A U.S. Inspector Generals report from the Pentagon, the State Department and the United States Agency for International Developing pointed to continue problems for Iraq’s intelligence agencies. These included weaknesses in tasking its assets, a lack of resources, not enough intelligence officers, lack of vetting of intelligence, and institutional barriers that could take years to remedy.
One major problem is that the Iraqi forces and intelligence agencies are reluctant to share intelligence with each other. For example, the Iraqis rely upon the U.S. for air surveillance. When an American air asset is approved during an operation the intelligence only goes to the Iraqi command that ordered it and is not given to any other unit. This hinders effective counterinsurgency action as Iraqi units are denied information about the Islamic State by other Iraqi forces. The U.S. agencies believe this is an institutional problem, which requires a change in culture amongst the Iraqis.
Iraq doesn’t have enough intelligence assets or use them properly. Drones for instance are mostly used by Iraqi commanders to micro-manage their own forces rather than being used to find out what IS is doing. That means Iraqis usually call for Americans to provide them with air surveillance when out in the field. Iraq doesn’t have enough intelligence personnel, so it can’t adequately deal with the information it receives. As a result, many reports are not vetted, analyzed or even distributed to the Iraqi forces. The Iraqis also don’t rate the human intelligence it receives over time. A source could become very reliable or not at all over the years and the Iraqis wouldn’t know. Finally, the Iraqis lack the capabilities to intercept IS communications. On the other hand, a previous U.S. inspectors general report found that Iraqi commanders routinely use commercial cell phones to pass orders down to their officers with no security, which means they could easily be tapped. Again, many of these practices like using regular phones to give orders and deploying drones to follow their own forces are built into the Iraqi forces. Others like the shortcomings in equipment and personnel can be overcome with time with larger budgets. The U.S. has no idea how long these changes could take however. The report thought this could take decades to solve.
Intelligence is essential in a war against an insurgency. Uncovering cells, finding weapons caches, preventing terrorist attacks all require air, human, and signals intelligence. The Iraqis are currently relying upon the Americans for almost all of this because they lack the abilities, inclination and equipment to do it themselves. The U.S. has been working on rebuilding and assisting the Iraqi forces for the last 16 years. It believes it will take much more time before they can operate on their own.
Inspector Generals, “Operation Inherent Resolve And Other Overseas Contingency Operations, Lead Inspector General Report To The United States Congress, October 1, 2018-Decemer, 31, 2018,” February 2019
Lead Inspector General, “Operation Inherent Resolve, And Other Overseas Contingency Operations,” 7/1/18-9/30/18