Brigade Leaders Cite Value of Intelligence

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2011 — Intel­li­gence is indis­pen­si­ble for sol­diers of the 101st Air­borne Division’s 4th Brigade Com­bat Team in the coun­terin­sur­gency fight here.
For the “Cur­ra­hee” brigade sol­diers, oper­a­tions in Afghanistan’s Pak­ti­ka province hinge on the infor­ma­tion they can gain about the ene­my.

101st Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team
Army Lt. Col. Dar­rin Rick­etts, deputy com­man­der of the 101st Air­borne Division’s 4th Brigade Com­bat Team, pre­pares to fly to a vil­lage in Afghanistan’s Pak­ti­ka province, April 28, 2011.
DOD pho­to by Karen Par­rish
Click to enlarge

“This is my ninth oper­a­tional deploy­ment,” said Army Lt. Col. Dar­rin Rick­etts, deputy brigade com­man­der, “and I’m a huge pro­po­nent of ‘intel­li­gence dri­ves maneu­ver.’ ” Rick­etts said that as a bat­tal­ion com­man­der in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, he beefed up his bat­tal­ion and com­pa­ny intel­li­gence shops. 

“If you don’t know what the ene­my is going to do, what he’s think­ing [and] where he’s going to move, you can’t kill or cap­ture him,” he said. “And that’s what the infantry’s mis­sion is: close with and destroy the enemy.” 

A coun­terin­sur­gency fight is a mul­ti­di­men­sion­al, “three-block war,” Rick­etts said, which tra­di­tion­al­ly means com­bat, peace­keep­ing and human­i­tar­i­an aid oper­a­tions, and in cur­rent doc­trine is defined as “clear, hold and build.” 

“Intel dri­ves maneu­ver, and in a [coun­terin­sur­gency] fight you have to apply the same think­ing to the civil­ians,” he said. “What are they think­ing? What are they going to do? It’s a whole oth­er dynamic.” 

The brigade has a series of tar­get­ing meet­ings designed to link intel­li­gence with oper­a­tions, Rick­etts said, includ­ing a week­ly tar­get­ing meet­ing, a two-week tar­get­ing cycle and a month­ly gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment tar­get­ing session. 

“Intel­li­gence plays a huge role and is the first part of all those tar­get­ing process­es,” he said. The syn­the­sis of intel­li­gence and oper­a­tions has improved over the course of his career, Rick­etts said. “We get bet­ter all the time,” he added. “Intel­li­gence is always a top pri­or­i­ty. You’re always try­ing to get more assets, more resources. You can nev­er have enough.” 

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates — a for­mer CIA direc­tor — and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of NATO’s Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s nom­i­nee to lead the CIA after his mil­i­tary retire­ment, have empha­sized the impor­tance of intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance tech­nol­o­gy to the fight in Afghanistan. Gates said in March the num­ber of cer­tain sur­veil­lance sys­tems in the­ater had increased over the last sev­er­al months from a few dozen to more than 60. Army Capt. David McKim, the 4th Brigade’s assis­tant intel­li­gence offi­cer, said Cur­ra­hee forces are well equipped with intel­li­gence assets. “This is a very unique brigade,” he said. “We have prob­a­bly just about every­thing that you get your hands on.” 

McKim said when he first began intel­li­gence work at the bat­tal­ion lev­el, “you real­ly did­n’t have capa­bil­i­ties. You did­n’t have sys­tems [inte­grat­ed with] the nation­al lev­el.” Bat­tal­ion and brigade-lev­el intel­li­gence capa­bil­i­ties became more robust after Sept. 11, 2001, grad­u­al­ly acquir­ing the abil­i­ty to tap into nation­al data­bas­es, he said. “It def­i­nite­ly helps, because that’s where you [can] look at an ene­my in near-real time,” he said. “That’s tru­ly where you help a com­man­der make deci­sions as an intel pro­fes­sion­al, because you see what’s going on, you can [research] his­tor­i­cal activ­i­ty, and then you can pro­vide some advice to the com­man­der that hope­ful­ly, if you’re spot-on, can help save lives.” 

