The Triumph of Tactical Intelligence
The Andrew J. Bacevich article, “Slouching Toward Persistent War” (NYT 19 Feb 2012) points among other things to the rise of Special Operations Forces (SOF) as the instrument of choice to carry out clandestine warfare against individual and groups designated enemies of the U.S. (or close U.S. allies i.e. Israel). It also cited the rise of Michael Vickers to be Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence as further evidence of the growing importance of SOF.
Vickers is a ten year veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces and then served three years at CIA as principal logistic manager for support going to the anti-Soviet Taliban resistance fighters in Afghanistan. These experiences along with a PhD apparently were felt to qualify Vickers to head up DOD intelligence.
What Bacevich failed to take note of was a new and successful tactical concept that was developed by the U.S. Forces, mainly Army and Marine infantry, in the course of the counter insurgency (COIN) operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This concept has been the subject of a careful study by two researchers at the Institute of National Strategic Studies of the DOD’s Defense University: Dr. Christopher Lamb and Mr. Evan Munsing produced a study titled, “Strategic Perspectives entitled “Secret Weapon: High-value Target Teams as an Organizational Innovation.” In the study they examined the repeated successes of the High-value Target Teams in eliminating al Qaeda and insurgent Taliban leaders. The secret according to the two authors was the combination of special operations forces fighters with military and civilian intelligence analysts into tightly net teams in which immediate tactical intelligence was essential to guiding the fighters to their targets. This apparently was not a case of intelligence support being provided by folks sitting far from the action phoning in information, but of intelligence support being very much part of the operation itself with the war fighters. CIA has increasingly become part of this new concept and the move of General David Petraeus to be Director of CIA may reflect this involvement of the agency with real time support to military operations.
Of course this also means that the probability is that CIA will continue to ignore strategic intelligence or what Robert Steele describes as Whole of Government Decision-Support and also multinational information-sharing and sense-making. In other words, CIA has become MIA (pun intended).