someone from your community ACE) to talk with returning patrols. These patrols are on the ground, always observing and monitoring changes in their battlespace (or if they’re not, then they should be), and so if they’re not reporting this information back to the ACE, then the intelligence element is missing a critical piece of the puzzle.
Here are just a few questions that the ACE needs to ask of warfighters, or that warfighters need to report to the ACE:
- Have you identified any changes in enemy tactics?
- Have you identified enemy weapons that weren’t previously in the battlespace?
- Have you identified any changes in the strength or organization of the enemy?
- Have you identified any changes in the operating environment?
- Have you identified any changes in how the populace reacts to your presence?
Having this information might be critical to piecing together how the battlespace is changing, either for the best or the worst. The intelligence element that’s able to speak to multiple patrols might be able to piece together shifts in enemy tactics, or in how the populace views our efforts. In turn, we can take these indicators — observable or potentially observable clues — and identify what the enemy is likely to do in the future.
A real world scenario, Afghanistan circa 2006, was a slow build up of Taliban fighters in our Area of Operations (AO). This was an indication not only that the capabilities of the Taliban in the area were growing, but also that it historically meant that a large scale, brazen attack was imminent. For community security, if we’re not collecting this information from our patrols, then we’re missing out on an important part of the picture.
Conclusion & Advice
Warfighters: you absolutely play a critical role in intelligence. Be familiar with the kinds of information that your ACE needs in order to produce intelligence, and always be on the lookout for information that satisfies their requirements. If you’re not sure about whether or not to report something you observed, then report it anyway. It’s going to benefit you in the long-run and it might just produce intelligence that saves your life.
Intelligence elements: be sponges. Live for collecting this information about the battlespace, and then be prudent about producing actionable or predictive intelligence. No one else in your organization produces intelligence but you, and it doesn’t produce itself. If you’re not staying proactive in monitoring the battlespace — “to find, know, and never lose the enemy” — then you’re not doing your job, and you’re leaving your command blind to the enemy situation. If the commander doesn’t know the enemy situation, then his plans suffer and it negatively affects the mission. Your work is mission critical. Don’t forget that.
Samuel Culper is the Director of Forward Observer’s Open Source Intelligence service. He was an Army and contract Intelligence analyst with multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is the author of SHTF Intelligence: An Intelligence Analyst’s Guide to Community Security.
American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE