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Rethinking IPB steps 1 and 2: integrating civil information management.


The purpose of this article is to shed light on the missing pieces necessary to truly boost intelligence collection toward defeating insurgencies. The focus will be on some of the often misallocated, misunderstood, and under-utilized resources in this struggle-Civil Information Management (CIM) as gathered and stored by Civil Affairs Teams (CATs) and Civil Military Operations Centers (CMOCs). This paper will also identify how Civil Military Operations (CMO) pertain to insurgencies and many of the root causes of instability that tend to promote insurgency growth and activity. Civil Information and the management of that information is an untapped intelligence resource going to waste virtually everywhere that any Civil Affairs element is working because CIM integration with the Intelligence Community (IC) is virtually nonexistent.

FM 2-01.3 Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield/ Battlespace defines Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) as "a systematic process of analyzing and visualizing the portions of the mission variables of the threat/ adversary, terrain, weather, and civil considerations in a specific area of interest and for a specific mission."1 Proper IPB is conducted in four phases:

* Define the operational/battlespace environment.

* Describe environmental effects on operations/describe the battlespace effects.

* Evaluate the threat/adversary.

* Determine threat/adversary courses of action (COAs).

The constraints of combating unconventional warfare have caused the IC to become neglectful of IPB steps 1 and 2, while simultaneously focusing too heavily and too early on IPB steps 3 and 4. The proper integration of CIM into the IC as an augmentation to steps 1 and 2 may be one way to alleviate this "fixation" on the red target and foster a streamlined intelligence cycle. CIM has been contained in a vacuum and not integrated into the IC and other branches of the military. This lack of "cross-pollination" has proven to be a grave waste of superb resources. CIM helps to build as well as reveal networks if integrated correctly and as such could enhance the background research conducted by intelligence professionals during IPB. In order to facilitate this, the IC and CA communities must develop a system in which CA information can be translated into Intelligence Information Reports (IIRs).

The Shiny Object That Never Goes Away

In 2010, Major General Michael Flynn coauthored the groundbreaking paper, "Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan." This paper advocates that the IC should adopt an analytical mindset geared increasingly towards accumulating knowledge of tribal leaders, low-level powerbrokers, and government officials in conjunction with enemy leaders. By contrast, this refocus would shift away from the convergence of resources toward red targeting, as had been the trend when it was published, and is still the trend today.

Fixing Intel declares: "Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the IC is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy. Having focused the overwhelming majority of its collection efforts and analytical brainpower on insurgent groups, the vast intelligence apparatus is unable to answer fundamental questions about the environment in which U.S. and allied forces operate and the people they seek to persuade." (2) Now after twelve years of fighting, Afghanistan is still not much different from the above description. A significant cause for this developmental civil and society stagnation is because the majority of the IC is overly focused on the "shiny object"-the red target-and has all but ignored the red target's contextual environment-white and green targets.

IPB steps 1 and 2 tend to be more white/green centric, and on the whole more tedious than IPB steps 3 and 4. Furthermore, IPB steps 3 and 4 are "fun" because they are enemy-centric, and results are much more tangible and gratifying than abstract white and green effects derived from steps 1 and 2. As students of the intelligence profession, the Military Intelligence (MI) schoolhouse teaches to "think like the enemy." "Thinking like the enemy" often translates directly to Security, and therefore, only thinking about enemy personalities; tactics, techniques, and procedures; locations; funding sources, etc. IPB steps 1 and 2 often inadvertently get overlooked. Focus on the "shiny object" as embodied by the enemy target, has captured the attention and sapped the energy of the counterinsurgent (intelligence professionals and operational entities alike), due to a lack of attention on steps 1 and 2.

That being said, in order to accurately think like the enemy, as the MI schoolhouse advises, so many other factors must come into play first. This does not mean merely "understanding" the culture. It is easy to understand the simplistic, overarching quirks of a given culture (i.e., in Muslim societies the left hand is considered unclean), these big-hand, little-map cultural generalizations are how the U.S. Military has taught culture to its service members for years.

