Wednesday 28 March 2012

Analyzing the US Army Human Terrain Teams

More on the US Army's Human Terrain System, which I have touched on several times before (here  and here). The US Army's Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin for Oct-Dec 2011 is a special issue devoted to the subject. Some of the articles relate to Iraq, but several are devoted to the HTS in Afghanistan, including case studies of Rural Human Terrain in Kandahar, engaging local religious leaders in the Central Helmand River Valley and articles on bilingual data collection and HTS support to Information Operations.
One paper describes how a HTT demonstrated that a micro-credit programme could provide farmers with an alternative to relying on (pro-Taliban) lenders for financing and in the longer term, free them from becoming subject to a cycle of debt. The brigade intelligence officer then integrated the analysis into its targeting cycle, using a farming cycle calendar to determine the times of the year when farmers were most vulnerable to financial pressure from insurgents.
This all seems very interesting, but as one of the papers notes: "Difficulties integrating HTS teams into Army units arise because the HTS program brings together two professions (social science and military studies) that tend to operate within different problem-solving paradigms, speak different languages, consist of different personalities, and have misconceptions one about the other. Academia is stereotyped as theoretical, long winded, and perhaps of no practical use at the moment. Military studies are stereotyped as too practical, laconic, and operating under the slogan that a 70 percent solution is good enough right now in the battle space." Quite.

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