Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Military (Defence) Intelligence in the Early 21st Century

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Military (Defence) Intelligence in the Early 21st Century

Article excerpt

Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril. Sun Tzu, The Art of War, 500 BC


At the start of the 21st century timely accurate intelligence has received a new priority. Military and civilian intelligence agencies must co-operate closely to give warning of danger to the populations and infrastructure of open democratic states. To do so the intelligence agencies must be technologically and analytically modern and efficient. They must be staffed by personnel with the abilities to manage a modern intelligence system working with a very high measure of dedication.

The power and influence of a state are multiplied considerably if its intelligence agencies function efficiently, and if those with the power to act on the intelligence available, do so wisely and in good time. Military intelligence with its focus on foreign military intelligence is an extremely important component of a nation's intelligence system. It is essential that it be provided with the necessary gifted, well-educated military officers as well as ample funding to perform its tasks effectively.


The 11 September 2001 terrorist attack on the United States of America (US) has placed new emphasis on counter-terrorism. It has changed the character of warfare and the priority functions of security services, particularly that of the military, at least for the present. It has also accentuated intelligence as a major factor in achieving success in rendering terrorism ineffective Success in countering terrorism depends largely on intelligence, on the ability to draw the correct conclusions from that intelligence and on taking the necessary operational steps to capture or kill perpetrators before they act.

One of the main characteristics of modern terrorism is its international roots. This means that the intelligence community of any country must have the means and the intelligence officers with the linguistic, operational and analytical skills to assess where in the world terrorist organisations exist with the intention of terrorising that intelligence community's home country. Since this would be beyond the capacity of most countries it is obvious that co-operation between states is necessary to be effective.

The Coalition Forces' (hereinafter the coalition) invasion of Iraq in 2003 (Operation Iraqi Freedom) with the professed aim to topple the Ba'ath Party regime and to establish a democracy in the Middle East, placed emphasis once again on conventional military intelligence. After the Iraqi military had been defeated the emphasis moved back to the gathering of intelligence to defeat terrorism.

Another current military priority is that of peace support operations. Most are done on the authority and under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) supported by regional organisations such as the African Union (AU). For this type of operation, national intelligence agencies are required to collect information outside their own countries. The intelligence gleaned from this information is needed to decide whether to supply forces for specific international peace support operations, to decide what type of forces are needed, and then to support own forces should they be deployed.

The information and intelligence required is collected and processed by central intelligence agencies, military intelligence and the police services of the countries involved in counter-terrorism, and the supplying of forces for peace operations. These agencies have to co-operate closely to be successful since working on their own may well lead to intelligence gaps which in turn result in easier access for terrorist organisations to suitable soft targets, or to poorly executed peace support operations. …

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