Reaction on the blogs to US intelligence in Afghanistan

January 8, 2010

The other day Major General Michael Flynn (et al) published a report which highlighted some fundamental failings of US intelligence operations in Afghanistan.

US intelligence, he argued, is overly focussed on the enemy, unable to answer basic questions about local political, economic and cultural dynamics and is "only marginally relevant to the overall strategy". He also claimed that US military culture was "emphatic about secrecy but regrettably less concerned about mission effectiveness".

The fact that the report was published via the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) rather than through conventional military channels has also raised a few eyebrows.

I’ve selected a couple of interesting blog posts on the report which understandably has invited a significant level of comment:

1. Tim Lynch runs an Afghanistan based security firm. He’s a retired Marine and is not too keen on the intelligence techniques of the CIA in Afghanistan:

"Our vaunted CIA never leaves the wire under any circumstances even in tame places like Jalalabad so all their intel comes from people who walk into the FOB’s.  How good is the product they are producing using these risk averse intelligence gathering techniques and procedures?  It is worthless – or as the general in charge of military intelligence put it ‘marginally relevant.’"

(It’s worth visiting Lynch’s blog just to check out the slightly alarming comment under a photo of a guard searching people entering a British base in Helmand).

2. Similarly, this civilian advisor based in Regional Command South reckons the authors of the report are spot on:

"There’s lots of information out there about the civilian population in Afghanistan. Where is the closest market? What are the roads like between here and there? Is there a district governor? Does he come to work? What tribe is he from? How many people get “night letters” from the Taliban? Who “controls the night?”

But the problem is that the people who are supposed to collect and analyze intelligence don’t think those questions are important."

3. The Small Wars Journal has a good list of other posts if you’re interested.