Stability operations and support operations during operation Iraqi Freedom

Intelligence battlefield operating system lessons learned: stability operations and support operations during operation Iraqi Freedom

D.J. Reyes

Intelligence played a critical role in the success of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault [AASLT]) during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF). From mission planning in June 2002 through operations as of August 2003, the Division’s intelligence officers, noncommissioned officers (NCOs), and Soldiers streamlined intelligence standing operating procedures (SOPs) and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) to best support all operations. Since the Division’s main efforts currently involve stability operations and support operations in northern Iraq, this article addresses lessons learned in this specific area. The intent is to share the TTP and lessons learned, and to offer these to the intelligence community for its thoughtful review as our senior leaders prepare for future military operations.

To put the missions into perspective, the 101st Airborne Division (AASLT) conducted fluid combat operations throughout the depth of Iraq. These covered more than 1,200 kilometers from the Kuwaiti border to northern Iraq. As of August 2003, the Division’s current area of operations (AO) is approximately 418 kilometers from west to east, and more than 214 kilometers from north to south. This encompasses northern Iraq, comprised of the Ninawa, Dahuk, Arbil, and As Sulaymaniyah governorates or provinces, in the Kurdish Autonomous Zone (KAZ), and the Syrian (west), Turkish (north), and Iranian (east) border regions (see Figure 1). A major challenge is balancing the requirements for aggressive law enforcement of common criminals, former regime loyalists (FRL), and Islamic fundamentalists or external “bad actors” against the task of rebuilding and sustaining an economic, business, education, law enforcement, border defense, and military infrastructure. The goal is for all Iraqi people to live in a free and democratic society. Figure 2 depicts how the Division currently tracks its efforts in promoting a “sale and secure environment.”


Stability Operations and Support Operations

On 22 April 2003, the 101st Airborne Division received orders to deploy norch from Baghdad to Mosul, Ninawa Province. The new mission was to provide for a safe and secure environment. Since the G2 focused the Division’s main intelligence efforts in southern Iraq and Baghdad, we were not fully prepared to provide map, imagery, or detailed intelligence analysis products to all units immediately. Fortunately, the U.S. Army Central Command (CENTCOM) Forward Land Component Command (CFLCC) Term Fusion Cell provided us with great baseline products to start our mission planning. We also looked outside the supported theater and received good information from the Joint Analysis Center in Molesworth, United Kingdom (a European Command [EUCOM] element), which complemented CFLCC’s information. However, the two different environments still presented unique challenges for the Division’s Intelligence battlefield operating system (BOS) (see Figure 3). The principles of intelligence analysis remained the same, but the TTP varied in order to obtain and assess vital information quickly to provide the best support to stability operations and support operations. This article discusses the five factors listed in Figure 3 and some additional lessons learned.


Environment. Although southern Iraq was mainly flat and open terrain, the Division conducted the majority of its combat operations in selected towns and cities. The units gained valuable lessons learned during the battles of An Najaf, Karbala, Al Hillah, and southern Baghdad, and applied these to urban combat in northern Iraq’s urban environment. However, for the most part, the significant change in physical terrain–from flat and open in southern Iraq to mountainous, heavily vegetated, and urban in northern Iraq (see Figure 4)—forced the Division to readjust its intelligence collection priorities and task organization. This affected the various technical intelligence platforms’ performance and level of fidelity. We adjusted by integrating other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) enablers into the collection plan and by receiving good information that focused on anti-coalition rhetoric, hostile faction activities, and intentions (discussed below).


Enemy High-Value Targets (HVTs). The Analysis and Control Element (ACE) quickly responded by conducting a “political intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB)” in order to aid understanding of the various Arabic, Kurdish, and Turkoman factions, as well as religious, extremist, and FRLs–all HVTs vying for power and influence immediately following the Regime’s collapse. Figure 5 outlines the various tribal factions existing in northern Iraq. Of note is the diverse Mosul region mainly comprised of Sunni Kurds, Sunni/Shia Arabs, and Turkomans. The challenge of understanding the religious, social, and cultural dynamics directly impacted our ability to provide timely, accurate, and predictive intelligence analysis throughout the 101st area of operations (AO).