However, it is a much more complex and tedious a task to genuinely understand the intricacies of a specific society at a precise geographic level, such as a district. This involves, first and foremost, understanding how societal systems work in their naturally occurring state (absent Western involvement). Both a doctrinal understanding (how a certain system is supposed to work) and a de facto understanding (how a system actually works) are necessary. Understanding the political bureaucracy (hiring processes, budgetary constraints, positional responsibilities) is important. Finally, developing an accurate picture of the battlefield environment and obtaining an in-depth knowledge of the government officials and unofficial powerbrokers in a given region is absolutely essential.

These political and tribal dynamics of a given area are a start towards achieving an adequate picture of "defining the battlespace environment" and "describing the environmental effects." Only once these two steps are complete, can an intelligence analyst begin to understand how red actors and the battlefield environment affect each other. By advancing resources to the red picture too quickly, an intelligence analyst will only spin his wheels and further distort the accuracy of his holistic understanding.

Bottom line, simply playing whack-a-mole throughout an area of operation will not result in a degradation of the insurgency in that area. The insurgency in Afghanistan has proven throughout the last twelve years, that "you can kill a man, but you cannot kill an idea," through its tried-and-true ability to regenerate lost fighters relatively quickly. To truly counter an insurgency, the counterinsurgent must understand key elements of instability; essentially, counterinsurgency forces must grasp the fundamentals that are driving the insurgency and why the populace is either actively or passively supporting the insurgency.

Without a firm understanding of grass roots causes of instability, then the counterinsurgent is doing nothing more than chasing high value individuals (HVIs) from one place to another. In fact, this tactic is arguably counterproductive in some cases because many of the targeted HVIs are related to elders and villagers in the area. As such, proper CIM coupled with analytical support offers a promising way forward with the capacity to analyze sources of instability and help reveal the underlying reasons for a conflict. (3) Unfortunately, as stated, none of this is "sexy" or fun; it is just the opposite-tedious, boring, and a test of professionalism. Nevertheless, until the U.S. military (and its allies) can begin properly managing this foundational information and utilize it effectively, it will likely continue to wage repetitive, one-year, security driven-wars.

The IPB Opportunity

CIM, as espoused by Civil Affairs doctrine, is the building block for how the IC should approach IPB to effectively execute full spectrum operations. This mindset should be incorporated globally, especially during Civil Military Support Elements (CMSE) mission sets. A CMSE is a CAT that is specifically trained to deploy to certain parts of the world. The CMSE teams are "culturally and linguistically attuned to the environment in which they operate. They meet with key influential leaders and groups of people who are susceptible to violent extremist organizations (VEOs) and their ideologies. CMSEs are a critical component of the indirect, through-and-with methodology that helps create networks and encourages the vulnerable populations to trust their own government, rather than the VEOs, to take care of their needs." (4)

The inherent placement and access a CMSE team obtains just by being in a position to mentor and coach government and civil leadership makes it a huge component capable of assisting in intelligence collection. (5) That being said, during non-CMSE mission sets, such as Operation Enduring Freedom and potential future mission sets like it, CMO is just as vital to successful full spectrum operations. Support to Civil Administration and Foreign Internal Defense via Village Stability Operations methodology should be applied to in order to conduct effective intelligence collection in support of counterinsurgency (COIN).

As noted, both CIM and CAO have incredible potential to support the analytical compilation of IPB. According to the IPB FM, everyone is responsible for conducting IPB. While this is generally true, IPB is an MI core task. However due to the increased levels of insurgent targeting during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, MI personnel have, in essence, traded the often tedious groundwork involved in IPB steps 1 and 2 for an increased emphasis on steps 3 and 4. As discussed earlier, over the last decade, an overemphasis on threat analysis and enemy targeting has led to a depleted focus on defining the battlefield environment and describing the battlefield effects within the IC. Thus, the first lesson intelligence professionals learn-conducting effective IPB- has become a flawed attempt at "cutting to the chase" as soon as possible, leaving the building blocks of the IPB process almost completely ignored.