McKim said a key chal­lenge of the coun­terin­sur­gency fight is reflect­ed in Sun Tzu’s adage that the ene­my “swims in the sea of the peo­ple.” Intel pro­fes­sion­als, he explained, con­stant­ly sift through the population’s behav­ior pat­terns to iden­ti­fy activ­i­ties that indi­cate hos­tile intent. “That’s tru­ly the end-state for any intel pro­fes­sion­al: find the bad guys, pre­dict what they’re going to do, and hope­ful­ly, get the units to stop those activ­i­ties before they hap­pen,” he said. 

When he was a bat­tal­ion intel­li­gence offi­cer in Iraq, McKim said, there were resources he wished he had, par­tic­u­lar­ly more peo­ple. “We [now] have a lot of per­son­nel at the brigade lev­el,” he said. “And then each bat­tal­ion intel shop has a lot of peo­ple. Back in the day, there were times when bat­tal­ion [intel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als] would be one intel offi­cer and maybe one enlist­ed [sol­dier], and those were the only two you had. So def­i­nite­ly, hav­ing more resources helps in the fight.” 

McKim said he saw the push for increased intel­li­gence resources gain strength in Iraq when Petraeus was in charge there. “A lot of his poli­cies trick­led down to us –- I remem­ber the big push on get­ting coun­terin­sur­gency train­ing dur­ing that time,” he said. “I’m of the mind­set that any com­mis­sioned offi­cer has to be as knowl­edge­able as they can, par­tic­u­lar­ly about mil­i­tary his­to­ry. It’s so cycli­cal; it comes back around.” Intel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als’ breadth and depth of knowl­edge is key to their suc­cess­ful per­for­mance, McKim said. 

“You have to know a lot in order to make accu­rate pre­dic­tions on what the ene­my is going to do,” he explained. “Part of what Gen­er­al Petraeus was doing was mak­ing sure that as an insti­tu­tion, intel­li­gence … had the tools to do that. Ours is def­i­nite­ly a think­ing game.” 

McKim said while cur­rent intel­li­gence-gath­er­ing tech­nol­o­gy is impres­sive, it’s no good with­out ana­lysts who can inter­pret the data. “We work with a real­ly intel­li­gent ene­my,” he said. “You hear all the time that most of the less intel­li­gent insur­gents are dead. Now, we’ve got the real­ly smart ones who have been doing this busi­ness for a while.” 

The net­works that oppose coali­tion forces and Afghanistan’s gov­ern­ment are “a war­rior soci­ety,” McKim said. “They pass down their [tac­tics, tech­niques and pro­ce­dures] and lessons learned, just like we do,” he added. Pre­dict­ing what those forces will do is the nuts and bolts of intel­li­gence, he said. 

“If we can do that,” McKim said, “that helps the com­man­ders to make bet­ter-informed deci­sions when they’re con­duct­ing their oper­a­tions.” Intel­li­gence-gath­er­ing tech­nol­o­gy has improved quite a bit in recent years, McKim said. 

“The Army has tak­en great strides in the rapid field­ing of equip­ment,” he said. “You get new sys­tems, you get new tech­niques, … but there’s so much infor­ma­tion out there.” McKim said the idea that “every sol­dier is a sen­sor” still holds true, and that a woman sol­dier on a female engage­ment team could be the per­son who learns a crit­i­cal piece of information. 

“That one thing might be the key to open­ing up why peo­ple are fight­ing in a par­tic­u­lar area,” he said. 

Ulti­mate­ly, intel­li­gence oper­a­tions are aimed at the over­all Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force objec­tive in Afghanistan, McKim said -– help­ing the Afghans to estab­lish an effec­tive secu­ri­ty structure. 

“You mod­el it, you get them trained up, and you have them take own­er­ship of it so that they’re the ones who are respon­si­ble for their secu­ri­ty,” he said. “I think that’s what led to the Tal­iban tak­ing over when they did –- [the peo­ple] did­n’t real­ly have a secu­ri­ty net­work in Afghanistan to pro­tect themselves.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →