and where reliance on a single source of intelligence (first ISR, later the UAV FLIR video) rather than getting information from several sources, made a tragic difference.
OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM The role SOF played in OIF varied from that of OEF, but the lessons learned in OEF from the successful SOF/CIA/IC partnership carried over.
Operational intelligence collectors and analysts accompanied the first special operations forces entering Iraq, supported by signals intelligence from the United States. Intelligence assets were committed much earlier than the main combat forces, and the demands on Army intelligence would rapidly increase with American commitment to this theater.38
Intelligence agencies began providing information to SOF on Iraqi military capability and plans well before the conflict began. The early availability of intelligence helped special operations forces plan and allowed them to be more effective by prompting responses from the Iraqis, which in turn generated more intelligence.39
American SOF also went “quail hunting,” conducting harassing raids designed to flush out Iraqi military units, which then became targets for US air strikes. Indeed, air power proved to be the Special Forces’ trump card. In executing their missions, SOF were linked to persistent surveillance platforms such as UAVs, while Air Force and Navy strike aircraft, along with AC-130 gunships, remained
“In Operation Iraqi Freedom, military intelligence went beyond its traditional role as a force multiplier. Intelligence shaped the battlefield, dominated the enemy, opened possibilities for the coalition forces, and guided every step of the campaign.”41
Rather than the traditional military plan that required huge resources and took a long time, the plan in Iraq “evolved from day to day depending on intelligence.” 42 GEN Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Navy League that “the new American way of war”43 is “faster, more agile, more precise” 44 and integrates intelligence gathering with high-tech weapons and communications. In the first week of the war, the U.S. had about 50 Special Forces teams in Iraq. The teams were made to “look 10 feet tall” by lighting up targets with lasers for aircraft to bomb.45 SOF, along with British, Australian and Polish Special Forces, totaled around 10,000, and were better equipped than when Army Rangers and Delta Force fought in Mogadishu. Communications and night-vision gear were better, they had access to real-time views of enemy territory via UAVs, and backup from attack aircraft.46
Cooperation between U.S. special operations forces and paramilitary forces of the CIA (many of whom reportedly are ex-SOF personnel) enabled coalition forces to secure oil fields before they could be destroyed, inhibit Iraqi ballistic missile attacks on friendly targets, and rescue U.S. prisoners of war. 47