Peacekeeping intelligence: Emerging Concepts for the Future

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PEACEKEEPING INTELLIGENCE: Emerging Concepts for the Future

Chapter 21—Martin Rudner, from IJIC 15/5 (Winter 2002-2003)

Canada, the UN, NATO, and Peacekeeping Intelligence

Martin Rudner

Intelligence Capabilities for Peace Support Missions

The Canadian experience demonstrates that Information and Intelligence capabilities for peace support and other non-war-fighting operations must relate to operational situations of far greater complexity and indeed ambiguity compared to the tradition combat situation for which these systems were designed.1 For one thing, in peace support situations the potential adversaries (and their forces) are usually ambiguous, and often obscure and elusive as well. For another, the intentions of belligerents are typically volatile, and may not always be indicated by the positioning and activity of military or paramilitary forces. In such circumstances, highly sophisticated technical means of intelligence collection may be less relevant than the balanced application of all Information and Intelligence capabilities, and especially Humint. Moreover, the conventional principles of offensive, target-oriented tactical and operational intelligence may have to be modified in order to achieve a nuanced and accurate assessment of the peace breakdown/peace support situation. Based on their experience in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia, the US Military Intelligence community discerned the following imperatives for future peace support Information and Intelligence capability planning:

(1) Intelligence support to force protection as the foremost priority;
(2) Human intelligence (Humint) as the paramount requirement;

(3) Technical means of collection to be utilised reservedly and appropriately to ensure synergy and balance with Humint;

(4) The architecture for Information and Intelligence to be modified so as to incorporate both political and military factors in every assessment, and to sustain interoperability and commonality with coalition partners and non-governmental organisations.2

The intelligence architecture of the Canadian Forces (CF) in operational contexts will generally be subordinated to Allied, and especially American, systems in terms of information and intelligence capabilities, particularly sophisticated sensors, processors, automated analysis tools, and supporting dissemination networks. While sophisticated sensors, imagery and signals technologies may well serve as force multipliers in peace support operations, experience indicates that they are generally of more limited operational effectiveness than in conventional combat situations. Similarly, high capacity information processors and analysis tools tend to be of more limited applicability in the contexts of peace support missions. This is principally because the bulk of information collected (predominantly Humint) in these more ambiguous situations must be treated to qualitative analysis (characterisation of intent) that does not easily lend itself to machine formatted data fields or reporting. Certainly, the future development of CF information and intelligence capabilities must certainly retain a capacity to interface with these advanced technologies. However, it would be distinctly advantageous and appropriate for Canadian Defence Intelligence to focus its own endogenous efforts on developing complementary talents, perspectives and Humint-centred capabilities.
Future peace support scenarios suggest that Canada’s Information and Intelligence architecture will be impelled to accommodate, process, and effectively deal with substantial Humint input of military, political and increasingly also economic/humanitarian bearing. 3 To effectively perform these functions, Defence Intelligence will have to interact with the information gathering capabilities of local authorities and non governmental organisations. The implications for the future are clear: the more complex, fluid and dynamic the peace support context, arguably the more Humint oriented the supporting intelligence architecture must become.
This inclusion of Humint may pose certain conceptual challenges for the architecture of Defence Intelligence. The current architecture is shaped by an automated analytical process designed to input data, apply logical algorithms to it, and then produce an artificial real-time intelligence based result for dissemination to forces in the field. This design is optimised for responding to empirical facts and things, and not the subtleties of context. It is the essence of the so-called ‘sensor-to-shooter’ process. While this sensor-to-shooter capability should be retained, in particular for force protection, it requires enhancement to accommodate more subtle, context-based Humint apropos situations where complexity of the mission environment is much greater. Defence Intelligence architecture will have to be modified (and soldiers trained) to incorporate assessment of both a political and military context with every analysis, adding a very important human dimension to powerful, but limited, technology based systems.12

