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Old 09-13-2007   #1
Jedburgh
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Default Paper and COIN: Exploiting the Enemy's Documents

Military Review, Sep-Oct 07: Paper and COIN: Exploiting the Enemy's Documents
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....painstaking media collection and exploitation must become an integral part of all our combat efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and wherever else U.S. forces are deployed. Even within the HUMINT field of which it is a part, DOCEX is frequently an afterthought; it is underfunded and understaffed.

Despite the truly heroic efforts of a few within the intelligence community, media collection is rarely emphasized. This writer personally witnessed U.S. Soldiers traipsing through papers blowing around destroyed sites, never once deigning to pick up the material (Kandahar and Nuristan provinces). When confronted, the Soldiers said that investigating such stuff was not part of the package of Soldier skills they had been taught at basic training, nor had it been addressed prior to deployment. This lack of DOCEX awareness is sometimes corrected by aggressive, situationally aware commanders. The Marines and Special Operations Forces appear to be trained up, but our forces need to be universally cognizant of the importance of document recovery and exploitation....
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Old 09-26-2007   #2
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Default Any Comments?

I was hoping for some comment, anything really. Thanks, Jedburgh, for posting a slice of my article.

S/F, Webfoot
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Old 09-26-2007   #3
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Default DOCEX, Funding, Feedback, and Motivation

Good piece and very relevant. We are doing better at training this as part of site exploitation. We trained it before back in the old days

The critical point you make is that it is underfunded and it lacks "sex appeal" for generating monies. That has long been a problem; the other side of this is because it is underfunded and undermanned, there is rarely any appreciable feedback. The below pic is a shot of me captured from video as the Rwandan Patriotic Army G3 Colonel Charles Muheri examined captured documents taken in a raid against an Interahamwe militia training base on an island in lake Kivu in November 1995. As I recall this was a supply request sent to the "rear" in Goma; from it we could pretty well detremine how many bad guys were training and operating on the island. It also gave us further confirmation that a command structure to include formal logistics structure was operating. The fact that we found a shed filled with USAID donor beans that had been distributed in the refugee camps also helped.

We sent in quite a bit of stuff for exploitation and never heard a peep. Understand at this time there were 2 issues on the agenda for every session of the National Security Council. One was the Balkans. The other was Rwanda and the camps in Zaire. The "question" of whether the camps were being used as training and operational bases was a White House PIR.

We answered it and heard nothing. You do that to soldiers too much and they stop looking. I think I can safely speak for both Stan and myself on this point; evals on reporting from the rear are critical motivators. Tell me I am doing good, I'll go do more good. Tell me I doing poorly, I'll try and do better. Ignore me and I'll do what I deem necessary and you get what you get. Many times I requested evals just to make sure someone was reading what we sent. DOCEX needs the same thing and that means money and manning.

Best

Tom
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Old 09-26-2007   #4
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Thumbs up Agreed

This is a great article, with the point well-made through a number of relevant examples (both good and bad) of the potential of DOCEX. We did this fairly well during Vietnam, and it's a shame that the flashing lights of electronic methods seem to have at least partially obscured this most basic source.
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Old 09-26-2007   #5
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Good piece and very relevant. We are doing better at training this as part of site exploitation.
I'll second that. Ft. Knox has the lead on the training program for that, and TRADOC is hot on the subject.

A lack of translators that can be trusted at low levels really slows the DOCEX process due to sheer volume at the tactical level.
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Old 09-26-2007   #6
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Is there some reason why interpreters that we and the Brits have hired in Iraq could not be used as document translators? I understand that the Brits are concerned that their guys might get killed if left behind. My guess is they would be eager to take such a job. I would guess that they have also demonstrated a certain level of trusts at this point.
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Old 09-26-2007   #7
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Is there some reason why interpreters that we and the Brits have hired in Iraq could not be used as document translators? I understand that the Brits are concerned that their guys might get killed if left behind. My guess is they would be eager to take such a job. I would guess that they have also demonstrated a certain level of trusts at this point.
If they're indig, no matter how long they've worked for us, how dependable they seem, or how trustworthy they appear - you can never trust them. You always have to be careful with what you task them with and how much background you impart to them.

