The senior military intelligence officer in Afghanistan has penned a stinging evaluation of his team’s ability to collect the right kind of information. In a paper for the Center For New American Security, Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn writes:
Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy. Having focused the overwhelming majority of its collection efforts and analytical brainpower on insurgent groups, the vast intelligence apparatus is unable to answer fundamental questions about the environment in which U.S. and allied forces operate and the people they seek to persuade. Ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced, incurious about the correlations between various development projects and the levels of cooperation among villagers, and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers — whether aid workers or Afghan soldiers — U.S. intelligence officers can do little but shrug in response to high level decision-makers seeking the knowledge, analysis, and information they need to wage a successful counterinsurgency. The problem and its consequences exist at every level of the U.S. intelligence hierarchy, from ground operations up to headquarters in Kabul and the United States.
Harsh stuff. Flynn and his team recommend a redirection of efforts away from investigating the enemy–trying to find out who is placing the IEDs for instance–towards a better understanding of what is actually happening in the country, and how locals should be best dealt with to further U.S. aims. The commanding general in Afghanistan, Stanley McChyrstal, has made similar pleas in the past. Read the whole report here.