November 3, 2007:
intelligence troops never get much credit, and they prefer it that way. The
information they collect has been decisive in Iraq and Afghanistan. But any
discussion of how they collect it, or what they do with it, gives the enemy
hints on how they can make that weapon less effective. But here's one example
that won't give the other side an edge.
Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan
spend a lot of time seeking out who the key people in the terrorist
organizations are, and where they are. This is a lesson learned from the
Israelis, who defeated the Palestinian terror campaign (that began seven years
ago) by identifying the key terrorist leaders and technicians, and then
tracking them down. And killing or capturing them. Preferably the latter,
because some of them would talk. After a few years of this, the terrorism
campaign had ground to a halt.
The Israelis had an edge, in
that they had been battling the Palestinians for generations, and many Israelis
looked like Arabs, and spoke Arabic. The U.S. had to work harder to get
information from Iraqis (Afghans tended to be more cooperative). But once intel
people began to collect information on Iraqi Saddam's secret police, criminal
gangs, religious organizations and tribal groups, patterns began to emerge.
After a year or two. One of those patterns was the "usual suspects list" of
people who were really important in making most of the terrorism happen.
But there were other benefits
as well. As the intel got better, so did relations with the Iraqi public.
That's because more of the many raids were not hitting innocent families. That
only made civilians less willing to help. Since the terrorists were
increasingly hated by Iraqis. when they saw the Americans increasingly finding
and raiding terrorist hideouts, they became less fearful of the bad guys. Then
civilians were more likely to cooperate with the intel people.
It will be years before the
military lets anyone disclose the details of the intelligence effort. And you
can't really understand what went on over there unless you at least appreciate
the scope and effectiveness of the intel work.