19 November 2009

Future of Intel in Afghanistan: Enabling the ANSF

I’ve been doing some research and discussion with colleagues for another project of mine - trying to wrap our heads around all of the moving pieces involved in going “all-out” in Afghanistan. We’ve discussed strategic options several times on the blog already, but as we wait for a decision from President Obama, I wanted to try to really drill down to the operational and tactical levels and examine what the future of intelligence operations should look like when/if we surge additional combat forces. Below are some rough thoughts and several questions we’ve been thinking about. I would love some feedback and thoughts from everyone, particularly those who have studied or spent time in Afghanistan.

Working from GEN McChrystal's COMISAF Assessment and operational design (read it here), it's critical that we make significant investments to ensure we properly resource our COIN efforts in Afghanistan. He explains that, "Success demands a comprehensive counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign." Clearly, one of the key pillars of this campaign is building ANSF capacity. (The report explains, "To execute the strategy, we must grow and improve the effectiveness of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and elevate the importance of governance”). Unfortunately, however, most discussions of increasing ANSF capability or capacity only speak in terms of adding more infantry troops. While much its clearly critical to increase the numbers of ANA and ANP forces, we must also ensure that all ANSF maneuver elements are also properly resourced with critical intelligence enablers and capabilities. As outlined in FM 3-24 (read it here), “Counterinsurgency (COIN) is an intelligence-driven endeavor.” Without a functioning intelligence capability, it will be nearly impossible for ANSF to successfully understand and counter the complex insurgency within their country.

GEN McChrystal himself recognizes the potential pitfalls of focusing solely on growing the numbers of “boots on the ground,” acknowledging that the, "[r]isks inherent in this [maneuver-focused] approach such as inadequate training and lack of organic enablers will be mitigated through close partnering and mentoring by Regional Commanders delivered through the ISAF Joint Command." Well, it sounds so simple when you just put it that way. But, several major questions remain: How will this be achieved? What are the capabilities of ANSF right now and where do they need to be? How can we leverage the cultural knowledge, HUMINT networks, and other skills inherent within the ANSF to truly enable full-spectrum COIN operations? What equipment/tools, methods, and training are required to provide ANSF with a baseline capability to conduct intelligence operations?

I’ve identified two critical lines of effort to focus on (with some initial thoughts outlined below):

1) Enable and Equip ANSF for Intelligence Ops: we must begin now to consider how we’ll expand ANSF intelligence capabilities. They don’t need to necessarily mirror our techniques or technologies, but I think there’s a great deal of potential in sharing our ways and means:

· SIGINT – Collection/Survey (need to work through classification challenges), Reporting (make our reporting releasable and develop an ANSF reporting capability), Analysis (methods/processes and software)

· HUMINT – how do we capture and capitalize on the ability of the ANSF to get better HUMINT than us? Must develop reporting formats/procedures, create a robust reports database, work to supplement their source funding

· Exploitation – this is likely where we could get the most bang for our buck initially; field them with a basic capability to do CELLEX, MEDEX, Biometrics (and develop corresponding tools, ingestion, archiving systems) and link their systems to ours so we can share all data both ways

· Fusion – Joint Fusion Cells at BN/BDE Level? Develop processes and systems to allow all of this intel to be fused and shared across all echelons and among partners (each battle-space owner runs a true Joint TOC with ANSF integrated; painful at first, but necessary). If this happens, what software can we develop to facilitate intel sharing and overcome translation and classification issues?

2) Set the Conditions for Robust Non-Lethal Targeting (necessary to truly do full-spectrum COIN right)

· Leverage the knowledge and cultural understanding of ANSF at the local/regional level

· Collect, ingest, and analyze non-lethal target data (personalities, ASCOPE – FM 3-24 p. B-3)

· Facilitate F3EAD for non-lethal targeting (mirror successful adoption of this process by conventional forces in regards to lethal targeting)

Additionally, as we consider how to enable Afghans to conduct intelligence support to full-spectrum COIN ops, we must look at ourselves and determine how best to shape ISAF elements to facilitate. Some ideas below:

Advise and Assist Brigades vs. MiTTs (ISAF vs. CSTC-A)

· I like the AAB concept in theory: make the battlespace owner responsible for partnering with and building capacity of ANSF; I think this will work.

· BUT, if we are deciding to go with the AAB model, we must give a great deal of thought to how to do it best (drawing on lessons learned from units down it now in Iraq and Afghanistan); what additional elements/enablers need to be added to the existing BCT MTOE? More HCTs? Additional CA, PSYOP, and IO elements?

· Company-Level Partnerships with Afghan Units: Land-owning maneuver companies are where the rubber meets the road; their partnership with ANSF will either make or break the success of the entire effort; MiTTs are only a supporting/enabling effort; this was proven true all across Iraq and will likely hold true in Afghanistan as well; these will be the folks living/working/eating with ANSF forces on a daily basis in Joint COPs

· If this is going to be the case, then we must man/equip/train robust Company intel elements (CoISTs) that can not only conduct analysis, but also train ANSF on basic intelligence ops.

· How then, must we organize/equip AABs and their corresponding companies to do this right? What special personnel/training/equipment must they be armed with?

· How can we ensure there is a robust Intelligence “Train the Trainer” program for all ISAF forces who will be partnering with ANSF elements?

· Currently, there is a huge gap in training for intelligence analysis at all levels (especially at the CoIST level within the BCT structure). What opportunities are there to improve this training (making more realistic/complex/scenario-driven? Focus on processes and critical thought vs. teaching tools? Preparing for unique CoIST role within an AAB conducting FID operations?)

There’s a great deal to think about here; and much more that I’m sure we haven’t even considered. Any feedback or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

1 comment:

  1. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 11/20/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.