Intelligence: CAPE Men


August 27, 2009: Due to the special circumstances in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the unique capabilities of American intelligence, the U.S. Central Command (which is in charge of operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan) is setting up a special school for intel officers, analysts and field agents headed for the region. The "Center for Afghanistan/Pakistan Excellence" (CAPE) will devote most of its instructional efforts to passing on the lessons of Iraq. Most of this has to do with technique (like how best to combine data, quickly, from many different military intel operations, including those of allies nations). Iraq has been the focus for American intel operations for the past five years, and most of the innovation and experimentation has taken place there. The use of "excellence" in organization names has been a U.S. Army thing (buzz word) for the last decade or so. Nothing more.

CAPE will also have courses in the two most common languages in Afghanistan (Pushtun and Dari), as well as instruction on important cultural items intel operatives have to deal with. CAPE is being set up to deal with a long term (5-10, or more, years) need.

In addition to disseminating the lessons of Iraq, CAPE has a lot of knowledge and experience, unique to Afghanistan and Pakistan, to pass along. For example, in some unique ways, Money talks in Afghanistan, and the tribal areas of Pakistan, more loudly than anything else. Despite the warrior culture, and importance of tribal relationships and politics, it's also an Afghan tradition to take money for information, and temporary loyalty. Americans knew this before the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, and CIA and Special Forces officers won many battles by deploying thick bundles of $100 bills. Afghan warlords would take the money, and switch sides. Until a better offer came along.

 American intelligence agents have, over the past eight years, had a lot of success with small cash rewards, given for bits of information. This has become so widespread that the Taliban will often search the men and boys of a village, and execute those found to be carrying U.S. currency. Afghans prefer to get their rewards in U.S. currency, as it is considered the safest money to have. But in one notorious case, the Taliban hung a fifteen year old boy, who had five one dollar bills on him.

 This sort of thing has made the Taliban unpopular, and the U.S. has capitalized on this by running large "Most Wanted" campaigns. Rewards of $20,000 to $200,000 are offered for information leading to the capture (dead or alive) of the most wanted Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Most of these are guys who are not well known, even inside Afghanistan, but have been major players in the campaign of suicide and roadside bombings the Taliban and al Qaeda have carried out in the past year. By distributing hundreds of thousands of "wanted" posters throughout southern Afghanistan, the average Afghan came to know who was responsible for many of these attacks. The rewards, even the $20,000 ones, are enough to change an Afghans life. Afghanistan is, after all, the poorest country in Asia. The "most wanted" program also made these Taliban leaders nervous, and a little more paranoid. Every little bit helps.

CAPE passes on detailed instructions on how to run a "most wanted" program, along with tips on how to handle unique cultural situations in different parts of the Afghan/Pakistan border region. It's really on big intelligence "how-to" course for one of the most remote, and unforgiving, areas on the planet.



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