As a proponent of CIM, the Civil Affairs community actually conducts IPB steps 1 and 2 very well. In fact, according to FM 3-24, ASCOPE (areas, structures, organizations, people, and events) and PMESII (political, military, economic, social, infrastructure, and information) doctrinally occur during IPB step 2. ASCOPE and PMESII are CA methodologies taught in depth at the CAQC. These methodologies are intended to be a baseline structure for CA CIM reporting. Thus, the IC should make an effort to implement the highly detailed CIM, generated from the Civil Affairs Community, in order to accurately develop the first two steps in the IPB process.

CIM in Counterinsurgency--From the Intelligence Perspective

According to Field Manual 3-24 and Joint Publication 1-02, counterinsurgency is defined as military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to defeat insurgency.6 Four of the six tenets in the above definition are not related to the counterinsurgency force engaging in any form of violent or security measures; the rest are stability-based actions. Nevertheless, Coalition Forces continue to make security the intelligence focus of the counterinsurgency fight both in Afghanistan and globally. Certainly security is important and should not be ignored; however, security is unsustainable if stability (governance and development based mission sets) is ignored. This abstract idea is best illustrated below from the counterinsurgency manual.


This figure highlights that Stability, Defense, and Offense are the three primary forms of effort in a counterinsurgency fight, with Stability being the most critical to COIN. (7) Field manuals, counterinsurgency experts, and high ranking officials continuously promote this notion. In addition, numerous accounts of historical counterinsurgency failures due to a fixation on security efforts over stability efforts have been published. Nevertheless, intelligence and operational forces repeatedly drift back into what has always been comfortable to the U.S. military and its allies-Security.

Dr. David Kilcullen gave a speech in 2006 entitled, "Three Pillars of Counterinsurgency." (8) This speech is perhaps even more relevant to CIM's potential application to the IC. He describes a framework for counterinsurgency operations that depends chiefly on the Security, Political (Governance) and Economic (Development) pillars. As the Chief Strategist of the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism of the U.S. State Department in 2006, he proclaimed that these three pillars support the overarching goal of "Control." In order to be strong enough to maintain this control, the three pillars must be equally developed based upon accurate information understood by the entire counterinsurgency force.


The final piece-the fact that the entire counterinsurgency force must understand accurate information-is perhaps the most important excerpt from his speech. Without accurate, meaningful information driving operations, even the most carefully planned and resourced operation will fail. Accurate information can only be achieved through meticulous CIM.

The Civil Affairs Community understands this notion, is superb at collecting accurate information, and maintains stores of civil information that would be extremely valuable to any regional analyst conducting IPB. Unfortunately the CA community has also been a poor communicator of this information, and has retained much of its CIM in a vacuum within the CA branch or their supported task force. Conversely, the IC, whose sole purpose it is to develop IBP in order to drive operations, is likely unaware of CIM's potential. Thus, analysts do not appropriately tap into the wealth of information the CA community provides through CIM. Ensuring intelligence channels receive CMOC information poses an opportunity for enhanced IPB and a reinvigorated chance for intelligence professionals to become more relevant in a counterinsurgency fight.

"Fixing Intel" instructs that proper IPB pays homage to understanding economic factors of a district, the growth capacity of a specific area or industry, and development initiatives before the counterinsurgent can truly understand the ramifications of enemy activity. He advises the IC to research all facets of a specific geographic location. In keeping with Dr. Kilcullen, MG Flynn declares that intelligence analysts must understand the security, governance, and development of a given area and treat all three elements with equal importance. The opening paragraph of "Fixing Intel" emphasizes:

"Ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced, incurious about the correlations between various development projects and the levels of cooperation among villagers, and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers- whether aid workers or Afghan soldiers - U.S. Intelligence Officers and analysts can do little but shrug in response to high level decision-makers seeking the knowledge, analysis, and information they need to wage a successful counterinsurgency." (9)

He and his co-authors are keyed into what is crucial for success in the U.S. military's most recent counterinsurgency fight. They discuss why the IC has all but ignored the U.S. Government's most relevant tools in such a fight. Civil Affairs teams and other tactical/grassroots level information brokers must be able to provide intelligence analysts applicable, ground-truth information. On the other hand, what is even more important is for intelligence analysts to understand the value of this collected information and apply it where it is essential. Without vigilant precision and coordinated execution of both these entities, the careful information collector and the forward thinking analyst will always be missing the mark. (10)

