Geospatial Intelligence and Counterinsurgency Redux

Serendipity. I just stumbled across this post on En Verite, a blog on cointerinsurgency in Iraq. It’s put together by a scholar and French reserve officer, Stéphane Taillat, who’s also a member of the Insurgency Research Group at King’s College London. I’m pasting it in here in full, because of its relevance to CTLab and because it makes some excellent points.

En Verite notes in two separate posts the use of geospatial intelligence in COIN. One places it in the context of Counterinsurgency and the Colonial Legacy; the other addresses it specifically in Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) in COIN (the item below). I’ve noted geospatial issues in a prior post (here); I’ll come back to this with some discussion of geospatial intelligence vs. complex spatial dynamics.

Read on:

Intelligence is a crucial issue in COIN because it provides the way to hit insurgency with precision raids and to sever its links with local populace.

What is largely ignored in the Iraq’s COIN Campaign of the last year is the use of geospatial intelligence (GEOINT). Provided by embedded teams of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), data have proved valuable both in the “clear” phase of the campaign and the actual “build” phase since the recent shift of MultiNational Division North and MultiNational Division Center to reconstruction and assistance missions.

The latter area of operations has seen NGA’s teams working with Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) collecting data to map rural and urban areas where TF MARNE’s Units operated. Indeed, most of theses villages and small communities have not seen sustained Coalition presence for years.

More accurately, GEOINT’s role in COIN can be depicted as a powerful analysis and collaborative tool to identify trends in insurgent activity, both by mapping significant acts (SIGACTS) and by locating weapons caches or IED factories. By the medium of geographical map and graphics, GEOINT has been of great use to assess progress and to locate the various waypoints needed to achieve lines of operations/lines of efforts. On the tactical level, geospatial imagery analysis allowed MND-C units to target insurgents that were trying to hide with an accurate precision.

Furthermore, on the stabilization side of insurgency, GEOINT can be useful in depicting and monitoring the current state of soils for agricultural purpose and the status of various network (especially irrigation) as well.

GEOINT can be considered as the technological counterpart of political anthropology because it helps counter-insurgents to link physical terrain and human terrain.

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