The Intelligence Challenges of UN Peace Support Operations

Peace support operations, whether undertaken for classic peacekeeping missions or more contemporary preventive action, peace enforcement or peace-building objectives, demonstrate their own distinctive requirements for Information and Intelligence. Although there tends to be a large element of improvisation in peace operations, they seem to be guided by three salient principles: the importance of impartiality and transparency of policies; the exercise of control by an accepted international authority; and the need to ensure effective military and political command and control in an otherwise complex multilateral operating environment.4 Experience indicates that the place of Defence Intelligence in peace operations tends to vary according to whether these missions were mandated under United Nations or North Atlantic Treaty Organisation auspices. Since peace support may be expected to remain a major and indeed pre-eminent international commitment for the CF for the foreseeable future, it is appropriate the development of force capabilities and doctrine be closely attuned to the attributes of the international operational framework(s) within which these operations are likely to be conducted.
UN peace missions display considerable ambivalence about Information and Intelligence.5 In as much as the UN considers itself an essentially neutral, multilateral organisation, ‘intelligence systems’ were not countenanced as part of UN mandated peace operations, ostensibly due to their covert, sinister connotations.6 So far as the UN was concerned, intelligence was equated with espionage, and therefore considered a betrayal of the ‘trust, confidence and respect’ deemed necessary for effective UN peacekeeping. Reflecting this view, Canadian military doctrine rejected the term ‘intelligence’ as being ‘negative and covert’, insisting instead that peacekeeping operations rely on a more principled access to ‘information’ that was ‘impartial, trustworthy and overt.’7
Be that as it may, a review of UN peacekeeping operations undertaken at the behest of the secretary-general and published in August 2000 proposed a radical reconfiguration of the role of intelligence in the framework of UN peace and security. The Report of the Brahimi Panel determined that UN peace operations require a more robust military doctrine and a realistic mandate, including a preparedness to apply military force as appropriate to achieve mission objectives. Towards this end, the Panel concluded that ‘United Nations forces for complex operations should be afforded the field intelligence and other capabilities needed to mount an effective defence against violent challengers.’8 To put these capabilities in place, the Report recommended that the secretary-general establish an Information and Strategic Analysis Secretariat (EISAS), to be administered jointly by the Departments of Political Affairs and Peacekeeping Operations, and which would serve as an information gathering and analysis unit to support the UN’s Executive Committee on Peace and Security.

By way of response, the Secretary General decided to establish an Information and Strategic Analysis Secretariat within the Department of Political Affairs, solely, as ‘the focal point for the application of modern information systems and technology to all parts of the UN system engaged in peace and security activities.9 As implemented, EIAS consists of three component units: a Strategic Analysis Service, a Peace-Building Unit, and an Information Management Service. Its prescribed functions included creating and maintaining an integrated database on peace and security issues, disseminating that knowledge within the United Nations system, generating policy analyses, providing early warning of impending crises, and formulating long term strategies for the UN Executive Committee of Peace and Security. Thus, this new Information and Strategic Analysis Secretariat combines a strategic intelligence function along with policy planning functions. While this duality of functions may become problematic in and of itself, it is clear that strategic information, or intelligence, has now acquired a new legitimacy within the framework of UN peace support planning. This new found acceptability of Information and Analysis at the strategic policy level will doubtless resonate downwards to the development of Defence Intelligence capabilities, to gather, process and disseminate ‘strategic information’, also at the tactical and operational levels of UN peace mission planning.

The Intelligence Challenges of NATO Peace Support Operations

Since the end of the Cold War NATO, for its part, has undertaken peace support operations in the Gulf, in Somalia and in the former Yugoslavia.10 These activities were not only ‘out of theatre’, but also engaged NATO forces in an entirely new genre of missions, for the Alliance, as such, aimed at conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, peace enforcement and peace building.11 As a result of recent experience, especially in Bosnia, NATO military planning for peace support operations is now prepares itself for a continuum of contingencies in which low-intensity monitoring may escalate into high-intensity peace enforcement. Moreover, NATO has also recognised that the intelligence requirements for peace support missions extend beyond Defence Intelligence as narrowly defined to also embrace the pertinent political, social, cultural, and economic dimensions of intelligence. Contingency planning for peace enforcement generates a powerful imperative for robust Information and Intelligence capabilities at the very outset of NATO-led peace support operations. Perceptions of impartiality and intelligence sharing will perforce be affected by this war preparedness. The Alliance’s approach to peace support may well serve to undercut the effectiveness of the intelligence function, which may in turn constrain NATO’s leadership role in peace support just a time when this mission is becoming salient on the Alliance agenda.

NATO does not possess an intelligence collection and analysis capacity of its own. Ordinarily, all of NATO’s intelligence requirements are met from intelligence products supplied by member countries for the exclusive use of the Alliance itself and for its constituent governments. It is a fundamental principle of NATO intelligence sharing that none of the intelligence supplied to the Alliance can be shared with non member countries or to any international organisation composed of non member countries. This fundamental principle applies also on peace support missions involving NATO in partnership with other countries and organisations, notwithstanding operational requirements for intelligence sharing.
While providing some intelligence input into NATO, the United States tends to rely on its own very sophisticated C4ISR capabilities to acquire high-quality imagery, Sigint, and other elements of information superiority to support American forces engaged in NATO-led peace support missions. The American military often discriminates even between allies in allowing access to these intelligence products, so as to protect classified capabilities or methodologies. Thus, some of the highest value components of information superiority are reserved for US users and are not generally shared even with other NATO countries on the same NATO-led missions. However, Canadian Forces reportedly have enjoyed privileged access to this intelligence.