As we developed situational awareness, we better focused our priority of effort. For example, we developed the Division’s priority intelligence requirements (PIRs) based on the new mission. These PIRs focused our combat patrols in Mosul (see Figure 6), and supported the Division’s ISR collection plan and efforts throughout the city. We also tracked the major incidents (see Figure 7), and developed good trends and patterns as well as predictive analysis based on periods during our presence in the city (see Figures 8 and 9). This helped the G2 ACE better assess the effectiveness of 101st combat patrols, tactical human intelligence (HUMINT) team (THT) coverage, the information operations (IO) campaign, psychological operations (PSYOPs), and civil-military operations (CMO). Additionally, at the higher security levels, the Division worked with the National Security Agency (NSA) in developing specific link analysis and association matrices based on communications use. This highly reliable intelligence collection source, coupled with other governmental agency (OGA) HUMINT reporting, enabled the 101st to focus on specific target areas and HVTs, and interdict them with synchronized Air Force, Infantry, Army Aviation, and Special Operations Forces (SOF).


Key Terrain. During the combat phase in southern Iraq, the G2 identified key intersections and towns presenting important chokepoints along major avenues of approach. The G3 incorporated this information into the Division’s offensive strategy as the brigade combat teams (BCTs) conducted combat operations throughout southern Iraq and into southern Baghdad. In contrast, the G2 assessed key terrain in northern Iraq as those critical infrastructures that, if controlled, would affect the local populace’s attitudes toward coalition forces and their mission to provide for a safe and secure environment. To accomplish this mission, the Commanding General (CG) embarked upon an ambitious campaign to–

* Rebuild destroyed communications and food distribution networks.

* Reestablish the commercial trade and the benzene and propane distribution to and from the Syrian border.

* Reestablish vital power to the communities.

* Rebuild Mosul University and assist in the timely graduation of students.

The CG further engaged with the local television station and scheduled daily broadcasts covering coalition projects in an attempt to “win the hearts and minds” of the local populace (the most critical key terrain).

ISR Enablers. The physical terrain also restricted our initial ability to provide useful signals intelligence (SIGINT) and imagery intelligence (IMINT) support to the BCTs. During the next few months, we further refined the AO IPB and integrated national SIGINT, IMINT and HUMINT into BCT operations. As a result, we were successful in selected HVT interdiction and capture missions.

Generally, however, the low technology, HUMINT-rich nature of stability operations and support operations mitigated (and at times negated) the effectiveness of our technical intelligence platforms. Thus, over time, the HUMINT collector proved to be the “ISR collector of choice” (see Figure 10).


The Division’s organic ISR HUMINT collectors include more than just pure intelligence assets. Figure 3 above lists other non-intelligence assets whose collection provides “critical pieces to the stability operations and support operations puzzle.” Examples of these enablers include the following:

* Infantry patrols (provided security presence and assisted in neighborhood projects).

* Unit ministry teams (UMTs) (coordinated with the local mosques and Imams).

* Attached civil affairs (CA) teams (worked with local government, schools, and public utilities companies).

* Public affairs (coordinated with local media for information dissemination).

* PSYOPs teams (worked IO in various neighborhoods).

* Unit staff judge advocate (worked with the local judicial and law enforcement systems).

* Collected information from all HUMINT sources helped answer the Division’s PIRs, and focused efforts toward providing for a safe and secure environment.

Doctrine Note: While the human assets listed did provide intelligence that answered intelligence requirements, these were not doctrinally HUMINT collectors.

One “good news” story involved the organic and attached Long-Range Surveillance (LRS) Detachment (LRSD) and Company (LRSC), respectively. To support the Division’s mission of providing border control-point security, the 311th MI Battalion was tasked to identify, vet, hire, train, and emplace former Iraqi military soldiers along the Turkish and Iranian borders. The LRS Soldiers also collected intelligence on the status of border sites, which included the various factions in camps or defensive positions along the borders. As of this writing, the 311th MI Battalion developed a comprehensive training program and is training Iraqi candidates on required border guard skills.