In any case, first, the number of available 'terps still does not meet the demand.

Second, there is a significant difference between "interpreting" conversation and "translating" documents. Document translation (in general, with all the caveats that implies) requires far more precision as well as requiring a higher level knowledge of English on the part of the individual tasked with translating the documents. Hell, the guy could be a native English speaker and a near-native fluency Arabic linguist and still require specific subject-matter knowledge in order to effectively translate certain types of documents.

In many cases, the nature of the mission should necessitate immediate on-the-spot document translation. Too often, this is only really possible if you have a soldier in uniform who is fluent in the language.

Once again, this brings me to my personal fork-in-the-eye of DA's "suspension" of the language requirement for HUMINT. An assigned or attached HUMINTer who is language-capable will be able to immediately read out the doc, so the mission leader can decide whether or not that information is immediately actionable or not. But right now, damn near all the HUMINTers being produced to fill much-needed slots can't interrogate, interview, or debrief the indig - let alone translate a document - without using a 'terp themselves.

Talking With Victor Charlie: An Interrogator's Story has some good vignettes about the value of DOCEX that also illustrate my point about the need to understand specialist vocab.
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Old 09-27-2007   #8
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If they're indig, no matter how long they've worked for us, how dependable they seem, or how trustworthy they appear - you can never trust them. You always have to be careful with what you task them with and how much background you impart to them.

In any case, first, the number of available 'terps still does not meet the demand.
Can I get an "AMEN" for Jed's point!?!?!

Absolutely true and a point that US folks continually do not get. This applies to the interagency crowd as well. Local hires are --- local hires. Use them. Take care of them. But watch them and as the Fokker's say, "keep them outside the circle of trust."

Tom
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Old 09-27-2007   #9
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Interesting article, Webfoot. I must admit I'm surprised at some of your examples of soldiers burning documents or just letting them blow away in the wind; actually, "shocked and appalled" would be a better description . You mentioned that SF and MEF soldiers did a better job in this area, and I'm wondering if you could comment on why you think that is? Is it better basic training in terms of something like "collect all documents regardless"? Is it that they have a better understanding of where documents fit into the entire war effort? Is it something else completely?
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Old 09-27-2007   #10
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Hi Tom,

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Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
Absolutely true and a point that US folks continually do not get. This applies to the interagency crowd as well. Local hires are --- local hires. Use them. Take care of them. But watch them and as the Fokker's say, "keep them outside the circle of trust."
Okay, you know I just can't let this one pass by .

There has to be some type of trust relationship with local hires and, I would think, that this is especially true when you depend on them for translation and cultural guidance. In some situations, they are putting themselves and their families in extreme peril by working with you. So, how far do you let them "in"?

The issue I'm thinking of is the one surrounding Iraqi translators and the denial of any backdoor safety mechanism to evac them to the US if the fecal matter hits the rotary impeller. It strikes me that you are actually enhancing the likelihood of having them turned if they do not have some type of escape route, at least for their families. At the same time, I think it also reinforces a few IO messages made by AQ (and others) that are dangerous in the long term; to whit, a) the US is only "here" to get what they can and b) the US doesn't take care of its allies.

So, while I agree it would be insane to hire an interpreter one day and give them total access the next, how do you think the relationships should be structured?

Marc
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Old 09-27-2007   #11
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Marc

I still say what I just said. I understand your instinct to do otherwise as you are trained to think that way. I was an intel officer as was Jed. Real world in environments like Rwanda or Iraq--the circle of trust is very small.

best

Tom

PS

On your question about safeguards and potential extraction--absolutely necessary. that was what I meant by "take care of them". But I have been down the road on seeing local hires inside the decision-making cycle in embassies--only to have them pop up later as members of the HN government.

