Ad­vis­ers urge mil­i­tary to rely less on drones

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ELI LAKE

Mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in Afghanistan rely too much on in­tel­li­gence gath­ered by un­manned drones, of­ten ex­clude im­por­tant pub­licly avail­able data and do not fo­cus enough on the re­cruit­ment of hu­man agents, a Pen­tagon re­port says.

The re­port by the De­fense Science Board, a panel that ad­vises the Pen­tagon, says that the de­fense bud­get does not prop­erly di­rect fund­ing for open-source in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tion, in­for­ma­tion avail­able to the pub­lic and gath­ered from a wide va­ri­ety of sources, in­clud­ing aca­demic pa­pers and news­pa­pers.

“Over­all, these prob­lems tend to ex­clude valu­able sources of so­cial and be­hav­ioral science data, in­clud­ing hu­man ge­og­ra­phy,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

It also says an­a­lysts of­ten are over­whelmed by the vol­ume of data col­lected by ball-shaped sen­sors out­fit­ted on the bot­tom of mil­i­tary air­craft and from high­tech cam­era and radar pods placed on blimps and some­times even tele­phone poles. While the tech­nol­ogy has helped pin­point and kill en­emy com­bat­ants and to de­tect cell­phone con­ver­sa­tions on the bat­tle­field, its cre­ated a “a cri­sis in pro­cess­ing, ex­ploita­tion, and dis­sem­i­na­tion” of the in­for- ma­tion.

Drone war­fare has taken cen­ter stage in re­cent coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions but is not al­ways con­sid­ered the best ap­proach for coun­terin­sur­gency, which of­ten re­quires the mil­i­tary to earn the trust of lo­cal pop­u­la­tions for turn­ing peo­ple against in­sur­gents.

Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai last week pub­licly com­plained about the U.S. re­liance on drone war­fare af­ter a re­cent bomb­ing that he said mis­tak­enly killed civil­ians in a strike tar­get­ing Tal­iban in­sur­gents.

From an in­tel­li­gence per­spec­tive, the re­port rec­om­mends that the Pen­tagon de­vote more re­sources to de­vel­op­ing ex­per­tise in an­thro­pol­ogy, so­ci­ol­ogy and what is called hu­man-ter­rain map­ping in or­der to un­der­stand and pre­dict in­sur­gen­cies. It also says the mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies need to pro­vide bet­ter train­ing in ad­vanced anal­y­sis ear­lier in an­a­lysts’ ca­reers.

“The level of anal­y­sis is needed at the very front end of any fu­ture con­flict, not sev­eral years down the road,” the re­port says.

An­other key rec­om­men­da­tion calls for the Pen­tagon to in­vest more re­sources in pre­dict­ing the lo­ca­tions of in­sur­gen­cies for use in coun­terin­sur­gency war­fare, or COIN in mil­i­tary par­lance.

A chart in the re­port identi- fied “pos­si­ble COIN chal­lenges” in 24 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries where U.S. forces may in­ter­vene in fu­ture coun­terin­sur­gency war­fare.

They are: Pak­istan, Mex­ico, Ye­men, the Philip­pines, In­done­sia, Thai­land, Myan­mar, So­ma­lia, Su­dan, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Nige­ria, Zim­babwe, Congo, Ethiopia, Gaza/West Bank, Eritrea, Gu­atemala, Colom­bia, Egypt, Saudi Ara­bia, Kur­dis­tan, Tu­nisia and Lebanon.

“Whether the United States should en­gage in any par­tic­u­lar coun­terin­sur­gency is a mat­ter of po­lit­i­cal choice, but that it will en­gage in such conflicts dur­ing the decades to come is a near cer­tainty,” the re­port says, quot­ing the U.S. mil­i­tary’s 2009 guide to coun­terin­sur­gency.

The re­port states, for ex­am­ple, that in­sur­gency war­fare can be caused by a loss of state power over ter­ri­tory in­side a state or in a bor­der re­gion. “Such ar­eas could be­come sanc­tu­ar­ies from which to launch at­tacks on the U.S. home­land, re­cruit per­son­nel, and fi­nance, train, and sup­ply op­er­a­tions,” it says.

The board’s re­port, re­leased last week, said that in­ter­views with se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cials on in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance for coun­terin­sur­gency “turned fre­quently to the sub­ject of tech­ni­cal col­lec­tion sys­tems while ex­clud­ing other col­lec­tion sources” such as open­source in­tel­li­gence, hu­man in­tel­li­gence and pro­cess­ing, ex­ploita­tion and dis­sem­i­na­tion is­sues.

It was prompted in part by a De­cem­ber 2009 pa­per that crit­i­cized U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies for their lack of un­der­stand­ing of Afghanistan. That pa­per was writ­ten by Army Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, chief mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer at the time for the In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity As­sis­tance Force in Afghanistan.

“Ig­no­rant of lo­cal eco­nom­ics and landown­ers, hazy about who the power­bro­kers are and how they might be in­flu­enced, in­cu­ri­ous about the cor­re­la­tion 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 and an­a­lysts can do lit­tle but shrug in re­sponse to high level de­ci­sion-mak­ers seek­ing the knowl­edge [. . . ] to wage a suc­cess­ful coun­terin­sur­gency,” Gen. Flynn said.

The prob­lem of the del­uge of data was em­pha­sized last fall at a na­tional con­ven­tion on geospa­tial in­tel­li­gence by Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, the out­go­ing vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He told the con­ven­tion au­di­ence of mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence con­trac­tors that data from a sin­gle sen­sor ball on a preda­tor drone re­quired 19 an­a­lysts to process. As more so­phis­ti­cated “dense data” drones came on­line, that num­ber will in­crease nearly ten­fold, he said.

The re­port also in­di­cates that the mil­i­tary is mov­ing away from its strate­gic pos­ture of pre­par­ing to fight two land wars at once in dif­fer­ent re­gions of the globe. In­stead, the Pen­tagon is ori­ent­ing its forces to­ward fight­ing lowlevel ir­reg­u­lar war­fare against in­sur­gen­cies.


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