Essay submitted at American Military University

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Here’s my final essay, submitted to American Military University.  I’m currently studying military intelligence at AMU.  Feel free to comment.

Douglas John Moore, Student #: 4212140

Course Name:  Tactical Intelligence (INTL422 I Sum 11)

25 September 2011

Course Instructor:  John Casey

 

Intelligence Operations in OIF:  What the US Got Right, What it got Wrong, and How it Adapted.

     Thesis Statement:  Intelligence for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) can be divided into three distinct phases.  The intelligence estimates created and analysis conducted following the attacks by al-Qaeda on the Twin Towers and during the buildup for OIF constitute the first phase of intelligence operations for OIF.  The second phase of intelligence is represented by tactical intelligence gathering and dissemination during the US’s conventional operations against Iraqi military targets while the third and final phase of intelligence operations occurred as al-Qaeda attempted to bring the full force of the global insurgency to bear against coalition forces in Iraq by inciting sectarian violence and attacking coalition forces.  Each phase produced successes and failures which strongly impacted the outcome of the war.

 

 

 

Phase 1: Intelligence as an Extension of Politics

     The US intelligence community was thrust into the international spotlight after the attacks by al-Qaeda on 9 September, 2001.  Problems with information sharing between intelligence agencies and the FBI highlighted the discussion.  As the US government began its investigations into who perpetrated the 9-11 attacks and to what level the attackers were backed by foreign national governments, eyes turned to Saddam Hussein and his Baathist regime.  Faced with the possibility of transnational proliferation of nuclear weapons and shocked by terrorist attacks of unprecedented cunning and ferocity, the Bush administration turned to the intelligence community to answer two questions:  Does the Iraqi military possess Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)? And, to what extant does Saddam Hussein harbor or fund al-Qaeda terrorists?

These two issues were important because they represented the lever which the Bush administration used to make politically viable preemptive war against Saddam Hussein.  According to a CNN report covering Bob Woodward’s book:  Plan of Attack, President Bush found scant evidence of WMD in Iraq even after he viewed satellite imagery and signal intercepts.  President Bush believed the issue of WMD to be central to gaining the trust and backing of the public.  He asked then CIA director, George Tenet to tell him if Saddam had WMD: Tenet’s response was categorical:  “It’s a slam dunk case.” [1]

Interestingly, CENTCOM never deeply investigated whether Iraq had WMD, weaving the assumption that Iraq possessed chemical weapons into the planning of OIF.  The primary question that CENTCOM analysts sought to answer was whether the Iraqi military would use WMD, not if it possessed them.[2] Also of interest is that although the primary criticism directed at the US intelligence community was that it did not share information efficiently, it was information sharing that fed a large portion of the brief General Colin Powell gave to the US Security Council in 2003.  An intelligence source, Codename: CURVEBALL, provided information to the German foreign intelligence agency, which in turn shared the information with the Defense Intelligence Agency which then passed the information on to the CIA.  Neither the DIA nor the CIA ever had direct contact with CURVEBALL, and several analysts, both German and American, found CURVEBALL’s attestations of Iraqi “Mobile Production Facilities for Biological Agents” to be dubious.  Never the less, the information provided by CURVEBALL was used to justify OIF.[3]

 

C. Powell testifies in ’03, WH archives

     Intelligence assessments outlining Iraq’s WMD capability were largely wrong.  Hooker states:  “CBW were not employed, indicating the increased likelihood that Iraq did not have stocks of weaponized chemical or biological agents ready to employ.”[4] In the end, the US intelligence community along with many in the Bush administration bore the brunt of political backlash.  The Iraq Intelligence Committee wrote:

“The Intelligence Community’s performance in assessing Iraq’s pre-war weapons of mass destruction programs was a major intelligence failure. The failure was not merely that the Intelligence Community’s assessments were wrong. There were also serious shortcomings in the way these assessments were made and communicated to policymakers.”[5]