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Old 09-27-2007   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marct
There has to be some type of trust relationship with local hires and, I would think, that this is especially true when you depend on them for translation and cultural guidance. In some situations, they are putting themselves and their families in extreme peril by working with you. So, how far do you let them "in"?
You let them "in" only as far as the mission requires.

You can think of this as the difference between empathy and sympathy. To develop a good working relationship, it is essential to understand the perceptions and concerns of your local hires, to listen to them, and to take of their needs within appropriate boundaries. But once you cross that line of sympathy and bond emotionally with the indig, you have compromised your position. This is very difficult for many people to grasp (other than lawyers and salesmen), because we want to be liked, and we like making friends. Addressing this effectively really requires strong leadership on this issue down at the unit level where it impacts (whether it is a military unit, or the civilian leadership at a PRT).
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The issue I'm thinking of is the one surrounding Iraqi translators and the denial of any backdoor safety mechanism to evac them to the US if the fecal matter hits the rotary impeller. It strikes me that you are actually enhancing the likelihood of having them turned if they do not have some type of escape route, at least for their families.
Because of difficulties in vetting and monitoring indig employees, we have to consider that they are all "turned", reporting to one faction or another. Any other mindset is unacceptable.

And although you are definitely describing a worst-case scenario, I do agree that there should be contingency plans for evac of certain indig personnel in the event of catastrophe. However, I also strongly believe it is foolish to state up-front to indig employees that the US promises to safeguard and evac them and their families in case of mission collapse. In the end, they must feel that they are working for stabilization of their country - not working for the US.
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Originally Posted by marct
At the same time, I think it also reinforces a few IO messages made by AQ (and others) that are dangerous in the long term; to whit, a) the US is only "here" to get what they can and b) the US doesn't take care of its allies.
The difference between empathy and sympathy is in the head of the US servicemember. It is not overt discrimination, nor should it translate into poor treatment of the indig translator, or a failure to provide basic security measures to ensure that he and his family are not endangered by working with us - it is a mindset that is simply a continual awareness that the indig may not be what they seem, and although they are partners, they are not "read on" and some things must be kept compartmented. Mission focus.

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Old 09-27-2007   #13
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Hi Tom and Ted,

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I still say what I just said. I understand your instinct to do otherwise as you are trained to think that way. I was an intel officer as was Jed. Real world in environments like Rwanda or Iraq--the circle of trust is very small.
Sure, that's definitely part of it. Ted's distinction between sympathy and empathy really does get to the core of the differences. Believe me when I say that I do understand why that circle of trust has to be small in the intel world .

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On your question about safeguards and potential extraction--absolutely necessary. that was what I meant by "take care of them". But I have been down the road on seeing local hires inside the decision-making cycle in embassies--only to have them pop up later as members of the HN government.
Doesn't surprise me at all. More on this later in response to Ted's post...

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You let them "in" only as far as the mission requires.
Okay, I think that is fair enough. Just out of interest, is the mission defined / described to them? I don't mean this at all in a confrontational way - I'm trying to understand the process involved, and you guys have the experience.

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You can think of this as the difference between empathy and sympathy. To develop a good working relationship, it is essential to understand the perceptions and concerns of your local hires, to listen to them, and to take of their needs within appropriate boundaries. But once you cross that line of sympathy and bond emotionally with the indig, you have compromised your position. This is very difficult for many people to grasp (other than lawyers and salesmen), because we want to be liked, and we like making friends. Addressing this effectively really requires strong leadership on this issue down at the unit level where it impacts (whether it is a military unit, or the civilian leadership at a PRT).
BTW, I really like the distinction between empathy and sympathy and I'll probably end up using it in a lecture (with citation of course ). I think in some cases, it goes well beyond any particular desire to be liked - certainly it's something that cultural Anthropologists are actually trained to do (i.e. establish an empathic relationship even with people you don't like).

