Intelligence in United Nations Peace Operations : A case study of the All Sources Information Fusion Unit in MINUSMA
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More than a decade ago, the United Nations established a model for integrated missions – organising all assets under one leadership function – in order to facilitate comprehensive and coordinated mission efforts. This model creates a considerable span of control, with relatively few decision-making nodes. In turn, it requires information and decision support to reach decision-makers at the different levels of the organisation in a timely manner. One of the organisational steps taken to support decision-making was the establishment of the Joint Mission Analysis Centre (JMAC) in 2005. The All Source Information Fusion Unit (ASIFU) – an additional reinforcement to mission analysis capacity – was launched in Mali as a pilot in 2014. The purpose of the ASIFU was to provide intelligence on operational levels below the JMAC. The ASIFU was an intelligence entity that was part of the military component, under the command and control of the Force Commander (FC). This report demonstrates that the development of an intelligence community in integrated UN peace operations faces many of the challenges that other similar organisations have experienced. These include compression of organisational levels (the blurring of the lines between strategic, operational and tactical levels), challenges in disseminating and sharing products, an exaggerated and unrealistic belief in the use of technical sensors, and organisational changes that do not yield the desired results. While ASIFU is a recent invention, the introduction of intelligence structures in the UN is not new. Chesterman argued that efficient use of intelligence is a potential success factor from the strategic UN headquarters level down to the tactical level in peace operations (2006). Conversely, Dorn showed as early as 1999 the limitations of intelligence in UN peacekeeping. Ten years later, he considered that many of the same challenges remained, although intelligence, especially human intelligence (HUMINT), had been successful in supporting strong UN operations in Haiti to stabilise the gang-dominated slum areas (Dorn, 2009). Cammaert (2003) provided detailed recommendations on how intelligence in UN operations might be improved. For instance, he stressed the importance of competence standards for intelligence personnel, the utilisation of all assets and personnel for information gathering, and the reliability and consistency of the intelligence system and products. Although intelligence at all levels of the UN appears fraught with challenges, a near unanimous assessment from the existent literature is that an intelligence function is required in UN peace operations. The UN has increasingly acknowledged the need for intelligence to provide support for decision-making. As with other organisations involved in peace and stabilisation efforts, the UN needs knowledge to improve force protection, the planning of operations and the implementation of mission mandates. Two UN reports in particular have established the need for more systematic and efficient processing of information to support decision-making in UN peace operations. The so-called Brahimi report (UN, 2000) called for the increased collection and analysis of information on the relevant actors in a given mission area. Further, it stated that the UN does not have a system to process information about conflict areas – a system which covers information collection, analysis and the dissemination or distribution of products. Although the concept of intelligence in the UN has developed considerably since then, the so-called HIPPO report from 2015 (High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations) still called for improved support systems to enable more responsive and accountable peace operations – in other words, the UN still needs better intelligence (UN, 2015b). So where does the UN stand in terms of effective operational intelligence? To begin to answer this overarching question, this report provides a case study of the cutting edge of UN intelligence in contemporary UN peace operations1 – the ASIFU. First deployed in May 2014, the ASIFU was set up to support operational level decision-making in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Comprising military personnel and military resources, the ASIFU was placed under the FC in MINUSMA’s organisational chart. The ASIFU is largely based on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) intelligence doctrine, and is currently composed of personnel and resources from NATO member, or NATO-associated, states. The core aim is to provide an efficient intelligence organisation that enables MINUSMA to protect its forces and civilians under threat and to fulfil its mission mandate. First, the report explains the role and utility of ASIFU in MINUSMA. Second, it analyses the intelligence processes in the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which does not have an ASIFU. This helps provide an understanding of whether an ASIFU could also be useful there. Finally, the report evaluates how MINUSMA and UNMISS use intelligence to support the implementation of the prioritised mission mandate – the protection of civilians (POC) – for both missions. Specifically, this report tries to answer three questions: 1. How has the ASIFU affected the intelligence cycle of MINUSMA? 2. How does the intelligence cycle function in UNMISS, in the absence of an ASIFU? 3. How do intelligence units support POC mandates in MINUSMA and UNMISS? Chapter 2 defines the central concepts and describes intelligence resources in UN peace operations. Chapter 3 introduces the analytical framework – the four-phased intelligence cycle. Chapter 4 analyses ASIFU in MINUSMA, whilst Chapter 5 investigates UNMISS in order to compare MINUSMA with a UN mission that does not have an ASIFU. Both these chapters provide conclusions on intelligence resources and processes and recommendations for improvement. Chapter 6 briefly investigates how MINUSMA and UNMISS use intelligence resources to support their top priority task of POC. Chapter 7 makes recommendations on how to increase the utility of intelligence in UN peace operations. The report largely builds on information received through semi-structured interviews with UN practitioners – civilian and military – in Mali and South Sudan in June 2016. All interviewees agreed to provide information as long as they could remain anonymous. In addition, the report builds on UN policies, guidelines and handbooks, as well as other relevant literature. Both authors have previous experience with intelligence in NATO operations, and Lindboe was involved in the original construction, implementation, and deployment of the ASIFU in MINUSMA.