Iraqi Spooks Come in from the Cold



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The top American official responsible for training the new Iraqi intelligence services said Tuesday that country's spies could be ready to go it alone by the end of next year.

After years of fits and starts, the Iraqi military and ministry of defense intel services are up and running, and, with coalition help, scoring some significant wins against insurgent groups, bombers and cross-border infiltrators.

"I would say by this time next year they would be likely self-sufficient to the extent that within the capability they have, both technical and human, that they can, in fact, collect, analyze and disseminate information to provide support to the Iraqi ground forces," said Dan Maguire, the senior American trainer for Iraqi intelligence services, in an interview with military bloggers Nov. 27.

Read the entire transcript of the interview with Dan Maguire.

Maguire said in and around Baghdad the number of targets Iraqi intelligence personnel develop has jumped from less than a dozen per week before this year's troop buildup to an average of 50 to 60 targets per week.

Moreover, Iraqi intel services are now able to go after about 90 percent of the bad guys they finger, where before the surge few targets had hard enough intelligence to nab.

Check out more intel news at Norman Polmar's Spy Corner.

The new intel services have been able to develop their own information, analyze it and grab insurgents using Iraqi military and police forces about 30 percent of the time, "so they are right now on par in terms of going after targets and having success on that with the rest of the coalition forces," Maguire said.

But that doesn't mean Iraqi intelligence services don't have some work to do before the U.S. can cut the cord.

Maguire said his pupils are short on basic signals intelligence technology that can help them intercept enemy communications, there are too few Arabic-language intelligence analysis software options - which hampers the exploitation of the information gained from sources - and there's a lasting suspicion among military commanders that their intelligence personnel are simply spying on them.

"Many commanders view the tactical intelligence organizations in a division as being there to spy on the commanders, because that's their experience or their knowledgeability from the Saddam era days," Maguire explained. "We are working very hard to rectify that by direct interface with division commanders, by recruiting and putting in place G-2s at each of those division levels and working closely with them so that the commander and the G-2 build a bond and a trust so that they can, in fact, utilizes the resources effectively."

At the higher levels, however, Maguire likes what he sees.

"Their joint staff [intelligence officer], and his staff are a very, very competent group of individuals," Maguire said. "We have a new [chief intelligence officer] that's only been in place now for about a month and a half, who is a former officer in the Saddam era, was an instructor at their National War College equivalent institution, a very, very balanced individual, very knowledgeable, very, very good at leading and mentoring his staff. And they are really starting to get it and put it together."

Developing intelligence services from scratch is no easy task, especially with a tough counterinsurgency roiling the country. That's led to an over emphasis on tactical intelligence gathering and exploitation at the expense of strategic spooking.

"They really don't have any resources external to the country that they can rely on to give them what we would expect in our intelligence community, a strategic view of what's going on around them." Maguire said, adding that they have a hard time focusing on how tactical events can have strategic implications.

Maguire said he's put in place a rigorous vetting process, including polygraphs, to make sure no militia or terrorist elements infiltrate the services, and he's working hard to banish the practices of Saddam's dreaded Mukhabarrat from ever returning.

"Our focus has primarily been on developing the tools to collect and analyze, and at the same time taking away or not allowing the tools of suppression to be part of the intelligence institutions," Maguire said. "Now I can't say there's a guarantee. But I think that as we have developed and worked with them over the years now, and we see both the leadership that they have and the manner in which they're conducting the business, that we have a high degree of insurance that they're not going to fall back to their old ways."

-- Christian

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