Intelligent Design: COIN Operations and Intelligence Collection and Analysis

By Zeytoonian, Dan | Military Review, September-October 2006 | Go to article overview
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Intelligent Design: COIN Operations and Intelligence Collection and Analysis

Zeytoonian, Dan, Military Review

This article was originally published in Special Warfare, May-June 2006. It was written and reviewed by a team of officers in Class 2006-01 of the Command and General Staff Officer Course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Contributors include Majors Laura Geldhof Maureen Green, Remi Hajjar, Chris Litwhiler, Christine Locke, James Myers, David Perrine, Cameron Weathers and Dan Zeytoonian; Lieutenant Commander David Smith and Christine Watson. Zeytoonian is the primary author.


ONE OF THE GREATEST CHALLENGES for the current generation of American military professionals is relearning the principles of counterinsurgency (COIN). This includes intelligence professionals who must not only tailor the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace (IPB) process to the requirements of COIN, but also learn the intricacies of foreign cultures and peoples. Analysts have to shift their focus from military capabilities to social networks, culture, and people. The level of understanding required to conduct COIN operations at the tactical and operational levels presents challenges.

At the beginning of a COIN campaign, before patterns in the enemy's method of operating have emerged, the intelligence analyst is more dependent on military art than science. In such a situation, to generate actionable intelligence, friendly forces must frequently begin by executing an action. (1) In that type of operation, the role of intelligence shifts from one that supports maneuver to a more central role.

Perhaps the biggest intelligence challenges presented by COIN arise from the difficulties friendly forces face in identifying insurgents and in understanding complex cultural environments. Examples can be seen in the chart on the following page. Before discussing COIN, we must review IPB against more conventional threats to appreciate the changes in collection, analysis, and support to targeting.

Traditional Threats

For more than 40 years, the United States prepared for a conventional war against the Soviet Union and its allies. The cold war affected every facet of Army operations, from weapons procurement, to the development of tactics, to training at the combat training centers.

Cold war planning also affected the various parts of the intelligence cycle: direct, collect, process and disseminate. In developing the IPB process, the intelligence community utilized doctrinal templates that became the basis for the development of enemy Courses of Action (COA). The availability of Soviet doctrine, combined with their rigid adherence to it and the minimal amounts of initiative they afforded junior leaders, made the doctrinal templates a useful and accurate tool. Over time, IPB became a scientific process.

* Collection

Collection of intelligence against enemy targets focused on the threat's large networks, including command, control and communications; air defense; and sustainment. Intelligence assets at all levels utilized a balance of the various intel disciplines--human intelligence (HUMINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), imagery intelligence (IMINT), and measurement and signatures intelligence (MASINT)--to find the enemy for targeting. Tactical and operational Military Intelligence (MI) units used their organic systems as well as Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities (TENCAP) feeds to find concentrations of Soviet forces.

* Analysis

Define the battlefield environment and describe the battlefield effects. In this part of IPB, the intelligence section focused on the effects of weather and the physical terrain on friendly and enemy operations. It focused on the military aspects of terrain, mobility and the impact of terrain on the range of the weapons systems.

Evaluate the threat and determine threat courses of action. Determining the effects of weather and terrain allowed an intelligence section to predict an enemy force's scheme of maneuver in a situational template.

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