The interpretations of intelligence regarding al-Qaeda’s connections with Saddam Hussein seem to be divided along political and ideological lines.  However, it cannot be denied that known terrorists operated within Iraq’s borders and given Saddam’s autocratic rule, it is likely the terrorists operated with Saddam’s blessings.  In Colin Powell’s testimony before US Security Council in 2003, he told the council that Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi , a trained Jordanian terrorists with direct ties to Osama bin laden, operated in Iraq and had even moved his operations to Bagdad.  US intelligence had tracked Zarqawi’s movements and conducted link analysis showing some of his associates.[6]

Zarqawi Network, Whitehouse Archives

     This analysis proved true.  Though the extent to which Saddam helped Zarqawi to achieve his goals is unknown, it does seem that Zarqawi was able to operate in Iraq with Saddam’s approval.  Zarqawi would haunt the Coalition through the dark days prior to the American troop surge and until McChrystal’s Joint Special Operation’s Command (JSOC) finally doomed the arch-terrorist.

 

 

Phase 2: Shock and Awe

     The second phase of intelligence as it applied to OIF occurred during CENTCOM’s planning phase for the war and also in tactical applications during the actual invasion. The US government constantly monitored the Iraqi military force composition after Desert Storm and successfully predicted several outcomes in the conventional phase of the war.  The intelligence estimates were correct in assessing several of Iraq’s military capabilities and tactical intelligence assets effectively targeted hundreds of Iraqi military installations and assets for missile and bomb strikes.[7]  However, intelligence estimates were wrong on several counts.  For instance, analysts believed that Saddam would attack Israel, would probably use WMD and overestimated the Iraqi army’s willingness to stand and fight.[8]

Phase 3: Into the Maelstrom

     CENTCOM asked intelligence analysts to determine the most likely security situation in Iraq after the conventional fight came to a close (Phase IV).  The analysts concluded that while sectarian violence and attempts to fill power vacuums by tribal warlords was likely, coalition forces would not be the primary target of attacks.  Compared to the previous phases, phase IV of operations in Iraq received little attention in intelligence estimates.[9]  Although some analysts and pundits state that the insurgency found fuel when L. Paul Bremer dissolved the Iraqi army, Bremer presents evidence that this dissolving was little more than a formality.[10]

As an insurgency coalesced in Iraq, it became clear that the current force composition was unable to stop the rising tide of violence.  Abu Musab al-Zarqawi stepped to the forefront as the leader of a terror organization calling itself Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).[11]  Attacks on coalition forces and Iraqi civilians rose greatly, and in 2006 several observers, including the chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps, believed that America was losing the war in Iraq.[12] [13]Intelligence experts had massively underestimated the strength of al-Qaeda’s global insurgency, the attempt to recruit a transnational horde of terrorists and insurgents from around the world and direct them to do battle as al-Qaeda leadership saw fit.[14]

In order to address the collapsing security situation in Iraq, President Bush pushed nearly 30,000 additional US troops into the fight in 2007.  Additionally, special intelligence gathering and dissemination cells were created under the auspices of General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of JSOC.  Realizing that dissemination of intelligence was far too slow within a classic military hierarchy, McChrystal’s special operations forces realized something had to change.  The answer became mantra:  Become a network to defeat a network.  The strength of AQI and other insurgent groups in Iraq was their disparate, wraith-like nature.  The lumbering stiffness of “Big Army” was inadequate to defeat this new foe.  McChrystal’s organization made sharing intelligence an art and pushed information out in multiple directions as opposed to “stove piping” it in one direction.  Information on the location of a known terrorist may be gained from an informant.  That information was immediately pushed to analysts, who in turn notified kill or capture teams, who then moved immediately to find the suspect.  Any intelligence gathered at the site was pushed back to analysts who would push it out again.  The result was a cascading increase in operational tempo and capture/kill successes.[15] In the end, Task Force 145 killed Zarqawi.  With its elite interrogators drawing HUMINT from captured insurgents, TF 145 contributed heavily to the eventual systemic collapse of the insurgency in Iraq.[16]