I will point out that, for the most part, Anthropologists are aware of the potential dangers of empathy - "going native" as it were - and try to train around it. It certainly doesn't always work .

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Because of difficulties in vetting and monitoring indig employees, we have to consider that they are all "turned", reporting to one faction or another. Any other mindset is unacceptable.
Always assume the worst? Hmmm, probably the only realistic option you have in the intel field.

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And although you are definitely describing a worst-case scenario, I do agree that there should be contingency plans for evac of certain indig personnel in the event of catastrophe. However, I also strongly believe it is foolish to state up-front to indig employees that the US promises to safeguard and evac them and their families in case of mission collapse. In the end, they must feel that they are working for stabilization of their country - not working for the US.
Oh, I agree it was a worst case scenario. I also agree that such a guarantee if given up front might have a negative effect - in fact, it probably would have one. I do think it is important to establish a tradition of loyalty to your allies and, if things fail completely, that would include having a tradition of evac'ing them. You are right about the importance of feeling that they are working for their country, not the US.

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The difference between empathy and sympathy is in the head of the US servicemember. It is not overt discrimination, nor should it translate into poor treatment of the indig translator, or a failure to provide basic security measures to ensure that he and his family are not endangered by working with us - it is a mindset that is simply a continual awareness that the indig may not be what they seem, and although they are partners, they are not "read on" and some things must be kept compartmented. Mission focus.
I do think that is probably the best mindset, but I am also aware that it can become a somewhat dangerous one unless the reasoning is spelled out very well. Let me toss out an example of an analogous situation from the social sciences.

After World War II, almost everyone in the social sciences abandoned anything that might smack of biology influencing culture/society. This happened largely as a result of most peoples reactions to the NAZI's eugenicist ideology. In the mid 1970's, we started to see a bit of a comeback in the idea that biology might influence culture / society (e.g. E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology). And, what with all sorts of new discoveries coming out in the 70's-today (e.g. neurotransmitters, brain modularity, MRI's sequencing the human genome, etc.), it does, to my mind, make a lot of sense to reintegrate biology into the study of culture and society, especially if we could always hold in our minds the difference between genotype (absolute DNA sequences) and phenotype (how those DNA sequences interact with the environment to produce the current "person"). That simple distinction allows us to say it is both Nature and Nurture. So, we have a big movement in sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, et al. to re-introduce biology into the study of culture and society.

The next part of the story comes about 8 years ago when a good friend of mine (Jerome Barkow) is invited to give the keynote address at a conference for this crowd. Jerry was one of the people who really got behind the movement to reintegrate biology into the study of culture and society and his book Darwin, Sex and Status is one of the classics in the field. So, he is wandering around the conference listening to papers and getting increasingly bothered by some of the stuff he is hearing. By the time he is to deliver his keynote address, he throws it out and starts lambasting people for reverting to a crude form of biological determinism similar to what was showing up in the 1930's. I asked Jerry, when he told me about this, why he thought it had happened, and he told me that he thought a lot of people just got mentally lazy and dropped the distinction between genoype and phenotype.

So, tying this back into local hires, when I see comments like Tom's
Quote:
Local hires are --- local hires. Use them. Take care of them. But watch them and as the Fokker's say, "keep them outside the circle of trust."
I get a touch concerned. NOT, I should point out, that I have any worries about Tom's (or your or most people's here) understanding but, rather, because I am worried about how someone not in the intel / FAO area might interpret it . I'm afraid that it is too easy to go from "don't bring them totally inside" to "don't trust them at all".

Marc
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Old 09-27-2007   #14
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I get a touch concerned. NOT, I should point out, that I have any worries about Tom's (or your or most people's here) understanding but, rather, because I am worried about how someone not in the intel / FAO area might interpret it . I'm afraid that it is too easy to go from "don't bring them totally inside" to "don't trust them at all".

