Intel undermining U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, according to RAND

If those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it, then it seems allied intelligence efforts in Afghanistan — are doomed. 

According to a RAND study, and as reported by Britain’s Guardian and Telegraph newspapers, redundancies as well as the inability to share crucial information are undermining counterinsurgency operations on the ground. Troubles in paradise also include a reliance on “meaningless” metrics to track progress in Afghanistan. 

The November 2008 confidential report, titled “Intelligence Operations and Metrics in Iraq and Afghanistan,” was compiled for U.S. Joint Forces Command. Researchers spoke with nearly 300 intelligence officers and diplomats not just from the U.S. but also from the U.K. and the Netherlands. The report is available online. Vignettes paint a troubling picture, like one unit not telling another the location of the known IED “factory,” everyone passed each day. In another illustration, no fewer than 13 intelligence sections co-located at one camp but worked with little cooperation. 

The “fallacy of body counts,” aptly describes the challenges with metrics. For example, measures of success like enemy forces killed or captured and numbers of weapons seized have been looked at as stand-alone measures and not in relation to other intelligence or the broader landscape. While higher enemy casualties might be seen as a positive trend, it was the opinion of one interviewee that this phenomenon might indicate more enemy fighters on the battlefield (and possibly a growing enemy force). 

This story appears ignored by U.S. media outlets, though the report resides at Joint Forces Command, according to a senior intelligence official. The report calls for “a substantial overhaul of how military intelligence is gathered, organized, and acted on,” according to the Guardian. Another senior official reportedly said the findings bring into question everyday operations like weapons searches and the arrest of wanted individuals. This person suggested these operations can serve to “alienate the local population for little measurable gain.” 

Bumbled intelligence can only alienate the crucial moderate middle of the Afghan people. Once moderate Muslims are lost, all bets are off.

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