Perhaps the most effective ISR HUMINT collector in the stability operations and support operations environment to date is the THT. The G2 employed these teams in both direct support (DS) and general support (GS) modes to answer the CG’s force protection (FP) PIRs in the 101st AO. GS-reinforcing THTs and GS THTs from Combined/Joint Task Force (C/JTF) -7 further strengthened the Division’s HUMINT efforts. (Note: The THT’s direct “value added” was the recent vetting of a walk-in source who ultimately real this Division, the OGA, and SOF to the successful interdiction of HVTs 2 and 3.) Additionally, the THTs’ mission also expanded to vetting former Iraqi Army soldiers (currently unemployed) for various employment opportunities. The THTs prescreened each candidate for past affiliations with the Ba’ath Party and FRL, extremist factions, etc. Both Division GS and DS THTs conducted the screenings and entered the information into the Counterintelligence (CI)/HUMINT Information Management System (CHIMS). This developed the CI database, exercised the CI systems architecture, and established good connectivity with C/JTF-7.

A unique enabler was the G2X. This officer coordinated interagency intelligence support from other Department of Defense (DOD) and non-DOD organizations to identify anti-coalition individuals and factions. This proved critical, as the 101st Airborne Division quickly identified the crucial players in the political process and helped establish the political conditions for a democratic mayoral election in Mosul. The G2X was instrumental in coordinating with the OGA collectors, and amassing vital information that the G2 ACE used in developing the political IPB. The G2, armed with this analysis, provided the CG with assessments on the various political parties’ intentions. This complemented the CA assessments, and helped the CG to see the total picture as he shaped the foundation for the Mosul Mayoral elections. Incredibly, the Division accomplished this within two weeks after our arrival in Mosul (see Figure 11), and included the establishment of a representative Ninawa Council (see Figure 12) as well. These two actions, along with other infrastructure accomplishments proved significant in further promoting the region’s sale and secure environment.


Division Targeting Process. The Division targeting process included the combat phase and the stability and support operations phase. During the combat phase, we planned for conventional targets out to 96 hours. Before execution, the Division staff (G2, ACE, G3, division fire-support coordinator (DFSCOORD), division artillery, aviation, and air liaison officer) briefed the CG on each BOS staff “Go-No Go” criteria. The DFSCOORD then presented the CG with a compiled staff recommendation whether to execute the mission or not. Figure 13 illustrates the Intelligence BOS considerations in determining mission execution.


During the stability operations and support operations phase, the composition and emphasis of the targeting group (i.e., the Information Environment Working Group [IEWG]) significantly changed due to the target audience and our mission. Rather than destroying tanks, other armored vehicles, and armed insurgents, we refocused on “winning the hearts and minds” of the population by providing for a safe and secure environment, and focused on assisting in the rebuilding of those vital infrastructures to get the country back onto its feet. The IEWG made use of both lethal (see Figure 14) and non-lethal (e.g., information operations [IO]) (see Figure 15) methods to accomplish this mission. As previously discussed, we aggressively used other non-MI enablers that provided useful information in support of the stability operations and support operations mission.


Other Critical Lessons Learned

Joint Interagency Coordinating Group (JIACG) Liaison Officer (LNO). We were fortunate to have a JIACG LNO during the stability operations and support operations phase. He facilitated coordination between the 101st Airborne Division (AASLT) and the various Department of Defense (DOD) and non-DOD agencies. His most significant contribution was obtaining Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) analytical support for the G2 ACE in order to develop criminal pattern and association link matrices.

One critical lesson learned is that DOD and interagency operations are fast becoming the norm rather than the exception in contingency operations. Therefore, we recommend that all divisions formally establish relationships with supporting agencies, and fully integrate them into their training cycles in advance of deployment. Combat training center and command post (CP) exercises are great opportunities to work through the coordination and support piece. Although we easily accommodated the FBI analysts with class support, interagency planners should also plan for communications, automation, transportation, and security clearance requirements.

OGA Coordination. This article discusses three aspects of division coordination with other governmental agencies: HUMINT Infrastructure, single-source vice multisource cueing, and communications.

HUMINT Infrastructure. A major intelligence challenge in the stability operations and support operations environment was establishing a HUMINT infrastructure where none previously existed. As the Division assumed the Ninawa Province mission, the G2 immediately conducted liaison with U.S. national intelligence agency representatives (DOD and non-DOD) in Mosul and Irbil. The main purposes were FP, information vetting and sharing, joint targeting in support of operations, and source deconfliction.

