Officials Continue Developing Iraq’s Intelligence Capabilities
By Tim Kilbride
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2008 A robust national intelligence apparatus will be a key enabler for the independent operation of the Iraqi security forces, but the necessary capabilities are still being developed, a coalition advisor said Aug. 1.
“Intelligence information is essential to defeating the insurgent, terrorist threat and establishing Iraqi self-reliance,” Steve Bond, director of the Intelligence Transition Team under Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, said during a call with military bloggers.
But Bond added that much work remains to make the Iraqi security forces' intelligence agencies self-reliant.
Bond’s unit, responsible for training members of the Iraqi intelligence community, supports the Iraqi ministries of Defense and Interior, as well as the Iraqi Counterterrorism Command. A major initiative is encouraging the national-level intelligence agencies to provide representatives to work together in interagency intelligence fusion cells, Bond said.
“In the past few months, we've seen an unprecedented level of cooperation among the agencies to support the tactical commanders at the regional operations command centers, providing strategic and operational intelligence, as well as targeting information to those commands,” he said.
“The capability to produce and action targets has significantly and, I'll say, exponentially improved in all the agencies over the last quarter,” Bond noted. “The [Iraqi Security Forces have] removed a significant amount of terrorists and criminals -- over 1,200 from April through June -- as a result of this focused targeting.”
Another initiative, taking place in the Ministry of Defense’s Directorate General for Intelligence and Security, is the development of imagery and mapping capabilities, supporting the security forces with Arabic-language specialty maps and imagery products.
Separately, the Iraqi air force is expanding its ability to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
“We're also looking at adding small, ‘throw-and-go’ unmanned aerial vehicles and some increased analytical capabilities,” Bond said.
To supplement the current heavy reliance on human intelligence and produce more robust information feeds, the Iraqi army and Defense Ministry are developing a signals intelligence capability, Bond said.
Despite some successes, he said, numerous challenges remain for the overall intelligence program. Processes and procedures within the fusion cells need to be refined, he explained, while overall trust throughout the intelligence community sometimes is lacking.
“I'll just say that trust remains an issue, both internally within the agencies and external[ly] among the agencies,” Bond said. “Personnel vetting and associated security procedures, while improving, are not yet sufficiently mature.”
In the Iraqi provinces, especially along the borders, thin intelligence infrastructure and resources present a challenge. Similarly, Bond said, the intelligence capabilities of the Iraqi navy and air force need to be expanded.
Finally, Iraq’s Military Intelligence Academy is vital for “establishing, improving and sustaining a professionalized intelligence corps, but the academy needs to expand its facility to add additional instructors and increase the output of graduates from 2,000 a year in 2009 to about 3,000 a year by 2010 [or] 2011,” Bond said.
To address the immediate intelligence needs of the Iraqi security forces, Bond explained, his team would focus in the near term on supporting operations and targeting at the tactical levels. They will also seek to expand capabilities in the provinces, he said.
Longer term, Bond noted, his team will work to mature the Iraqi organizations.
In the meantime, the coalition continues to provide the bulk of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance functions the Iraqi security forces depend on, Bond said, though he predicted Iraq’s major intelligence organizations will be effective, with minor limiting factors, by the end of 2008.
The relationship thus far has paid off, Bond noted.
“During the past five months, we've seen the Iraqi security forces take the lead in significant operations in Basra, Sadr City, Baghdad, Mosul, Al Amarah and now just this week in Diyala,” he said. “The successes by the ISF in these operations are a result of investments made by the United States, the citizens of Iraq and the work of the coalition forces to improve the capacity, capability and professionalism of the Iraqi security forces.”
(Tim Kilbride works in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)