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Army General Takes Unprecedented Approach on Afghan Intel

On Monday, Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence (CJ2) for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Army Major General Michael Flynn,  published a critical analysis of the military intelligence efforts in Afghanistan.  A complete review of military practices in Afghanistan is not new, both President Obama and Gen. McChyrstal ordered top down reviews of the Afghan war before they made significant decisions.  But, what makes this report so unique is that the general’s final results were published through a think tank–a truly unusual approach for the military.

Gen. Flynn’s report questions whether standard approach towards military intelligence provides decision makers with information  tailored to fighting a counterinsurgency campaign. This report proposes shifting military intelligence collection methods from a focus on the enemy to a focus on the people of Afghanistan, ultimately, providing intelligence on the environment and people the military is trying to protect. “The highly complex environment in Afghanistan requires an adaptive way of thinking and operat- ing. Just as the old rules of warfare may no longer apply, a new way of leveraging and applying the information spectrum requires substantive improvements.”  Such a paradigm shift in the intelligence community makes sense in light of the unconventional approach Gen. McChrystal is bringing to Afghanistan. Read the report for more details.

Of the many recommendations contained in the report, Gen. Flynn proposes the creation of journalist-like intelligence collectors that fuse grassroots level information (e.g., civil affair officers, PRT’s, female engagement teams, NGO’s, terrain teams and infantry battalions) to provide commanders with multi-dimensional picture instead of the current structure of isolated narrow reports on individual topics.  Ultimately, providing decision makers with thorough, multi-page intelligence reports, rather than power point slide bullets, to base their decisions on.

Tom Ricks of CNAS attempted to explain Gen. Flynn’s tactic as a means “to reach beyond his own chain of command and his own community and talk to people such as commanders of deploying infantry units about what kind of intelligence they should be demanding.”

CNAS, the publisher of this report, is a Washington-based think tank founded in 2007 that has rapidly established itself as an influential player in the national security arena.  CNAS boasts numerous high-profile officials on the Board of Directors: current Director of National Intelligence (Adm. Blair), former Secretary of State (Madeline Albright) and Secretary of Defense (William Perry), as well as various other high-level State and Defense officials.  CNAS co-founders Michéle Flournoy and Kurt Campbell are serving as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs respectively.  Visit here for the latest CNAS national security publication topics.


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