Single-Source vice Multisource Cueing. Another major concern was the definition of “actionable intelligence.” The Division’s definition was clearly defined: SALUTE (size, activity, location, unit, time, equipment [spot report format]) compatible information verified by other intelligence sources, and that a well-placed or reliable informant submits to coalition forces. The OGAs’ definitions were less stringent–in many cases, a target’s name and grid location or a picture of the target’s residence sufficed for immediate targeting. Unfortunately, the Division experienced instances where OGA intelligence did not materialize. The results were often the loss of critical time and Division resources committed to capturing or neutralizing a target. To minimize future problems, we increased our interaction with the OGAs using the following meetings to ensure full cross talk and synchronization: daily (G2X), weekly (G2 and Assistant Division Commander Operations), and bimonthly (CG situation updates).

Communications. The OGA and the Division did not initially share compatible, secure communications (voice or digital/data). To overcome this deficiency, we obtained commercial cell phones (unclassified) for basic communications. We later provided a digital nonsecure voice terminal (DNVT) phone to the OGA that allowed both units to discuss collateral Secret information. Finally, we continue to transmit classified information via Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS) to an Army tenant unit that is currently sharing lodging facilities with, and passing the classified information to, the OGA. The suggested long-term solution is to request an OGA liaison element to the Division. These LNOs should also possess the requisite skills in target language, automation, communications, and area studies.

Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) and Political Analysis Cell (PAC). The Division also achieved situational awareness of the population’s mindset via monitoring the public press (television, radio, newspaper, Internet). Our immediate challenge was inadequate personnel staffing to support the OSINT Cell. Since the Division Assault Command Post (ACP) and Division main (DMAIN) combined CPs in the Mosul Palace, we task-organized our ACP Intelligence Analysts (96Bs), and a couple of local Iraqi translators to execute the OSINT mission. This Cell merged with the IO Media Monitoring Translation Cell, and provided the CG with a daily translation and analysis of all local, Iraqi, theater, and international press coverage of OIF and Division actions. The OSINT Cell also monitored a local “hotline” phone that any person could call to discuss their concerns. Although a majority of the calls dealt with infrastructure concerns (e.g., electricity, water), the Cell also fielded calls regarding security concerns and information on FRLs and assorted criminal activity. The Division merged this information with the ACE analysis and presented it to the IEWG for targeting consideration.

In addition, the G2 ACE task-organized its Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) Interceptor/Analysts (98Js) not performing ELINT analysis, and formed the PAC. This ad hoc cell’s mission was to analyze all incoming message traffic on individuals, events, locations, and time, and to develop a pattern and link association matrix to show the relationships among all of the above. The end state is to build and maintain the anti-coalition order of battle database, and to develop predictive analysis for future threat, political, and socio-cultural activities in order to enhance situational awareness and FP. The PAC provided an added dimension to current intelligence analysis and helped confirm or deny the impact of coalition efforts in Iraq.

Linguist/Translator and Document Exploitation (DOCEX) Support. During home-station mission analysis, we factored in our linguist and translator requirements down to the platoon level. A contracted corporation provided the required support, and we linked up with our augmentees in both Kuwait and Iraq. In stability operations and support operations, language is crucial in successfully dealing with the local host nationals and in establishing a safe and secure environment. As of August 2003, the Division has hired more than 535 local Iraqi translators, and 53 U.S. citizen linguists (Category 2 – Secret level clearance).

Another lesson learned is that the Division requires a DOCEX team to support all unit cordon and search missions. A majority of these missions disclosed various documents, articles, equipment, and assorted paraphernalia that needed immediate exploitation for time purposes. Since the Division had to tag and transfer detainees and documents to the rear, we may have lost valuable time in analyzing the captured material; this information could have been “invaluable in supporting the Division’s FP posture. Therefore, we recommend that the corps and theater forward-deploy these intelligence assets to the Division before actual deployment into the theater.


