consultants are sandburs

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A view of why Gen. Flynn got cashiered; not the more popular narrative of phone error with a Russian.

Discordant message? Kill the messenger. Gen. Flynn as the lead Afghanistan-based on the ground military intelligence officer coauthored a report highlighted and described by CFR, here, and ultimately found, online still, at the pdf download link, included here:

https://www.cnas.org/publications/reports/fixing-intel-a-blueprint-for-making-intelligence-relevant-in-afghanistan

In the downloaded pdf document itself, p.9, et seq., the authors opine:

The most salient problems are attitudinal, cultural, and human. The intelligence community’s standard mode of operation is surprisingly passive about aggregating information that is not enemy-related and relaying it to decision-makers or fellow analysts further up the chain. It is a culture that is strangely oblivious of how little its analytical products, as they now exist, actually influence commanders.

It is also a culture that is emphatic about secrecy but regrettably less concerned about mission effectiveness. To quote General McChrystal in a recent meeting, “Our senior leaders – the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, Congress, the President of the United States – are not getting the right information to make decisions with. We must get this right. The media is driving the issues. We need to build a process from the sensor all the way to the political decision makers.”

This document is the blueprint for such a process.

The authors of this document outline changes that must occur throughout the intelligence hierarchy. Its contents should be considered as a directive by the senior author, who is the top intelligence officer in Afghanistan. We chose to embody it in this unconventional report, and are taking the steps to have it published by a respected think tank, in order to broaden its reach to commanders, intelligence professionals and schoolhouse instructors outside, as well as inside, Afghanistan. Some of what is presented here reinforces existing top-level orders that are being actedon too slowly. Other initiatives in this paper are new, requiring a shift in emphasis and a departure from the comfort zone of many in the intelligence community.

We will illuminate examples of superb intelligence work being done at various levels by people who are, indeed, “getting it right.” We will explain what civilian analysts and military intelligence officers back in the U.S. must do in order to prepare, and what organizational changes they should anticipate. (As an example, some civilian analysts who deploy to Afghanistan will be empowered to move between field elements in order to personally visit the collectors of information at the grassroots level and carry that information back with them. Analysts’ Cold War habit of sitting back and waiting for information to fall into their laps does not work in today’s warfare and must end.)

[...] In addition to reflecting the thinking of the war’s senior intelligence officer, this memorandum combines the perspectives of a company-grade officer and a senior executive with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) who have consulted the views of hundreds of people inside and outside the intelligence community before putting pen to paper.

This memorandum is aimed at commanders as well as intelligence professionals. If intelligence is to help us succeed in the conduct of the war, the commanders of companies, battalions, brigades, and regions must clearly prioritize the questions they need answered in support of our counterinsurgency strategy, direct intelligence officials to answer them, and hold accountable those who fail.

Too often, the secretiveness of the intelligence community has allowed it to escape the scrutiny of customers and the supervision of commanders. Too often, when an S-2 officer fails to deliver, he is merely ignored rather than fired. It is hard to imagine a battalion or regimental commander tolerating an operations officer, communications officer, logistics officer, or adjutant who fails to perform his or her job. But, except in rare cases, ineffective intel officers are allowed to stick around. American military doctrine established long before this war began could hardly be clearer on this point: “Creating effective intelligence is an inherent and essential responsibility of command. Intelligence failures are failures of command – [just] as operations failures are command failures.”

Nowhere does our group suggest that there is not a significant role for intelligence to play in finding, fixing, and finishing off enemy leaders. What we conclude is there must be a concurrent effort under the ISAF commander’s strategy to acquire and provide knowledge about the population, the economy, the government, and other aspects of the dynamic environment we are trying to shape, secure, and successfully leave behind. Until now, intelligence efforts in this area have been token and ineffectual, particularly at the regional command level. Simply put, the stakes are too high for the stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan, for NATO’s credibility, and for U.S. national security for us to fail in our intelligence mission. The urgent task before us is to make our intelligence community not only stronger but, in a word, “relevant.”

