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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005





Part II

Transition to a New Campaign


Chapter 5
Intelligence and High-Value Target Operations

 

The HUMINT Gap

The struggle to which Sanchez referred was not solely caused by the CJTF-7 CJ2’s inability to think and conduct analysis at the operational- and theater-strategic levels. It also resulted from a more fundamental lack of HUMINT capacity. The decision to pull CFLCC out of Iraq left the 205th MI Brigade, a V Corps unit, and the MI elements that belonged to each division, regiment, and brigade as the main providers of intelligence to CJTF-7. While this support might have been adequate in a more stable environment, the situation in Iraq in the summer of 2003 was growing less secure and more complex. As a nascent insurgent opposition coalesced in Iraq, it was clear to many within CJTF-7 that they lacked a basic understanding of what was occurring and that HUMINT was the best means of creating better situational awareness.

The ability to collect and analyze HUMINT, however, was precisely what Coalition forces most sorely lacked. The 205th MI Brigade and the MI units organic to the divisions and other subordinate units did indeed have HUMINT capabilities. In fact, the Army had augmented the 205th MI Brigade with three Reserve Component MI battalions that had counterintelligence, interrogation, and other HUMINT assets. The 205th MI Brigade and the MI units that belonged to the divisions, armored cavalry regiments, and separate brigades employed their HUMINT assets mostly in the form of Tactical HUMINT Teams (THTs), groups of three to six MI Soldiers who specialized in HUMINT collection (including interrogation) or counterintelligence (CI) and who might also speak Arabic or another language. The 101st Airborne Division (101st ABN), for example, had 10 organic THTs, each of which had a CI Soldier, a HUMINT collector, and an Arabic or Kurdish linguist.10 The THTs were small in number and in high demand across Iraq. There was simply an overwhelming absence of HUMINT that first summer and increasing requirements from units of all types and at all levels for the type of information that could only be gathered by talking to Iraqis.


Lieutenant General Sanchez recognized this lack of HUMINT as one of the central problems facing the CJTF-7 staff in 2003. “The human intelligence piece was just flat out not there,” Sanchez stated. “We had no concept what a CJ2X [HUMINT staff officer] was. I mean literally we had no idea. . . . We didn’t have Red Cells . . . we had none of the interagency there, there was no National Intelligence Council (NIC) capacity that had been left behind.”11 Major General Fast suggested that issues with the Army’s HUMINT capabilities in Iraq began before May 2003:

Even prior to hostilities, we lacked sufficient HUMINT capacity to have a proper understanding of the situation within Iraq. It required HUMINT on the ground as opposed to just the technical collection capabilities that we have . . . it became imperative once we were in Iraq to establish a strong HUMINT capability to understand the situation on the ground, but we lacked the numbers and some of the skills required in order to be as successful as we needed to be.12

The summer of 2003 would bring only gradual improvement as MI assets that augmented CJTF-7’s ability to gather and analyze HUMINT arrived in Iraq.

Significant change came once Fast arrived to begin work as the CJ2. One of Fast’s first tasks was to assess CJTF-7’s intelligence capabilities and then create a comprehensive set of requirements for MI assets that was sent up the chain of command to CENTCOM and the Pentagon. This assessment as well as her experience and rank allowed Fast in the late summer and fall of 2003 to build CJTF-7’s capacity to do collection and analysis at the operational and strategic levels. She enhanced the CJ2X, the staff section that focused solely on HUMINT collection and analysis, and built a Red Team, an organization that studied the insurgent network to help the commander understand the enemy’s goals, methods, and intent. By October 2003 she had managed to construct an intelligence fusion center in which the various intelligence agencies, services, and activities working in Iraq would share their information and coordinate analysis and action. By late 2003 the center brought together the CJTF-7 CJ2 with US Special Operations, ISG, Criminal Investigative Task Force, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), US Department of the Treasury, US Customs, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Iraqi Police Service, International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and other organizations.13 Fast used a similar approach to construct a Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) that focused on the insurgent networks and, specifically, on the finance support structures that enabled insurgent activities.

This sharing of information meant that by the end of the year CJTF-7 had a better understanding of the situation in Iraq at the strategic and operational levels. And it was better prepared to gather intelligence from tactical units, synchronize it with other reports, and create a more comprehensive, detailed, and nuanced picture of the security environment to push down to the tactical level. To facilitate this coordination process, Major General Fast introduced daily video teleconferences (VTCs) that brought together MI analysts from CJTF-7 with intelligence analysts at the tactical level. Fast complemented these conferences with her own VTCs three times a week in which she and the senior intelligence officers in the divisions (G2) shared information and discussed the overall situation in Iraq.14

Still, improving processes did not address all of the gaps in the Coalition’s understanding of post-Saddam Iraq. The alien nature of the Iraqi culture was perhaps the most important obstacle to full comprehension of the world in which Coalition forces were operating. Understanding this, Fast created a Coalition Analysis Control Element (CACE), a team consisting of Coalition officers on her staff who specialized in collecting and analyzing information on specific problems.15 One group focused on the role of religion in Iraq and looked closely at Salafist groups and at the role of imams in the insurgency. Another group collected information on Iraqi tribal structure and created a database for use by the Coalition. And, because Coalition forces arrived in Iraq without a detailed understanding of the state of the Iraqi economy and infrastructure, Fast tasked other Coalition officers to begin collecting intelligence on the electrical grid, gas and oil pipelines, and other parts of the Iraqi economy. All of these subjects were far outside the traditional focus on enemy military units, which had dominated V Corps’ planning for the invasion of Iraq.

In January 2004 the CJ2 furthered its reach by establishing formal ties with Iraqi intelligence agencies from five groups: the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the Iraqi National Accord (INA), the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).16 About the same time, Fast also began meeting with the newly-established Iraqi Government’s National Security Advisor, Minister of Defense, Minister of the Interior, and Chief of the National Intelligence Service three times per week to coordinate information and actions.17 The meetings gave the Coalition channels through which they could gain intelligence and vet conclusions. But these new relationships were also important in a symbolic sense—helping pave the way for the Iraqi Government and its various parties to take full political sovereignty in mid-2004.

These improvements and progress in CJTF-7’s ability to deal with HUMINT and intelligence in general at the operational- and strategic-levels were significant. It is important to note, however, that throughout CJTF-7’s life, its CJ2 section never had more than half of the personnel the Joint Manning Document (JMD) stated it required. Officers like Fast were attempting to build an organization that conducted collection and analysis at all three levels of war with a staff that was short of resources. The CJ2 also had to find a way to integrate the Coalition partners and eventually the Iraqis into its operations and do so while under severe pressure to understand a growing insurgency.


Chapter 5. Intelligence and High-Value Target Operations





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