Quality of intelligence from Iraqis improves dramatically, U.S. says

Thursday, November 20, 2003

U.S. military intelligence has benefited from an increasing and more accurate information on insurgency activities in Iraq.

U.S. military commanders said the amount of information received from ordinary Iraqis has risen 20-fold over the last five months. The commanders said the information has also become increasingly accurate.

"We are getting more and more tips every day," Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the U.S. Army's Fourth Infantry Division, said. "In fact, it is probably 10 or 20-fold more than when we first started here the number of people we have coming in to provide us human information. Even more importantly, it's more accurate human information."

In early November, Iraqi informants led to U.S. military raids of SA-7 missiles, 120 mm mortars and other weapons caches by Sunni insurgents, Middle East Newsline reported. In one raid, a Sunni sheik helped the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division in locating several weapons caches. In another case, an Iraqi man turned in 16 SA-7 anti-aircraft missile components.

Odierno told a Pentagon briefing on Monday that the information provided by Iraqi informants is about 90 percent accurate. This contrasts with a 40 percent accuracy in May.

"Some of that has to do with our ability to understand what are our good informants and who give us good information and who doesn't, because there are those who try to give us false information," Odierno said. "And we've sorted through most of that."

Officials said the U.S.-trained Iraqi military and security forces number 118,000 and are growing at a rate of more than 7,000 a month. During 2004, they said, the number will reach 200,000.

Odierno said Saddam loyalists have sought to intimidate Iraqis from cooperating with U.S. military intelligence. This has included threats against Iraqi collaborators and their families.

The division commander said the army must focus on human intelligence. This includes the ability to quickly analyze and act on such information in operations.

"We need to work towards developing a better HUMINT structure than are already embedded into our units," Odierno said, "because we believe that is what will work best against the threat that's out there, and then combining that with the national intelligence that's available and also the other SIGINT and other intelligence assets that we have available to us."

A recent U.S. Army report sharply criticized military intelligence in Iraq. The report by the Center for Army Lessons Learned, based in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., asserted that intelligence specialists were unprepared for their assignments, and possessed few analytical skills.

"We have found that the intelligence information coming into our forces goes up significantly when we have joint patrols and joint operations with Iraqi forces," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.

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