Strategic War Time Examples
The intelligence collection techniques that I think have been used to the greatest effect in Iraq and Afghanistan is HUMINT and SIGINT. This could be that I am a little bias of the two because I have worked for a SIGNIT and HUMINT agency. HUMINT intelligence has been great in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a more tribal area than Iraq and while SIGNIT is still possible through the use of cell phone and internet tracking, I have noticed that best results comes from the information gathered by case officers conducting clandestine operations on the ground. SIGNIT is used to track terrorist networks, but more so the traces are coming from Pakistan and the attacks are taking place in Afghanistan. SIGNIT would have more success if not only drone strikes were conducted in Pakistan, but also raids by US forces as well.
HUMINT and SIGNIT have had great success in Iraq as well. Being that Iraq is a little more modernized that Afghanistan, there are far more people with cell phones and internet capability, this includes the terrorist organizations, which makes tracking and finding them that much easier. Specialty units in the US military and intelligence communities were able to track cells phones of leaders and target them with a raid or a drone attack. However, some terrorist became wise to the raid tactics of the units coming to capture or kill them. There is a device that the terrorist could purchase on the street corner or at a cell phone accessory shop, and this device was a little light that would light up when the cell phone rings. The bad part apart that device, is that it would light up when the cell phone lost a signal as well. So if a terrorist group is in a home and their cell phones all lost a signal at the same time, they knew that their phones have been jammed by a jamming device and a raid was about to be conducted on their home.
Strategic War Time Examples2
I have spent time in both Iraq and Afghanistan; in my experience HUMINT and SIGINT have been the most effective against the threats we face there. It is amazing to me that both of these countries have progressed little in 2000 years, however every time I am out in a city almost every person I see has a cell phone! Of course this includes the bad guys as well, they have enhanced their tradecraft when using phones or radios but a lot of them have not. This of course affords us ample opportunities to utilize SIGINT when tracking and targeting insurgents to devastating effect. However HUMINT is quite effective as well in these countries, particularly due to the high level of cultural backstabbing that occurs.
Speaking from my experience working with just one of the agencies in the IC, it appears that the most successful use of these two tools, in either country, is by combining the two in support of each other. I have seen the convergence of these two disciplines many times in the field and together they are extremely versatile through human intelligence efforts, the United States might be able to recruit a tribal leader previously loyal to the Taliban in Afghanistan. By comparing his conversations with the Taliban through the use of Signals Intelligence, a higher level of confidence might be achieved concerning his true loyalty1. This technique is often employed and quite successfully. HUMINT is a very useful tool for us although it can be difficult to employ and is susceptible to the whims of the asset. In both countries we know we are dealing with questionable characters with questionable motivations. If we have a measure of control on the asset we can then use SIGINT to further vet or exploit an asset. We could take advantage of technology to examine the assets electronic devices to determine associates or to track the asset to determine his truthfulness. Exploiting cell phones is a bit more successful in Iraq due to the country being a little ahead of Afghanistan technologically. This also affords us an edge in Iraq using SIGINT to correlate relationships amongst insurgent groups. I have seen targeters ply their trade in the field and it is very impressive. By tracking one cell phone number or phone they are able to connect relationships with other insurgents called from that phone, then traced from phone to phone down the line. Target locations can be roughly located, then possibly confirmed or narrowed down by a HUMINT source. There are a great deal more technical descriptions involved in this process; I am always truly impressed by the possibilities using SIGINT.
HUMINT is so crucial in Afghanistan because the dirt bags spend a great deal of time in very remote and technologically poor areas. Specifically near the Pakistan border we frequently use the same process in reverse when SIGINT falls short. HUMINT source intelligence has been around since the first person thought to gather intelligence; it has the ability to reach almost anywhere and is not solely dependent on technology.