Conclusion

     OIF highlights the nature of today’s intelligence operations.  The successes of analysts are not judged as black and white but as varying shades of gray.  The 24 hour news cycle and excitable political atmosphere lead many to ask not if assessments were right or wrong but “how right and how wrong.” Technology has increased the powers of the critic.  The failure of the intelligence community to accurately assess and convince on the matters of WMD in Iraq and to predict the outcome of the collapse of Iraq’s Baathist regimes weighs heavy.  The result though is increased efficiency in US intelligence capabilities with an emphasis on efficiency and information sharing.  How much this new emphasis will be able to resist the juggernaut of bureaucratic inefficiency remains to be seen.

Works Cited

Bowden, Mark. “The Ploy.” The Atlantic, May 2007.

Bremer, L. Paul. “How I didn’t dissolve Iraq’s Army.” The New York Times, September 6, 2007.

Chan, Sue. Iraq Faces Massive US Missile Barrage. n.d. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/01/24/eveningnews/main537928.shtml (accessed September 25, 2011).

CNN Politics Article. Woodward: Tenet told Bush WMD case a ‘slam dunk’. April 19, 2004. http://articles.cnn.com/2004-04-18/politics/woodward.book_1_woodward-reports-slam-dunk-war-plan?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS (accessed September 24, 2011).

Hooker, Gregory. Shaping the plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom : the role of military intelligence assessments . Washington D.C. : Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2005.

McChrystal, Stanley. It Takes a Network. March/April 2011. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/02/22/it_takes_a_network?page=full (accessed September 25, 2011).

Peters, Ralph. “Last Gasps in Iraq.” USA Today, November 2, 2006: 13A.

Prados, John. The National Security Archive. November 5, 2007. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB234/index.htm (accessed September 24, 2011).

Ricks, Thomas E. “Situationn Called Dire in West Iraq.” The Washington Post, September 11, 2006.

Schultz, Richard H. Global Insurgency Strategy and the Salafi Jihad Movement. USAF Institute for National Security Studies, 2008.

The Iraq Intelligence Committee. The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States regarding Weapons of Mass Detruction. US Government, 2005.

US Government. The Whitehouse Archives. February 5, 2003. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2003/02/20030205-1.html#40 (accessed September 24, 2011).

Weaver, Mary Anne. The Short, Violent Life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. June 8, 2006. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/07/the-short-violent-life-of-abu-musab-al-zarqawi/4983/?single_page=true (accessed September 25, 2011).


[1]  CNN Politics Article. Woodward: Tenet told Bush WMD case a ‘slam dunk’. April 19, 2004. http://articles.cnn.com/2004-04-18/politics/woodward.book_1_woodward-reports-slam-dunk-war-plan?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS (accessed September 24, 2011).

 

 

 

[2] Hooker, Gregory. Shaping the plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom : the role of military intelligence assessments . Washington D.C. : Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2005.

 

[3] Prados, John. The National Security Archive. November 5, 2007. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB234/index.htm (accessed September 24, 2011).

 

[4] Hooker, Gregory. Shaping the plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom : the role of military intelligence assessments . Washington D.C. : Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2005.

 

[5] The Iraq Intelligence Committee. The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States regarding Weapons of Mass Detruction. US Government, 2005.

 

[6] US Government. The Whitehouse Archives. February 5, 2003. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2003/02/20030205-1.html#40 (accessed September 24, 2011).

 

[7] Chan, Sue. Iraq Faces Massive US Missile Barrage. n.d. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/01/24/eveningnews/main537928.shtml (accessed September 25, 2011).

 

[8] Hooker, Gregory. Shaping the plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom : the role of military intelligence assessments . Washington D.C. : Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2005.

 

[9] Hooker, Gregory. Shaping the plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom : the role of military intelligence assessments . Washington D.C. : Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2005.

