Intelligence: May 27, 2002

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The war in Afghanistan is largely a battle for information. The country is a big place (the size of Texas, but with more desert and a mountains higher than anything in North America). Even with all the reconnaissance resources of the United States, and narrowing down the areas to be searched to those known to be hangouts for Taliban and al Qaeda, it's still too large an area. So a decades old technique, now called "saturated reconnaissance" is being used. The area where the enemy is suspected to be operating is divided into sectors, and each sector, in turn, gets the full attention of most available reconnaissance resources (aircraft, drones and satellites). At the same time, ground patrols go in along the known trails and paths in the area. Sine no Afghans (friendly or otherwise) are told about which sectors are to be searched next, it's unlikely that enemy troops would know they were about to be looked at and visited and simply move at the area. This technique has worked many times in the past and it is working in Afghanistan. It's still possible for the enemy to sneak out once the friendly ground troops move in, but the pressure is on. So far, these tactics have uncovered large quantities of weapons and ammunition, and several encounters with Taliban and al Qaeda. The only problem with this approach is that there are many warlord groups in Afghanistan as well, who are armed and have caches of weapons and munitions hidden out in the hills. When the warlord troops encounter allied troops, they tend to shoot first. Moreover, weapons and munitions found in caves are destroyed no matter who they belong to. But the Afghan government doesn't mind, they want to disarm the warlords as well as the Taliban and al Qaeda. 

 


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