Head of American Military Intelligence in Afghanistan: We Need Geography!

Major General Michael Flynn is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence in Afghanistan. As such it is his job to insure the various intelligence agencies support the warfighters and that information flows from both field and the Pentagon to each other.

MG Flynn realizes the system is broke. While the various people with security clearances are doing a good job of hunting down bad guys and keeping everyone informed on that front, anti-insurgency, they are doing a horrible job of learning about the battlefield and the deeper problems, counter-insurgency. Check out the quote below from his research paper entitled Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan:

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. 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.

If only there was some field that studied local economics, local power structures, and demographics. Oh wait, there is and it is called regional geography. Flynn realizes the same thing the Iraq Surge Generals did as well as the military establishment in World War II: we need experts and information about an area to successfully fight in an area.
Hopefully the experts and information can be found and applied throughout the war effort. Sadly, this will be hard for multiple reasons with some of the blame being on geographers themselves. Geographers’ brethren in anthropology have tried to stop anthropologists from helping out. As the American Anthropology Association’s leadership is full of openly Marxist and other anti-military elements so does the Association of American Geographers have rabidly anti-patriotic elements.
While the academic establishment may wail and grind their teeth against helping out, there will be some who will apply their geographic talents to help the Afghan fight. Let us wish them the best!