Marc
It's amazing how many people seem to view trust as an "either/or" proposition, without understanding that there are varying degrees of trust that they use every day without thinking about it. The empathy/sympathy issue has been around at least as long as Small Wars...it was an issue during the Indian Wars and again during Vietnam (look at some of the commentary that came out of the Montagnard rebellion).
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Old 09-27-2007   #15
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It's amazing how many people seem to view trust as an "either/or" proposition, without understanding that there are varying degrees of trust that they use every day without thinking about it. The empathy/sympathy issue has been around at least as long as Small Wars...it was an issue during the Indian Wars and again during Vietnam (look at some of the commentary that came out of the Montagnard rebellion).
Guys

It is equally amazing how many folks go the other way--because they are locals hired, they are locals with the keys to the inner sanctum. And the folks who have handed them the keys get very defensive when you challenge them about such decisions.

Steve is correct and it is a matter of degree--but up to a point. The real challenge is establishing where that point is and doing that comes from experience-based intuition and a willingness to accept risk. Frankly there were times that I trusted members of the host nation or contacts living within the host nation more than I did some US counterparts. But every time it was on a case by case basis with a deliberate assessment of risk and never was it a case of such and such is "all around good guy, great human being, my friend and I will tell him everything".

Best

Tom
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Old 09-27-2007   #16
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Guys

It is equally amazing how many folks go the other way--because they are locals hired, they are locals with the keys to the inner sanctum. And the folks who have handed them the keys get very defensive when you challenge them about such decisions.

Steve is correct and it is a matter of degree--but up to a point. The real challenge is establishing where that point is and doing that comes from experience-based intuition and a willingness to accept risk. Frankly there were times that I trusted members of the host nation or contacts living within the host nation more than I did some US counterparts. But every time it was on a case by case basis with a deliberate assessment of risk and never was it a case of such and such is "all around good guy, great human being, my friend and I will tell him everything".

Best

Tom
Exactly. Ten characters...give or take....
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Old 09-27-2007   #17
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marct,

Well, I know that the Marines train their folks to not only capture and evacuate POWs but to also search for documents.media, especially if it is on a body (breathing or not, makes little difference to the analyst unless the gore makes the info unreadable) and then tag and evacuate them. As for SF folks, one of their main purposes is the acquisition of intel, thus they are highly sensitized to documents, media, etc. Having been in a few mission briefs, litter pickup in and on the objective, time and circumstances permitting, was stressed.
Doesn't always happen, people forget, circumstances preclude it or time inhibits it, but the jarheads and the snake-eaters are pretty good as document vacuums. The soldiers on the other hand, don't seem to include it in their basic skills package. At least that is the answer I got from close on to a hundred soldiers from different units, all 11Bs.
Don't know why.
If you think you are appalled and shocked, you should have seen my reaction on the mountainside outside of Aranas or south at Kandahar.

The early recce missions in Iraq (2003) were horrible in regards to safe-guarding media and documents. There were several instances when large caches of documents and/or computer hard-drives were located at "abandoned" facilites of interest (Al-Kindi facilites come to mind). Because the survey teams were to small the decision was usually made to return the following day with a larger SSE team with lots of security. No security was left to monitor or safeguard the sites. Upon the morrow, when the SSEs returned to the various sites, there had been selective destruction of the documents/computer hard-drives. The SSE missions would sift through the destruction for anything worth a crap, usually finding nothing. Upon RTB, the mission would be filed as "NSTR - Vandalism preclude collection and exploitation", or words to that effect. Always amazed me that the vandalism was so selective and neatly done, with the exact items we were looking for usually laid in a tidy strip in the floor and carefully burned with an accelerant while nothing else in the cache area was even smoke damaged. My deductions of a comprehensive destruction plan conducted by "loyalist stay behinds" was noted but never recorded by ISG intelligence personnel (meaning Colonel/GS-15 and higher, the lower level intel weenies were up in arms about it). Lost a lot of info that way.

