December 16, 2005:
In Iraq and Afghanistan, American intelligence troops have been learning more, than they ever wanted to know, about tribal politics. Not just the feuds, some of which go back generations, but who is currently married to who and who owes who what in terms of favors, money or revenge. It was this technique that led to the capture of Saddam Hussein two years ago. Since then, the tribal analysis techniques have been used to find terrorists and, more importantly, informants. Not only does the knowledge of tribal affairs make it easier to find people willing to cooperate with American forces, but it also helps to verify the information obtained. An ongoing problems with informants in Iraq and Afghanistan is the temptation for the informant to turn in a personal, or tribal, enemy who is innocent of terrorist activity. American intel troops, who are on top of local tribal politics, can avoid this sort of thing.
All this tribal type information also helps during interrogations. Suspects are often surprised, and impressed, that the Americans know so much about them, their family and their tribe. This often breaks down resistance, as Iraqis, in particular, often ascribe magical powers to the Americans. If the suspect believes the American interrogator has some mind reading powers, well, might as well tell them all they want to know.