Military Intelligence Chief Orders Reorganization

Maj. Gen. Flynn says officers are "ignorant of local economics."

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The head of military intelligence in Afghanistan has ordered a reorganization of the way analysts under his command work, which senior officials hope will provide a clearer picture of conditions on the ground. Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, the deputy chief of staff for intelligence for NATO forces since June, writes bluntly that U.S. intelligence officers and analysts are "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." As a result, eight years into the war in Afghanistan, he says, they "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 paper, published by the influential Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank with close ties to the Obama administration, bluntly notes that "having all analysts study an entire province or region through the lens of a narrow, functional line (e.g., one analyst covers governance, another studies narcotics trafficking, a third looks at insurgent networks, etc.) isn't working." The analysts will now divide their work along geographic lines and provide all the data they gather to teams of "information brokers," who will release the reports.

The reorganization will require more soldiers as well. The failures of U.S. intelligence and its consequences "exist at every level," Flynn writes, "from ground operations up to headquarters in Kabul." While "at the battalion level and below, intelligence officers know a great deal about their local Afghan districts," they are "generally too understaffed to gather, store, disseminate, and digest the substantial body of crucial information that exists outside traditional intelligence channels." As a result, "lacking sufficient numbers of analysts and guidance from commanders," military intelligence specialists at the battalion level "rarely gather, process, and write up quality assessments on countless items" that could prove of great strategic importance, according to Flynn, in leveraging popular support and "marginalizing the insurgency itself."