Taliban HUMINT

by Joshua Foust on 4/15/2011 · 5 comments

The LA Times wrote a pretty interesting piece on the Taliban’s intelligence networks:

The Taliban uses the information it gathers to probe for openings for suicide bombers, to monitor the movements of Western and Afghan forces and to stymie efforts to improve public services that help the government build credibility with civilians.

But analysts also point to a key weakness: Even though a new generation of militants is more adept at employing the Internet, cellphones and social media, the Taliban’s decentralized structure makes it difficult to synthesize information and act in a unified manner.

Indeed. I’m not just hyping this because the reporter quotes me later in the piece. It is important to keep in mind that the Taliban also has collection and analysis efforts in play. Even if they’re not as organized and corporate as American intel, it is effective. And, almost as importantly, operates at 1/100 the cost.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1849 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 5 comments }

Briandot April 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Everyone has HUMINT, and even very good CI guys won’t be able to stop individuals who can melt into the population. That said, allow me to play the other side here: When they also have SIGINT, IMINT, etc., are able to monitor/freeze our assets on the international banking system, speak 120 different languages, assert complete air dominance and see in the dark from 10,000 feet up, then a remark about the relative cost might mean something. Until then, I’d simply say that yes, they’re watching our trucks go by, and/or asking their cousin what they heard from the Americans.

I’m not saying their operations are not effective — clearly the assymetric warfare of IEDs and controlling the population are effective — but it has more to do with Clausewitz and defensive guerilla (“People’s”) war than it does intelligence activities.

Ael April 15, 2011 at 7:53 pm

They have no need for SIGINT, IMINT, banking system control, etc.

Given their operations and objectives, those things would be a waste of time and energy. Furthermore, it would create targets for the americans to shoot at.

Counting trucks and talking to cousins are far more effective techniques.

Joe Dixon April 16, 2011 at 5:15 am

The Taliban use intelligence? Holy cow. There’s a surprise. It’s almost as if they’re people as well.

CE April 16, 2011 at 7:09 am

Looks like them Talibs have been putting that HUMINT to good use by starting the 2011 Spring Fighting Season with a bang. (crummy pun, I know)

Now, if only we could find a way to counter their bipedal smart bomb technology, we’d be in business.

anan April 19, 2011 at 5:00 am

CE, been trying to explore the attacks on 201st ANA Corps. They were remarkably well executed.

Could elements of the Pakistan Army and ISI have been behind them? [Purely speculative.] There is a great deal of tension and mistrust between 201st ANA Corps and their counterparts over the Durand. The emotion and anger of many Pakistani Army retired generals while talking about the ANA is extraordinary . . . in English and Urdu. Arguably much of this tension is partly the fault of the ANA and their anti ISI and Pak army bias.

How will 201st ANA Corps react? Will this result in more border clashes? Which tribes and regions will 201st ANA Corps retaliate against [or to put it differently which Afghan villages will 201st ANA Corps light up]? It is only now that 201 ANA Corps has the force densities to seriously damage the Taliban [Peshawar Shura, TTP, TNSM, HiG, LeT] in parts of Kunar, Laghman and Nangarhar. 201st ANA Corps has received two new brigades, and to my knowledge has been freed of security responsibilities in Kapisa, Parwan, Panjir, Bamiyan, Kabul and Logar.

Be curious to hear perspectives on 201st ANA Corps humint capacity and humint utilization. Are 201st ANA Corps officers listening to and respecting their G2s? Is NDS sharing intelligence and joint planning with 201st ANA Corps any better? Is RC-East? Afghan MoI?

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