McChrystal: More Cooperation Needed Between Military Operators, Intelligence

By Allyson Versprille

Information sharing and cooperation between military and intelligence communities has significantly improved but more can still be done, said retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. and International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan.

Intelligence and operations communities need to think alike and understand each other, McChrystal said June 23 at the 2015 GeoInt Symposium in Washington, D.C.

“I tell commanders you better become intelligence [experts] because this is just a fight for information,” he said. “We can kill anybody we can locate. It’s no longer a case of being able to defeat the Soviet tank division. It’s a case of you can defeat whatever you can find but you have to know where you’re looking. You have to understand it enough. It’s a different mindset.”

McChrystal, who served as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008, said the 2006 mission that killed terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq is good example. Following the mission’s completion, McChrystal gave out one medal to an intelligence sergeant, who he said “pulled it all together,” and was able to think as both an intelligence and operations perspective.

“Nobody thought that was the wrong thing to do. Everybody realized it matters,” he said. “I think a lot of people are well on their way to that, but many of our structures don’t necessarily reflect that.”

As the world evolves, both intelligence analysts and military operators must have the ability to think for themselves, communicate instantaneously and execute missions without waiting for instructions from higher ups, McChrystal said, noting that cooperation and operation efficiency have improved since the post-9/11 wars began.

“When I started in command in the special operations task force I essentially approved every operation,” he said. “Two years later I was approving none of them because that wasn’t my job. There were people that could do that.”

Theresa Marie Whelan, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict, said the intelligence and military communities have worked together as a team in recent years, calling integration a “main component of success.”

“It is the teaming. It is the integration. It is the information sharing. It’s the feedback loop,” she said. “The operations side owes the intelligence side the feedback information from what their doing on the ground so that it can further enhance the intelligence community’s ability to refine their products and abide to the best tactical intelligence possible.”

If the U.S. wants to continue as a dominant military force, there must be more cooperation and integration between the two bodies, Whelan said.

“It’s a matter of continuing to have intelligence professionals working with the operators so that they can understand what the operators’ needs are,” she said. 

“It’s also important for operators to sort of get the same experience on the other side. Even as a policy maker it’s really critical to understand the dynamics of each other’s roles because then we understand the strength and we also understand the limitations," she said.

"That to me is the most important component of success in the future. It’s not necessarily toys and tools but its cooperation of the professionals in each realm and that’s how we’re going to get the most out of both our intelligence community and out of our SOF forces,” she added.

Topics: C4ISR

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