March 06, 2009

How about we use poppy production? Oh, wait...

Obviously, I have already read the damning 318-page report on the intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iraq released by RAND (.pdf) and authored by Russ Glenn and Jamie Gayton. Obviously. I read it on the Metro to work this morning.

The report is causing quite a stir.

Based on scores of interviews with British, US, Canadian and Dutch military, intelligence and diplomatic officials - and marked for "official use only" - the book-length report is damning of a US military often unwilling to share intelligence among its military allies. It depicts commanders in the field being overwhelmed by information on hundreds of contradictory databases, and sometimes resistant to intelligence generated by its own agents in the CIA.

Counterinsurgency efforts are also shown as being at the mercy of local contacts peddling identical "junk" tips around various intelligence officials, with the effectiveness of the intelligence effort being quantified by some senior officers solely in terms of the amount of "tip money" disbursed to sources.

The report describes a rigid reliance on economic, military and political progress indicators regarded by the authors and interviewees as too often lacking in real meaning.

Its sources complain of commanders who have slipped into relying on "the fallacy of body counts", discredited after the war in Vietnam as a measure of success.

My buddy wrote in to say that he particularly enjoyed the part "where the Americans refused to tell a Dutch F-16 where its bombs had landed."

In all serious, though, finding the appropriate metrics by which to judge success or failure in COIN is really hard and almost always situation-dependent. (In Vietnam, the Marines famously used rice production as a metric in lieu of enemy body count.)

Since you're not about to read all 318 pages, though, I would recommend all readers of this blog, read Chapter Four: General COIN Observations. There is a lot of good stuff there.

In other news, though, WTF: what lazy-ass Guardian sub-editor wrote the header at the top of this otherwise good article on the Poles in Ghazni? A good part of the British media (and some of the British Army) indulged in this kind of "oh, the Americans are all violent oafs" narrative for the first three years of the Iraq war until it dawned on everyone that the softly-softly British had more or less lost in Basra and that the "kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out" Americans had adapted and begun to win in the rest of Iraq. I'm not saying the Americans weren't too kinetic in this part of Afghanistan. Maybe they were. But seriously, these tired old sterotypes about the clumsy American military in COIN operations was supposed to have gone out of style in 2007. This is not, I repeat, Julian Borger's fault. This is the fault of some clown in London.