All POlITICS IS LOCAl: TACTICAL INTEL EQUAlS STRATEGIC INTEL

Why would four-star generals, and even the Secretary General of NATO and the President of the United States, require detailed district-level information and assessments on Afghanistan? For many in the intelligence chain of command, the answer, regrettably, is “they don’t.” Intelligence officers at the regional commands and below contend that the focus of higher echelons should be limited to Afghanistan’s large provinces and the nation as a whole – the “operational and strategic levels” – and not wander “into the weeds” of Afghan districts at the “tactical level.” In fact, top decision-makers and their staffs emphatically do need to understand the sub-national situation down to the district level. For the most part, this is precisely where we are fighting the war, which means, inevitably, this is where it will be won or lost.

One of the peculiarities of guerrilla warfare is that tactical-level information is laden with strategic significance far more than in conventional conflicts. This blurring of the line between strategic and tactical is already widely appreciated by infantrymen. They use the term “strategic corporal” to describe how the actions of one soldier can have broader implications – for example, when the accidental killing of civilians sparks anti-government riots in multiple cities.

[...] To understand the dynamics of this process, it is useful to think of the Afghanistan war as a political campaign, albeit a violent one. If an election campaign spent all of its effort attacking the opposition and none figuring out which districts were undecided, which were most worthy of competing for, and what specific messages were necessary to sway them, the campaign would be destined to fail. No serious contender for the American presidency ever confined himself or herself solely to the “strategic” level of a campaign, telling the staff to worry only about the national and regional picture and to leave individual counties and election districts entirely in the hands of local party organizers, disconnected from the overall direction of the campaign. In order to succeed, a candidate’s pollsters and strategists (the equivalent of a J-2 staff) must constantly explore the local levels, including voters’ grievances, leanings, loyalties, and activities. Experienced campaign strategists understand that losing even one or two key districts can mean overall defeat. (Recall, for example, the defining impact of two Florida counties – Miami-Dade and Palm Beach – on the national outcome of the 2000 presidential election.) To paraphrase former Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill’s famous quote, “all counterinsurgency is local.”

Information gathering in a counterinsurgency differs from information gathering in a conventional war in another important respect. In a conventional conflict, ground units depend heavily on intelligence from higher commands to help them navigate the fog of war. Satellites, spy planes, and more arcane assets controlled by people far from the battlefield inform ground units about the strength, location, and activity of the enemy before the ground unit even arrives. Information flows largely from the top down.

In a counterinsurgency, the flow is (or should be) reversed. The soldier or development worker on the ground is usually the person best informed about the environment and the enemy. Moving up through levels of hierarchy is normally a journey into greater degrees of cluelessness. This is why ground units, PRTs, and everyone close to the grassroots bears a double burden in a counterinsurgency; they are at once the most important consumers and suppliers of information. It is little wonder, then, given the flow and content of today’s intelligence, that they are seriously frustrated with higher commands. For them, the relationship feels like all “give” with little or nothing in return.

In short: How you gonna get 'em out in the field - in sufficient numbers watching the correct things - after they've seen Langley desks? It is not just Langley. Political parties face the grassroots bottom-up frustration of top-down "father knows best" folks, say, e.g., at the DNC and at conventioneering superdelegate levels of vexing irrelevance.

Apart from that divergence, back to the intel community: Those told they were doing the wrong job, with "never getting fired" language included there at one point, did not get mad.

They got even. They leaked and Gen. Flynn, under whatever explanation of the several offered by the Trump insiders including Trump himself, was sacrificed rather than changes made in "the way we've done things, the way we do things, the way we intend the future to be."

This IS NOT to say Flynn's report was correct, incorrect, or part of both. The knowledge of a senior military officer with 33 years of service clearly entails dimensions a non-veteran can only read and quote. (With analogy to imminent political processes thrown in to flavor the soup.)

This IS to say not liking what they saw, the knives in secret got sharpened, and then used to cut. No thousand cuts needed, this was a more efficient chop-chop effort.

The general was saying this is not a game, not cold war think tank musing to imagine thinking like the Russians think, this is a war and the military needs help on information it believes is needed to fight the war by knowing the nature of the combat place and people, the mood of things, on the ground in the national milieu and culture where the war exists.

(Ending on that tone and thought, with more to the report for readers who are interested, let's give a passing hello to Ellison and Perez and the 447 inner party Democrat savants about to do something that could be blundered, big time.)

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