Defense Update - News Analysis by David Eshel

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Israel's Joint Counter Insurgency Warfare
In spite of its controversial nature, Israels policy of so-called 'targeted killings' has proven itself as one of the most effective methods to curb Palestinian terror over the last four year of intensive warfighting. But from a pure military aspect, such an operation is one of the most complex, if taking out the targeted individual is to be implemented with minimum collateral damage to civilians and their property.
In order to mount a targeted killing operation, the target must first be found - for the IDF a task easier said than done, particularly in the densely-populated Palestinian towns and refugee camps. Terrorists can move from house-to-house by secret underground passages eluding even the most sophisticated electronic surveillance. Leaders have studied IDF routine and skillfully manage to evade detection, constantly on the move, and particularly careful about using mobile phones and other means of electronic communication.
Only high-grade intelligence can allow infiltration of such a network. Intelligence-gathering in advance of a targeted killing operation relies on the full compliment of HUMINT, SIGINT and COMINT techniques. One of the most important systems now in use for such intelligence gathering are UAV's (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) fitted with the latest electronic surveillance equipment, and which can loiter for long periods over suspect locations and transmit live pictures for real-time intelligence directly to special forces team leaders, or helicopter gunship pilots.Unconfirmed reports indicate that IDF armed unmanned aerial vehicles were also used to track and pinpoint Palestinian terrorist leader targets in Gaza.
The IDF can take pride in several tactical achievements. It was particularly successful in learning how to pre-empt and/or defuse terrorist activities by pooling its intelligence and surveillance resources with those of the General Security Services (Shin Bet) and the Police Force. In the four years of this war, over 550 suicide-bombings were attempted, culminating in March 2002, when 140 Israeli civilians were killed in this month alone. However, by 2004, terror casualties were reduced to about 100 deaths for the entire year, with over 80 percent of attacks aborted en route, essentially marking the terrorists defeat. At the beginning of 2005, shortly before the Sharm al Sheikh summit, this number became close to zero, with nearly all attempted attacks foiled by Israeli security forces.
Indeed, the successful Israeli responses to Palestinian strategic use of terror and asymmetric warfare are already being studied by the armed forces of the world's other democracies. For the first time since Britain's Malaysian campaign of the early 1960s, the IDF and the other security services exposed the myth that "the terrorist will always get through."
During the March 2005 Low Intensive Conflict (LIC) conference in Tel Aviv, some of these innovative tactics developed by the Israeli security forces in its 44 months long counter insurgency warfighting were publically revealed for the first time.
One of the foremost aspects, having the greatest impact on warfighting is the IDF Joint Counter Insurgency Warfare method.
The basis for this joint warfighting is the IDF "Army Digitalization" Program (ADP) which aims at linking the "sensors" and "shooters" across all command levels, down to the single soldier.
At the tactical level the ADP has already implemented dramatic changes, with the introduction of shelter-based computerized tactical operations centers, which will enable commanders to effectively monitor the situation in real time. These centers are fully equipped with all communications, processing, display, power distribution, and wiring required for operations.
The system enhances the capability in creating flexible, task oriented forces. Based on advanced hardware and software C4I technologies it enables coordination between forces at different command levels, providing situational awareness to maneuvering forces, improving the overall operational capabilities.
An important requirement of the new network is the capability for every authorized user to transmit, receive and view high resolution still format, as well as live video from any sensors, including ground observations, battle management systems (BMS) sight views, UAVs etc.
Some totally unprecedented inter-service cooperation between Shin Bet, Air force, Police and army was the key for the ongoing success in Israeli counter insurgency warfighting. Pin pointed target assassination of leading terrorist leaders became a critical element in drastically reducing its deadly attacks on civilian targets inside Israel.
As deputy head of the Shin Bet- Israel's Security Authority ( ISA) from 2000 through September 2003, Yuval Diskin ( designated new ISA chief replacing Avi Dichter ) headed the project to develop the offensive and often criticized "targeted assassination" policy. This involved coordinating with the IDF and Air Force to enable quick strikes with higher accuracy.
They had to break down numerous bureaucratic obstacles and enhance communications between the various security arms, itself a remarkable achievement in such hierarchical organisations.
Following the initiative from the ISA, which was pushing to improve capabilities to respond to real-time intelligence, the air force under Major General Dan Halutz (nominated IDF new chief of staff, coming June 2005) started working in close co-operation with Army intelligence and other relevant branches in specially established Joint Computerised Command Control Communications Intelligence (C4I) operation centers. The C4I centers combined, for the first time in IDF history
all intelligence gathering tools, from various service branches with full control over tactical units, ranging from special forces and undercover commandos to precision strike platforms all working as a joint operational entity. A unique element of the new system provides unfettered computerised visual monitoring to all command levels, down to the tactical leaders, or gunship helicopter pilot: all involved can see the same evolving battle picture on their computer screens, from start to finish of the mission.
This created a totally new tactical concept in which the motto became " See first Understand first Decide and Act first". Each of the segments was responsible for its part in preparing an operation: The ISA provided real-time intelligence through its channels, the air force extended and verified information through its UAVs and other aerial platforms, IDF Field Intelligence supplied updated combat resources from its observation units. After the intelligence picture was verified and updated, the field commanders decided on the best plan to carry out the mission within shortest time, which was then monitored throughout by the C4I command center, which also debriefed the mission commander after its termination.
Another element, which has become critical towards foiling terrorist attempts to infiltrate suicide bomber into Israeli urban centers has become the so-called "security barrier zone" along the West Bank and Gaza strip. This layered defence zone, incoorporating the latest state-of-the art electronic surveillance sensors, has already proven its worth beyong all expectations.
Until three years ago, a would-be killer from Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarm or Kalkilya needed only to walk, pedal or drive a few kilometers, taking basic precautions to evade army patrols, in order to reach even major population centers, like Tel Aviv and Netanya, on the coast of Israel. Since 2004, there were 84 attempted infiltrations in the last year. In 83 cases, they were thwarted!
Troops deployed along the barrier zone are constantly controlled by the C4I centers, which monitor all surveillance operations, such as passive, active ground, airborne (UAV) and aerostat assets.
Similar assets are deployed along the Israeli coastline, in which joint air, naval and army branches operate combined fast heavily armed inshore navy patrol craft and air sorties to intercept, identify and stop suspected enemy infiltration attempts mostly by Lebanon's Hezbollah combat swimmers and explosive carrying disguised fishing trawlers. All involved in such offshore surveillance operations can monitor the battle picture simultaneousely on their computer screens, wether on the ground, airborne or naval platforms.
An hitherto accepted broad consensus prevailed, that guerrilla forces resorting to terrorist methods could simply not be defeated by standing armies. That was the lesson to be learned from France in Algeria, France and the US in Vietnam, and from Britain in Kenya and in various other parts of its crumbling empire. Israel, more specifically the IDF and the Shin Bet, now seem to have disproved that axiom.
In its four and half years of ruthless terror war, which already cost thousands of dead and badly wounded on both sides, the IDF seems to have come a long way in establishing a second to none warfighting concept, which has undoubtedly become the prime catalizer towards a possible reconciliation in the Post Arafat era.

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