Lots of things shock and appall me when it comes to intelligence.

Webfoot

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Old 09-27-2007   #18
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I wonder how much of this may stem from our own increasingly-digital society. Paper doesn't quite have the same weight (in terms of value/content) that it used to have. I could be way off base, but I wonder how many of those younger guys (and gals) who ignore paper would do the same with a flash drive or laptop?

With reference to digital intel...sure, it's possible to recover data from torched drives, but it's nowhere as easy as CSI-type shows (or IT propaganda) make it appear. There may be the learned assumption that if it's digital it's always going to be recoverable thus there's not the same need to watch over it.

Just two admittedly random thoughts...YMMV.
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Old 09-27-2007   #19
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Jed,

Our cultural misunderstandings inhibit our effective use of local or even Cat II terps. I was working with various units in Afghanistan and they kept complaining about the untrustworthiness of even their Cat IIs, US citizens all. When I asked the nature of the problem I was told that while they were often quite good at rapid translation and even limited document translations, each terp seemed to have a faulty memory when it came to certain tribes. Of course, each CAT II was from the good ole USofA but had previously lived in Afghanistan. Turns out that the terps retained the tribal loyalty and "overlooked" much of what could be considered "bad news" for that tribe, even if the terp in question had been a US citizen over 20 years. My solution was to mix the terps up, as the existing policy was to send a terp originating from, say, Kandahar province (lets make him a Achakzai of Durrani background) to Kandahar area, as he "understood" the culture better. I said to send anybody of Durrani background up into the Ghilzai areas and send Ghilzai terps to the Durrani areas. Then there would be no "loyalty conflict" based on regional association. Of course, Pushtu speaking terps from tribal confederacies in Pakistan were easier, just send them deeper into Afghanistan away from the border (say, Helmand or Nimruz provinces). Not alsways workable nor a surefire solution, but much better than nothing.
Don't know if it was enacted because of the fluidity of the terp length of service and replacement policies. Please don't misunderstand, the great majority of Cat IIs were loyal Americans but they had familial and tribal blinkers that they didn't realize they had. Baggage that needs to be acknowledged.
My two cents.

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Old 09-27-2007   #20
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Hi webfoot,

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If you think you are appalled and shocked, you should have seen my reaction on the mountainside outside of Aranas or south at Kandahar.
Well, I just managed to pick my jaw up off the ground and, now that I think on it, you're right - I wouldn't want to have seen your reaction then since I suspect you were armed .

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Originally Posted by Webfoot View Post
The early recce misions in Iraq (2003) were horrible in regards to safe-guarding media and documents. There were several instances when large caches of documents and/or computer hard-drives were located at "abandoned" facilites of interest (Al-Kindi facilites come to mind). .... Always amazed me that the vandalism was so selective and neatly done, with the exact items we were looking for usually laid in a tidy strip in the floor and carefully burned with an accelerant while nothing else in the cache area was even smoke damaged.
Amazing, that . I really do hope that it has gotten better .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Webfoot View Post
My deductions of a comprehensive destruction plan conducted by "loyalist stay behinds" was noted but never recorded by ISG intelligence personnel (meaning Colonel/GS-15 and higher, the lower level intel weenies were up in arms about it). Lost a lot of info that way.
If I was being cynical I suppose I would say that of course everyone knew that the Iraqis truly wanted a democracy and none of them would ever support, in their hearts, that horrid, evil dictator, therefore your conclusions must be wrong (I can't believe I typed that with a straight face! ). Still and all, it does raise an interesting issue of ideological stances influencing mission effectiveness.

I noted in the bio in the article that your last posting was in Afghanistan and, along the lines of ideologies influencing mission effectiveness, I was wondering if you noted any significant differences between the various NATO troops and their DOCEX practices?

Marc
__________________
Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
Senior Research Fellow,
The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
Carleton University
http://marctyrrell.com/
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