Reader "Devil Dawg" writes in from Iraq to illustrate the problem I addressed in an earlier post. Not being able to share information with our alleged "partners" due to classification issues is no joke. Neither is the difficulty Gen. McChrystal is going to have getting U.S. military units to truly partner with the ANSF as he intends.
Here's a wonderful anecdote that illustrates the problems with the culture of classified information in the US military and how it affects the mission in Iraq.
Last week, an American unit was traveling -- unescorted, but that's another story -- along a major route in our AO, along which construction workers are installing a new pipeline. During the course of construction, the workers turned up large quantities of munitions, most likely left over from the war with Iran. Hundreds of artillery rounds, mortars, and mines were stacked in large piles on the side of the road. The unit, not having an escort and with only a couple vehicles, did not stop; however, they took some pictures as they passed by and promptly sent out a SPOTREP upon their return to the FOB.That SPOTREP was classified SECRET//NOFORN. So, I've got hundreds of 20+ year old munitions stacked on the side of the road, unguarded, lying in wait for the bad guys -- at this point, it's hard to justify calling anyone an insurgent over here anymore -- to pick them up for a year's worth of IED material or some poor kid to start kicking around the anti-tank mine and lose a leg.Time is, you know, somewhat important here. Alas, I received the original SPOTREP at 1615. The scrubbed version, releasable to the Iraqis, wasn't ready until 2055.Now, you might be asking yourself what's the big deal? Who cares if the IA knows? We'll just send an EOD team out there to pick that stuff up, right?Wrong.We don't have the resources for this stuff anymore. There is exactly one EOD team in the entire province. Furthermore, and this is the important part, Iraq is not our AO anymore. It belongs to the Iraqis; it's their AO. It's their battlespace.Getting the US army in our AO -- I'm on a MiTT and live with the IA; therefore, I am allowed to call it "our" AO -- to understand that has been like telling a four year old he can't have a candy bar.Army Major: Why?Marine Lieutenant: Because of the security agreement.Army Major: Why?Marine Lieutenant: Because of the security agreement.Army Major: Wait, I don't understand.Honestly, I don't think anyone on the brigade staff that RIP'd in last month read the security agreement. I'm not kidding. Their OPORD used all the right key words and phrases, my favorite of which is "by, with, and through the IA", but no one on the brigade staff is putting those words into action. They send out convoys without escorts. They are dragging ass coordinating joint security patrols; they're doing them unilaterally right now. One time, they didn't want to let an IA EOD team into their cordon around a suspected IED. Are you kidding me?When the brigade commander flies down to the Iraqi base where I live and work, the army unit who provides our life support and force protection secures the LZ as if the birds were coming in under fire. They're landing at a division headquarters mind you. Then, his PSD follows him around at the alert, scanning the area for threats as if on patrol.I am literally embarrassed every time they come for a visit.The IA are the main effort. In order to facilitate that effort, we have to share information. As a school trained intelligence officer, I realize the importance of scrubbing information for sources and methods. But, as the above anecdote illustrates, some common sense is in order.Wait, I'm in the US military. Nevermind. Common sense is an uncommon virtue around here.