[10] Bremer, L. Paul. “How I didn’t dissolve Iraq’s Army.” The New York Times, September 6, 2007

 

[11] Weaver, Mary Anne. The Short, Violent Life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. June 8, 2006. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/07/the-short-violent-life-of-abu-musab-al-zarqawi/4983/?single_page=true (accessed September 25, 2011).

 

[12] Peters, Ralph. “Last Gasps in Iraq.” USA Today, November 2, 2006: 13A.

 

[13] Ricks, Thomas E. “Situation Called Dire in West Iraq.” The Washington Post, September 11, 2006.

 

[14] Schultz, Richard H. Global Insurgency Strategy and the Salafi Jihad Movement. USAF Institute for National Security Studies, 2008.

 

[15] McChrystal, Stanley. It Takes a Network. March/April 2011. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/02/22/it_takes_a_network?page=full (accessed September 25, 2011).

 

[16] Bowden, Mark. “The Ploy.” The Atlantic, May 2007.

 

4 thoughts on “Essay submitted at American Military University

    Royce said:
    June 24, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    I have read your very interesting historical retrospective on OIF. I thought you failed or your sources failed to cite Saddam’s previous use of WMD’s as a basis for assuming he had them and would use them. I also felt your passing comment regarding the dissolution of the Iraqi army as a formality was a missed opportunity to expand on a very crucial point. Overall I thought this was a historical analysis whose point was never stated or achieved. You never reached any sort of conclusion or if you did, I missed it. Did you mean to underscore the failures of intelligence which led to some unfortunate events? You sort of touched on these without ever connectng the dots. It was an interesting essay nevertheless and I intend to excerpt parts and send them on to others with whom I correspond. You write well and I like your style.

    magus71 responded:
    June 24, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Royce,

    Can’t quite remember what the exact direction from the course instructor was as far as topic goes. I believe it was just supposed to be a paper about Intelligence in the Iraq War and what went right and wrong as far as intelligence. I was, of course, bound by a limited number of words.

    Any of the issue you bring up could have been an paper unto themselves. For instance, Bremer’s decision to disband the military.

    So in the paper I highlighted the three phases of intelligence in the war, and touched upon their success and failures.

    Part of the failure of intelligence in Iraq was in painting a correct picture of what state the WMD was in before the invasion. I believe Saddam had WMD. In fact, if one sifts through the internet, I believe there is something like over 100 recorded attacks on US troops using WMD in Iraq.

    http://chuckpfarrer.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/The-Disappearing-Cause-for-War-al-Qaeda%E2%80%99s-Ace-in-the-Hole-by-Chuck-Pfarrer.pdf

    Yes, that’s right. But when the Iraqi government and military shattered, weapons stockpiles in various states of capability were plundered by insurgent cells with no real connection to each other and with meager delivery systems. Thus, one small group of terrorists may have a single chemical artillery warhead which it it blows up on the side of a road using a primitive initiation device. Thus, there wasn’t a huge stockpile to be found in one area.

    You are correct that I do not state explicitly that Saddam had used WMD before.

    Royce said:
    July 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Doug (If I may)
    I am asked to critique a lot of writings from a variety of people so I took you at your word and wrote a critique of your essay. I wasn’t being crtical of your points and in fact I thought your essay was interesting enough that I passed it on to several others (I deleted your name but gave you credit). In fact the more I read from you the more fascinated I become. We seem to share some common points of view and interests. I think you are someone I could easily be friends with even though I am old enough to be your dad. As I said I crtique a lot of writings and my daughter teaches English at Univ Texas Dallas so i see a lot of stuff and yours is easily the best I have seen. You not only write well you write about interesting things.

    magus71 responded:
    July 4, 2012 at 12:31 am

    Royce,

    No offense was taken. I appreciate the honest critique of anyone I respect. As you know, it’s difficult to know how well one’s own writing is.

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