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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

In November 2003 Task Force (TF) Baghdad, consisting of the 1st Armored Division (1st AD) and its supporting elements, began conducting Operation IRON HAMMER across the Iraqi capital. In the middle of this operation, the task force commander, Brigadier General Martin Dempsey, stated, “Fundamentally, here in Baghdad we do two things: We’re either fighting for intelligence or we’re fighting based on that intelligence.”1 Indeed, Dempsey suggested that one of the key purposes of IRON HAMMER was to gather information that would facilitate immediate follow-on operations against the insurgents. The operation would progress in a number of directions based on what type of information the Soldiers of the 1st AD gathered. When asked whether he had enough Soldiers to conduct his mission in Baghdad, Dempsey replied, “The answer is absolutely yes.” But, he then added, “The larger issue is how do I use them and on what basis? And the answer to that is intelligence.”2 For Dempsey, American success in Baghdad would depend primarily on how well his Soldiers gathered, analyzed, and used information.

For military commanders throughout history, information has been critical to success on the battlefield. This was certainly true for the US Army in the latter half of the 20th century, which, as an institution, tended to view intelligence as an enabler of operations. Field Manual (FM) 34-1, Intelligence and Electronic Warfare, the capstone military intelligence manual that served the Army in 2003, clearly established the relationship between intelligence and operations in stating, “Intelligence shows where the commander can apply combat power to exploit threat vulnerabilities or capitalize on opportunities with minimum risk.”3 The manual added, “Commanders use [intelligence] support to anticipate the battle, understand the battlefield framework, and influence the outcome of operations.”14 Thus, intelligence allowed the commander to understand the battlefield and the enemy and make decisions at all levels of war about centers of gravity, decisive points, objectives, task organization, directions of attack, and a myriad of other elements that govern operations. In other words, intelligence facilitated operations—information was not the objective of military operations but their enabler.

By the middle of 2003 US Army units had found that the requirements of the operating environment in Iraq stood the relationship between intelligence and operations on its head. As Dempsey stated, his forces conducted many operations in Baghdad in order to collect intelligence. In a large percentage of operations in 2003 and 2004, American Soldiers planned raids, cordons and searches, and other types of operations with the objective of gathering better information. This rather dramatic shift in the focus of operations resulted from a number of factors, the most important of which was the Coalition’s efforts to adapt and augment its traditional intelligence assets and methods so that tactical units could act in a decisive way.

For US forces in Iraq in 2003, the basic inability to provide what has been labeled “actionable intelligence”—that is, intelligence that is of current value and will allow a unit to conduct significant operations immediately—forced a second shift in the Army’s traditional approach to operations. Rather than relying on the standard Cold War era military intelligence (MI) systems and procedures that gathered information at levels above the brigade and then pushed that information down to the tactical level, in Iraq battalion- and even company-size units began conducting their own intelligence operations. This development ran counter to doctrine, and MI professionals expressed concern about the lack of specialized training within the infantry, armor, and other battalions that were busy creating their own intelligence. However, tactical commanders had little choice. They and their Soldiers lived and operated in their assigned areas of responsibility (AORs) and required accurate and timely information if they were to achieve their objectives, which meant, after the summer of 2003, engaging a growing insurgency.

This chapter examines the evolution of the intelligence effort in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) from May 2003 through the elections of January 2005. It will first look at the assumptions about the type of intelligence required for the campaign and how those assumptions affected the types of intelligence operations the US Army conducted as the postinvasion phase of operations began. Critical to this part of the discussion will be an understanding of how decisions about missions and command structure at the operational and strategic levels affected the intelligence architecture and capabilities in Iraq. Then the discussion will shift to the sudden demand for human intelligence (HUMINT) within units and how that requirement led Soldiers at the tactical level to begin conducting their own intelligence collection and analysis, including interrogation operations, while working in an alien culture.* Finally, the chapter will focus on high-value target (HVT) operations, missions that were intertwined with intelligence operations and often took on strategic importance in the campaign after May 2003.


*For reasons of operational security, this chapter will focus primarily on HUMINT and only touch on signals intelligence (SIGINT), imagery intelligence (IMINT), measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT), and counterintelligence (CI) methods and operations.


Chapter 5. Intelligence and High-Value Target Operations





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