US Military In Iraq Plagued By Intelligence Shortcomings
They “simply cannot fly fast enough,” and as a result “the daily mortar and rocket attacks on bases and convoys became virtually undetectable to the UAVs,” the report acknowledged. (Image of UAV for illustration purposes only)
Washington (AFP) – Oct 25, 2003
US operations in Iraq (news – web sites) are being plagued by serious shortcomings in the military’s ability to collect and process intelligence, with specially trained reconnaissance teams delivering barely a quarter of their planned output, according to the latest US Army assessment.
The undated report, prepared by the Center for Army Lessons Learned in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, came amid intensifying guerrilla attacks on US forces in Iraq that have brought the US death toll to at least 347 troops since the beginning of the war.
It is based on observations by two US Army investigative teams that toured Iraq, Qatar, Kuwait and Afghanistan (news – web sites) in late May and early June to assess the needs of units on the ground.
They found that troops hunting down sympathizers of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (news – web sites) and foreign Islamic militants often receive outdated information, which gets held up in processing and communications channels, and because of command flaws.
As many as 69 tactical reconnaissance teams have been deployed in the country since the beginning of the war, according to the report.
They were expected to deliver at least 120 intelligence reports a day, but are able to actually produce about 30.
“The lack of reports was not because of the lack of activity, but because of the lack of guidance and focus provided” by headquarters, the document said.
A high-tech communication system between units that relied on a string of top-notch laptop computers actually “hindered operations in Iraq” because “connectivity between the terminals was non-existent,” the teams concluded.
Many reconnaissance units have ruined their crucially important relations with the local populations by joining so-called “door-kicker teams” that conduct searches for Baathist supporters and al-Qaeda sympathizers.
And if intelligence were available, commanders “at every echelon” had trouble figuring out how to make the best possible use of it, according to the report.
Intelligence collection is being further hindered by the lack of qualified interpreters described in the report as “a big problem” throughout the theater of operations.
“Laugh if you will, but many of the linguists with which I conversed were convenience store workers and cab drivers, most over the age of 40,” observed one of the investigators, who chose to remain unidentified. “None had any previous military experience.”
Their skills are so low that most are capable only “to tell the difference between a burro and a burrito,” the teams pointed out.
There are also doubts about interpreters’ loyalty.
The investigators noticed that interpreters often uttered no more than yes or no when the person under interrogation delivered a 10-minute diatribe.
“Who knows what agenda the interpreter has?” The report asks.
The suspicion echoes those voiced recently by US officials at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the military is re-checking all translations after two interpreters, who worked with al-Qaeda suspects held at the base, had been arrested on charges of espionage and mishandling classified documents.
The Army also expressed disappointment with the performance on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that received rave reviews during the war in Afghanistan.
They “simply cannot fly fast enough,” and as a result “the daily mortar and rocket attacks on bases and convoys became virtually undetectable to the UAVs,” the report acknowledged.