The G2 and Intelligence BOS continue to provide timely, relevant, and predictive intelligence analysis to the Division’s stability operations and support operations efforts in northern Iraq. Although the operational tempo is high, and the Division’s commitment is extended for a year from initial deployment (February 2003), morale and mission focus remain high because the Soldiers understand that mission success is the only viable alternative. To further underscore this commitment, in the finest tradition of the “Screaming Eagles,” the CG personally swore-in more than 158 reenlistees as part of the 4th of July celebration at Mosul Palace.

From Bastogne through Baghdad to Mosul, the 101st Airborne Division (AASLT) Screaming Eagles continue to bring hope and promise to the Iraqi people for a brighter future.

Glossary of Acronyms and Abbreviations Used in the Figures

Acq — Acquired

AD — Armored division (e.g. 1 AD)

AO — Area of operations

ADA — Air Defense Artillery

Amb. — Ambassador

AOR — Area of responsibility

AR — Armored

ATK — Attack

AVN — Aviation

BCT — Brigade combat team

C2 — Command and control

CA — Civil affairs

CENTCOM — [United States] Central Command

CI — Counterintelligence

Class VIII — Medical material

CMOC — Civil-military operations center

coord — Coordinating

CPA-N — Coalition Provisional Authority-North

DC — Displaced civilians

DHS — Defense HUMINT Service

DIV — Division

DMAIN — Division main

DREAR — Division rear

EAGLE-I — Real-time ELINT data for the tactical commander

ELINT — Electronic intelligence

EMITT — Enhanced Mobile Integrated Tactical Terminal

exec — Executive

FARP — Forward arming and refueling point

FOB — Forward operating base

FPSF — Foreign Protection Security Force

FRL — Former regime loyalists

govt — Government

GPS — Global Positioning System

GRCS — Guardrail Common Sensor

HQs — Headquarters

HUMINT– Human intelligence

HVT — High-value target

I&W — Indications and warning

ID — Identify

IDPs — Internal displaced persons

IEWG — Integrated Effects Working Group

IMINT — Imagery intelligence

Int’l– International

IO — Information operations

ISR — Intelligence, surveillance, end reconnaissance

JISC — Joint Iraqi Security Company

JSTARS — Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS)

JTF — Joint task force

KLEs — Kurdish law enforcement

LNO — Liaison officer

LOCs — Lines of communication

LRS — Long-range surveillance

LRSD — Long-range surveillance detachment

LZs — Landing zones

MECH — Mechanized

MP — Military police

MSRs — Main supply routes

NBC — Nuclear, biological, and chemical

NGOs — Nongovernmental organizations

OBJ — Objective

OGAs — Other governmental agencies

PAO — Public affairs office

PMF — Paramilitary forces

PPS-5 B/D — AN/PPS-5 B/D ground surveillance radar

PR — Priority requirement

PSYOPs — Psychological operations

Pubs — Publications

recon — Reconnaissance

RJ — Rivet Joint

RPG — Rocket-propelled grenade (launcher)

SIGINT — Signals intelligence

SJA — Staff judge advocate

SP — Start point

SRBMs — Short-range ballistic missiles

SSMs — Surface-to-surface missiles

TOC — Tactical operations center

TCP — Tactical command post

TF — Task force

THT– Tactical HUMINT team

TPT — Tactical PSYOPs team

U/I — Unidentified

UAV — Unmanned aerial vehicle

UMT– Unit ministry team

UXO — Unexploded ordnance

vic — Vicinity

VISOPs — Visual operations

WARNO — Warning order


(1.) Photographs courtesy of PAO, 101st Airborne Division (AASLT), Major Trey Cate. All graphics are from the author.

Lieutenant Colonel (P) DJ Reyes is currently serving as the G2, 101st Airborne Division (AASLT), Camp Eagle, Mosul, Iraq. He deployed with the Screaming Eagles as they crossed the Kuwaiti berm at the onset of combat operations on 19 March 2003, and subsequently deferred senior staff college attendance in order to complete two years as EAGLE 2 deployed in northern Iraq. Preceding this assignment, LTC (P) Reyes served in a variety of staff, S2, and command assignments in support of infantry, special forces and special operations, and MI units, at the detachment, company. battalion, brigade, group, division, major Army command, and joint staff levels. Readers may contact the author via E-mail at

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