NATO military planning is, of course, cognisant of this tension between the security principle governing access to Alliance intelligence, on the one hand, and the operational principles of transparency and integrated command and control, which imply intelligence sharing among partners and international authorities involved in peace support coalitions, on the other.12 Nevertheless, NATO insists that it cannot countenance any sharing of Alliance intelligence products with non-member countries or with international organisation of which they are a part. As a result, the intelligence architecture for NATO-led peace support missions has tended to assume the characteristics of a three tier, differentiated apparatus, with a top tier consisting of US forces and their most intimate allies who share access to American ISR capabilities to the fullest; a second tier composed of other NATO allies who may obtain Information and Intelligence made available through the Alliance, but which may exclude access to some reserved American-generated products; and a third tier consisting of all other country or international components.
This compartmentalisation of the NATO intelligence architecture militated against the effective command and control of peace support operations involving the Alliance, and sometimes produced grave deficiencies in the availability of tactical and operational intelligence even to Canadian participants. Thus, in 1992, General Lewis Mackenzie, commander of UN Forces in Bosnia, found the deficiencies of intelligence preventing the forces under his command from responding to hostile fire from positions ostensibly under UN control, complaining ‘there was no way we could know ... we had absolutely no intelligence.’13 Since ad hoc coalitions with non NATO partners have become characteristic of peace and humanitarian missions, Canada, as a NATO member, intimate US ally and frequent coalition partner with non-members may well find itself on the fault lines between the three tiers of intelligence compartmentalisation.

Lessons Learned and Future Requirements

In order to ensure the effectively respond to the requirements for Information and Intelligence in the context of UN or NATO-led peace and humanitarian missions, future Canadian Forces operational capabilities will have to seek a closer interoperability and fusion in the production and dissemination of Defence Intelligence. Interoperability with allies and prospective coalition partners will remain a sine qua non for the operational integration of C4ISR capabilities on peace support missions. However, technical interoperability will not suffice. Structural impediments confronting both the UN and NATO systems, which prevent the effective deployment of Defence Intelligence capabilities in a coherent, integrated manner for peace support must likewise be addressed. To enable Canadian Forces on UN or NATO-led peace support operations to achieve information superiority, the future development of Information and Intelligence capabilities for Canadian Forces will have to promote a more balanced integration of technical and Humint sources, along with a closer fusion of the strategic, tactical and operational dimensions of Defence Intelligence. It seems clear that Canadian Forces commanders on peace missions will demand greater attention to the scope, depth and relevance of Defence Intelligence.


1 Col. H. Allen Boyd, ‘Joint Intelligence Support of Peace Operations’, Military Intelligence, Vol. 24, No. 4 (October-December, 1998).

2 Vide. Boyd, ‘Joint Intelligence Support of Peace Operations’; U.S. Army, Headquarters, XVIII Airborne Corps Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence Briefing ‘Joint Intelligence Operations: Operation RESTORE DEMOCRACY’, U.S. Army World-wide Intelligence Conference, Fort Huachuca, Arizona, January 1995; Pick, ACI and HUMINT in Multinational Operations: ‘The Lessons of Vigilant Blade 97’; David Rababy, ‘Intelligence Support During a Humanitarian Mission’, Marine Corps Gazette (February 1995), pp. 41-2; Alastair Duncan, ‘Operating in Bosnia’, RUSI Journal (June 1994), pp 12 15; Thomas Wilson, ‘Joint Intelligence and UPHOLD DEMOCRACY’, Joint Forces Quarterly (Spring, 1996), pp. 57 58; Raymond Leach, ‘Information Support to UN Forces’, Marine Corps Gazette (September, 1994), p. 49.

3 Boyd, ‘Joint Intelligence Support of Peace Operations’; Rababy, ‘Intelligence Support During a Humanitarian Mission’ pp. 41-2; Duncan, ‘Operating in Bosnia’, pp. 12 15..

4 NATO, Peacekeeping, and the UN, Berlin Information Centre for Transatlantic Security, Germany, 1994, p. 53.

5 Paul Johnston, ‘No Cloak and Dagger Required: Intelligence Support to UN Peacekeeping’, Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 12, No. 4 (October, 1997); Hugh Smith, ‘Intelligence and UN Peacekeeping’, Survival Vol. 36, No. 3 (Autumn, 1994)

6 International Peace Academy, Peacekeepers Handbook (New York: Pergamon Press, 1984, p. 39.

7 Canadian Forces Publication 301(3), Peacekeeping Operations, 1992, Section 618, Para.1e.

8 United Nations, Report of the panel on UN Peace Operations, A/55/305 - S/2000 801, 21 August 2000.

9 Resource Requirements for the Implementation of the Report of the Panel on UN Peace Operations. Report of the secretary-general. United Nations General Assembly, A/55/507, 27 October 2000, pt. 2, para’s. 11 & 12.

10 NATO, Peacekeeping, and the UN, pp. 22.23. NATO involvement in Peace Support missions was approved by its Military Committee, the Alliance’s highest military organ, but has not yet been endorsed or even discussed as a policy matter by the legislatures of member states.

11 John Nomikos, Intelligence Requirements for Peacekeeping Operations, Research Institute on European and American Studies Working Paper, Athens, Greece, October 2000.

12 NATO, Peacekeeping, and the UN, pp.22 23.

13 General Lewis Mackenzie, former UN Commander in Bosnia, speaking in a BBC Radio

Interview on 11 February 1994. Cited in Nomikos, Intelligence Requirements for Peacekeeping Operations, ff. 12.

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