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INTELLIGENCE SUPPORT TO SPECIAL OPERATIONS IN - page 14 / 35

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the U.S. Army Special Forces Command. Yet they set the stage for the fall of the northern two- thirds of the country.”32 “In all, the U.S. commitment to overthrow the Taliban had been about 110 CIA officers and 316 Special Forces personnel, plus massive air power.”33

The SOF/CIA intelligence gathering partnership identified members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, located targets, and provided actionable intelligence from captured Al Qaeda papers, telephone books and computer media. “The material produced names and phone numbers of Al Qaeda members in other countries and led to some additional arrests.”34

But intelligence is subject to interpretation—and is not always interpreted correctly. By February 2002, the Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF) commander was frustrated by the lack of actionable intelligence for high value targets. SOF teams had been ranging throughout Afghanistan and into Pakistan looking for Osama Bin Laden without success for months. This frustration led to planning Operation Anaconda, which mixed SOF reconnaissance teams in the mountains with conventional forces operations in the Shah-e-khot valley to take out a concentration of Taliban and Al Qaeda believed to be there.35

Air Force and Army intelligence varied on the size and location of enemy forces.36 Lives were lost when U.S. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) failed to detect enemy fortifications on Takur Ghar Mountain where SF forces intended to set up their own observation post. After several attempts to get into position on the mountain were delayed by weather and equipment failures, frustration, blind faith in ISR and underestimation of the enemy ability to adapt to that ISR led to disaster. Subsequent attempts to rescue one team member were hampered by overburdened satellite communications systems that delayed rescue orders, and over reliance by the JSOTF commander in Oman on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) forward- looking infrared (FLIR) video, which caused him to think he had better situational awareness than the Task Force RECCE commander on the ground. Weeks after the events on Takur Ghar, analysis of the uninterrupted Predator video was still inconclusive as to the details of the fight and the actions and fates of several team members, which were only decided much later by forensic pathology. 37

The events on the mountain at Takur Ghar and the response to them provide a microcosm of the larger issue of over reliance on national technical means for intelligence and the loss of HUMINT capability. In this case, the eyes on the ground (the Task Force RECCE commander and the troops reporting to him) can be thought of as providing HUMINT on the situation, and the UAV and satellite communications (SATCOM) connection that enabled the JSOTF commander to take control are the national means. It is just one of many instances where better HUMINT capability would have improved intelligence preparation of the battlefield,

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