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Lessons remembered: using intelligence to drive counterinsurgency operations in Iraq

Transforming US intelligence for Irregular War: Task Force 714 in Iraq
by Richard H. Shultz
Reviewed by Prof. Aaron Danis

Dr. Richard H. Shultz, Jr, is the Lee E. Dirks Professor of International Politics and the director of the International Security Studies Program at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is the author of several books, including The Marines Take Anbar: The Four-Year Fight Against Al Qaeda and, with Andrea J. Dew, Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat. This book is based on his original study for the Joint Special Operations University, Military Innovation in War: It Takes a Learning Organization A Case Study of Task Force 714 in Iraq.1 Dr. Shultz is well-connected to the U.S. Special Operations community, and I have used his writings in my counterterrorism courses.2

Shultz has done the larger counterterrorism (CT) and counterinsurgency (COIN) enterprises a favour by capturing, at an unclassified level, the Task Force 714 (hereafter TF 714) lessons from its fight against the al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) insurgency from 2006–2009. Although TF 714 had been in Iraq under other names before this time frame, it is during this window roughly coinciding with the 2007 Iraq Surge that TF 714 hit its stride, and as its commander then-Major General Stanley McChrystal states in the book, ‘claw(ed) the guts out of AQI.’ (p.7). Shultz outlines how TF 714 evolved from a CT surgical scalpel to an organization that conducted kill/capture operations in support of COIN operations on what he labels ‘an industrial scale’ (p.154). To do this, the task force morphed into an intelligence-led organization that inverted its usual intelligence-to-operations ratio to one that was 80 percent intelligence and 20 percent operations (p.6).

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