By Joshua Partlow
KABUL — On their first day of class in Afghanistan, the new U.S. intelligence analysts were given a homework assignment.
First read a six-page classified military intelligence report about the situation in Spin Boldak, a key border town and smuggling route in southern Afghanistan. Then read a 7,500-word article in Harper’s magazine, also about Spin Boldak and the exploits of its powerful Afghan border police commander.
The conclusion they were expected to draw: The important information would be found in the magazine story. The scores of spies and analysts producing reams of secret documents were not cutting it.
“They need help,” Capt. Matt Pottinger, a military intelligence officer, told the class. “And that’s what you’re going to be doing.”
The class that began Friday in plywood hut B-8 on a military base in Kabul marked a first step in what U.S. commanders envision as a major transformation in how intelligence is gathered and used in the war against the Taliban.
Last month, Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the top U.S. military intelligence officer in Afghanistan, published a scathing critique of the quality of information at his disposal. Instead of understanding the nuances of local politics, economics, religion and culture that drive the insurgency, he said, the multibillion-dollar industry devoted nearly all its effort to digging up dirt on insurgent groups.
“Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy,” he wrote in a paper co-authored by Pottinger and another official and published by the Center for a New American Security.
Phi Beta Iota: DoD mind-set time lags are quite consistent with those of other bureaucracies. They are just 21 years late. See the two original publications below:
1988 Commandant of the Marine Corps “Global Intelligence Challenges of the 1990’s“
and so on…..sadly, DoD is still in lip service mode and is about to implode DIOSPO. In Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” column, the joint briefing created by Joe Markowitz and Robert Steele, with help from loyal frustrated DoD personnel who do want to get it right, has not been read and is not being acted on. If anyone is interested, see both briefings here: