Advisers Urge Military to Rely Less on Drones, More on Expertise

Article excerpt


Military operations in Afghanistan rely too much on intelligence gathered by unmanned drones, often exclude important publicly available data and do not focus enough on the recruitment of human agents, a Pentagon report says.

The report by the Defense Science Board, a panel that advises the Pentagon, says that the defense budget does not properly direct funding for open-source intelligence collection - information available to the public and gathered from a wide variety of sources, including academic papers and newspapers.

Overall, these problems tend to exclude valuable sources of social and behavioral science data, including human geography, according to the report.

It also says analysts often are overwhelmed by the volume of data collected by ball-shaped sensors outfitted on the bottom of military aircraft and from high-tech camera and radar pods placed on blimps and sometimes even telephone poles.

While the technology has helped pinpoint and kill enemy combatants and to detect cellphone conversations on the battlefield, its created a a crisis in processing, exploitation, and dissemination of the information.

Drone warfare has taken center stage in recent counterterrorism operations but is not always considered the best approach for counterinsurgency, which often requires the military to earn the trust of local populations for turning people against insurgents.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai this week publicly complained about the U.S. reliance on drone warfare after a recent bombing that he said mistakenly killed civilians in a strike targeting Taliban insurgents.

From an intelligence perspective, the report recommends that the Pentagon devote more resources to developing expertise in anthropology, sociology and what is called human-terrain mapping in order to understand and predict insurgencies. It also says the military and intelligence agencies need to provide better training in advanced analysis earlier in analysts' careers.

The level of analysis is needed at the very front end of any future conflict, not several years down the road, the report says.

Another key recommendation calls for the Pentagon to invest more resources in predicting the locations of insurgencies for use in counterinsurgency warfare, or COIN in military parlance.

A chart in the report identified possible COIN challenges in 24 countries and territories where U.S. forces may intervene in future counterinsurgency warfare.

They are: Pakistan, Mexico, Yemen, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Congo, Ethiopia, Gaza/West Bank, Eritrea, Guatemala, Colombia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kurdistan, Tunisia and Lebanon. …