Building a Framework for a Solution

While there is certainly significant value-added to publishing CIM in a database like CIDNE, CMOCs, as CIM control centers, must take one more step in order to properly share Civil Information with the larger IC. For this information to truly realize its potential, CMOCs must establish a mechanism to populate CIM as intelligence that flows seamlessly into intelligence channels. The best way forward is to utilize CIM products to answer intelligence requirements by generating IIRs. Such an endeavor would have a twofold benefit: Civil Affairs Operations information (the elusive green and white information that should be the framework for the IC's IPB) makes its way into intelligence channels, and the IC and greater operational community can begin to understand the incredible potential CIM has for shaping the battlefield.

The only way to accomplish such a feat is increased intelligence augmentation to the CA battalion, and by extension, the deployed CMOC. This would require certified strategic debriefers to be assigned to support intelligence specifically by using Civil Affairs (primarily white and green) information. These qualified "IIR writers" would have two mission requirements: first, to identify information within CAO reporting that answers any sort of intelligence requirement from strategic level requirements within the National Intelligence Priorities Framework to the most tactical of commander's priority intelligence requirements, and second, to pass relevant requirements down to the CA BN's subordinate teams. These trained intelligence collectors would then create an IIR from the original source, the CA reporting, input the IIR into CIDNE/HOT-R/other IIR reporting channel, and finally, the IC gains the civil information it has been lacking, and the CA community contributes to intelligence priorities without becoming intelligence collectors, themselves.

It is necessary to note that intelligence debriefers must not be assigned directly to any Civil Affairs unit. Such a unit Modification Table of Organization and Equipment shift would muddle the free access the Civil Affairs community enjoys to very unique civil and societal leaders, and by extension would be detrimental to its primary mission. Still, this very access that Civil Affairs personnel enjoy cannot be overemphasized, and a debriefer assigned to support a specific white and green mission would be invaluable to both the IC and CA communities respectively. The IC would be remiss to continue to neglect the information gathered by these highly specialized civil and social experts. In order to assist intelligence professionals in their detailed, albeit tedious IPB steps, a new mechanism must be established to promote active communication between the Intelligence and Civil Affairs Communities.


(1.) FM 2-01.3, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield/Battlespace, October 2009. 1-1.

(2.) Major General Michael T. Flynn, Captain Matt Pottinger, and Paul D. Batchelor, Fixing Intel: A blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan, January 2010, 7.

(3.) David Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare-Theory and Practice (New York: Praeger, 1964), 20.

(4.) Major John P. Wishart, "Out of Africa: CMSEs Engage Vulnerable Populations in West Africa to Counter Influence of Violent Extremist Organizations," Special Warfare, October-December 2011. Accessed at swcs/SWmag/archive/SW2404/SW2404OutOfAfrica.html.

(5.) It is very important to note the CMSE would not be an "intelligence collector." Rather, intelligence analysts should scrutinize a CMSE's CA/CIM reporting for information that may be of intelligence value.

(6.) FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency, 2006, 1-1.

(7.) FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency, 2006, 1-19.

(8.) David Kilcullen, "Three Pillars of Counterinsurgency," Remarks delivered at the U.S. Government Counterinsurgency Conference, Washington D.C., 28 September 2006. Accessed at uscoin/3pillars_of_counterinsurgency.pdf., 4-6.

(9.) Flynn et al, 7.

(10.) Flynn et al, 17.

By Captain Jennifer Purser

CPT Purser currently serves as the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (AB) S2. Previously she served as the Civil Military Operations Cell Deputy Chief and Governance Lead Kandahar, Uruzgan, and Zabul Provinces. She attended the MI Captains Career Course, and served in the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade where she deployed to Iraq as both a Company Executive Officer and HUMINT Platoon Leader. She attended the College of William and Mary and majored in International Relations with an East Asian focus.
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Author:Purser, Jennifer
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Date:Apr 1, 2014
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