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NightWatch 20100106


For the Night of 6 January 2010

China-Iran: Update. China's ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Yesui, said the time is not right to consider more sanctions against Iran. China has the presidency of the UN Security Council during January, and is one of its five permanent veto-holders.

Pakistan: For the record. A suicide bomber detonated in Pakistani Kashmir today, killing three Pakistan Army soldiers.

Now, the bomber could have walked a few hundred more meters and killed some Indian security personnel on the Line of Control. Instead he chose to kill Pakistani Shiites and Army personnel. The Indian Army is grateful for this brand of religious zealotry…enemy of my enemy, what.

UN-Afghanistan: The UN special representative Mr. Eide told the UN that "negative trends" including growing impatience among the public both inside and outside Afghanistan characterize conditions in Afghanistan. "I am worried about increasing frustration in the Afghan public over what they see as expectations that have not been met. And I'm worried about the difficulties of the international and Afghan forces in putting the insurgency on the defensive."

NightWatch has compiled the data for its monthly report on the fighting in December. The unclassified sample shows no expansion of Taliban into new areas. There continue to be strong signs that even Pashtun sub-clans are weary of the Taliban penchant for burning schools for girls and clinics.

UN worries in Afghanistan have tended to manifest a UN conviction that it should have a larger role in the management of Afghan affairs. The comments always have "spin," even when they are accurate. Eide is worried but the security situation has not worsened this winter, as yet, based on the unclassified data sample.

Iran-US: Update. Secretary Clinton today said the Obama administration remains open to negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, though will move toward tougher sanctions if Iran does not respond positively. She stressed there was no hard-and-fast deadline for Iran. Responding, Iran's foreign ministry welcomed the comments.

Readers might wonder what purpose the Administration's year-end deadline served. Iran called the American bluff and did what it wanted to do.

Saudi Arabia-Iraq: Update. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz Aal al-Sheikh, on 6 January, said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was wrong to criticize Saudi religious establishments, Asharq Al-Awsat reported. Al-Sheikh said al-Maliki was mistaken when he claimed that official Saudi religious institutions espouse "a takfirist ideology." Al-Sheikh added that such mistaken claims "should not be made against a Muslim country that is well known for its goodness and moderation on all things."

The verbal brickbat exchange is just warming up.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: For the record. Almost 3,000 government employees have been sacked - or forcibly retired. President Joseph Kabila fired more than 100 people accused of corruption from the ministry of finance and other government departments. Hundreds of others - most of them managers - were forced to retire after being found to be working beyond pensionable age.

Budget Minister Michel Lokola said it was part of a fight against corruption. "The dismissal concerns any agent who has been involved in the bad management of public finances," he told Agence France-Presse.

It is not clear that Kabila has shrunk the government because at least 1,500 persons were promoted this month in anticipation of the dismissals, according to the BBC. There has to be some kind of tribal influence in this action.

Special Comment: NightWatch has limited comments on Major General Flynn's report because the report already informs the Taliban and the Afghan English-reading population that US operations are blind, as one well-placed, highly experienced and dispassionate intelligence professional described to NightWatch in dismay.

The Taliban and the Afghan government are likely to conclude that US forces have been executing and continue to execute operations based on bad intelligence and general ignorance. That is an information operations and tactical intelligence cornucopia for the enemies of the Kabul government.

It represents a distressing admission for President Karzai's government. This would help explain the proliferation of civilian casualties from Coalition ground and air operations that have resulted in increasing local support for the Taliban and public demonstrations. The admissions in the study could make people liable for war crimes before the International Criminal Court, which Afghanistan supports.

The report is advocacy, not an objective treatment of the intelligence support. It is fundamentally tactical, which is Central Command's responsibility in the division of labor, not the responsibility of the national agencies. Moreover the report is myopic in focusing on Afghanistan and ignoring other larger national issues such as Iranian nuclear development, stability in Afghanistan, and North Korean proliferation.

It is a theater view as it should be. But the theater view has limits. The authors accuse the national agencies of failure without balance. The view from Bagram and Kabul is not the same as the view from Washington. North Korea really can attack US territory and our allies. Iran can attack Israel. Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Why should Afghanistan have higher call on the "best" analysts?

.These questions should raise red flags for Readers that the report has lots of "spin."

The report raises a few useful points, such as the smarmy satisfaction that the Washington agencies adopt when they establish portals for handling requests for information, instead of doing the obvious base line work proactively and continuously in support of fellow citizens in combat. Responding to questions is not the same as providing support.

However, the authors seem to be naïve in their understanding of the division of labor among national agencies and between the center and the commands. The authors are flat incorrect in their description of the national intelligence community, its role and its primary customers.

The authors also seem to confuse strategy, policy and tactics. There is no blurring of lines about the use of information. Information has always had different uses at different levels of command. It troubling that some might think it is new, just because they had an epiphany.

Much of what is discussed is a rediscovery of what have been the basics of military intelligence for more than 60 years, albeit badly neglected in the past two decades. DIA once excelled at this work, for example. Claims about new ways of doing business that are in fact reinventions of old wheels are churlish and show a lack of historic grounding.

The report contains few new insights about the nature and needs of military intelligence in support of fighting an insurgency. Its attempt to distinguish conventional war is artificial and uninformed. This is old lore that some entities discarded and have forgotten. Nevertheless, new or old, the intelligence work has not been done, should have been done and needs to be done.

Intelligence has lost its way when it cannot support troops in combat. There is plenty of blame to go around. The key question is whether Flynn's blueprint addresses the systemic, cognitive problems. The answer, lamentably, is no, it does not.

In the past 60 years, US intelligence has responded to intelligence failures with six standard responses. The first and most common is to reorganize. Every major intelligence failure has spawned organizational change as a remedy, regardless of the cause of the failure. The report has adopted that response, though it has camouflaged it elegantly with a sweeping public denunciation.

More than 60 years of experience in US intelligence proves that organizational change never remedies cognitive failure or management incompetence, neither of which are mentioned in the report, but which are what has victimized the general.

He seems to know what information is needed, apparently, but the report describes no plan for how to get it. New specialized teams and more layers are not serious solutions. The Command lacks the time to make the changes General Flynn wants and lacks the clout.

The careful reader is left with a list of anecdotal gripes, stories and many bromides. A few of these are valid for military intelligence, but many should be directed at the Department of State and other non-military agencies. The report spotlights tactical intelligence shortcomings accurately, but the blueprint for relevancy is never presented. For example, the US is still undertaking a strategic surge without having sized the enemy, the definition of operating blind.

NightWatch could write much more about this report, but that would be telling the Taliban way too much.

End of NightWatch for 6 January.

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