The Pentagon held a blogger conference call with Stehen Bond, Director of the Intelligence Transition Team (ITT) in Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) and Senior U.S. Intelligence Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior. The call covered his team’s experience with building and developing the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior intelligence capacity and capability. Intelligence was a key enabler which assisted and enabled the Iraqi Security Forces in counterinsurgency / counterterrorist operations in recent operations in Basrah, Mosul, Sadr City and Amarah. Bond retired from the Army four years ago as a Colonel after a career in intelligence work.
Bond began by providing an overview of the work thus far in developing Iraqi intelligence capability. MNSTC-I is tasked with broad support and training for a range of intelligence and counterterrorist operations for both US and Iraq agencies. From his vantage point, security in Iraq improves every day. The successes by the Iraqi security forces are the result of extensive investment by both nations in their development — and it needs to continue.
Intelligence is critical in establishing security. Bond had examples of how the Iraqis have improved their intel work. They have begun providing an “unprecedented” level of strategic, tactical, and targeting intel to commanders at all levels. Bond says the targeting level has improved tenfold from Q1 to Q2 alone, as well as other intel. The Iraqis are applying lessons learned at the intelligence academy run by MNSTC-I, and the targeting has become much more focused. Mapping and imagery has improved dramatically as well.
ISF intel agencies have grown significantly. The support structure in Baghdad has grown as well, and new facilities will come on line very soon.
The Iraqi Air Force has begun expanding its ability to conduct surveillance, under the direction of MNSTC-I. They have acquired specialty aircraft already for this, and they will purchase King Air platforms next year. One has already been delivered. [Note: They have more platforms than this, which DJ Elliot explains on page 15 at this Long War Journal link.]
Most of the intel is HUMINT. SIGINT is limited, but MNSTC-I is helping them develop it. The acadamy has trained hundreds of analysts and is expanding their offerings; they expect to graduate 3,000 a year by 2011. However, the Iraqis are not ready to assume the bulk of intel work. Much work remains to bolster them to self-reliance. The near term goals for MNSTC-I is to provide that support while developing national and regional Iraqi resources on intelligence. Navy and Air Force intel needs to be expanded significantly.
- The human factor — what is the expertise level in Iraq to understand and conceptualize this, and are these former Saddam officials? Mostly new blood. There are a few former regime officials, but most are brand new to this. It’s a big challenge. The mid- and senior-level officials get .
- Potential infiltration? The trust issue is a big issue. We mostly work with nationalists, which is good, but can lead to potential infiltration. They do extensive background checks, biometric identifications, and polygraphs. MNSTC-I is training polygraphers for these purposes. Without trust, we can’t share information in either direction.
- Sectarian issues — have those died down? Top-level officials want an end to sectarian issues, and that attitude has trickled down to the rank and file.
- AF/Navy development? Air Force has around 70 aircraft and 3,000 members. No info on the Navy.
- What’s the primary intel source these days? Primarily HUMINT. Tip lines get a lot of traffic. The challenge is in harnessing that capability.
- Differences between targeting Mahdi and AQI? More about process, don’t want to get too specific, but good process leads to good results.
- What’s the professionalism like in the civilian agencies using the intel? The word “intelligence” has bad connotations in Iraq, for obvious reasons. The rule of law is what MSNTC-I tries to impress on the Iraqis. The effort has turned the corner.
- The Iraqis are doing most of their own training now. MNSTC-I does the polygraph training and some of the HUMINT.