Intelligence: December 2, 2001


: The new phase of the Afghan Air War has exposed a long known shortcoming of US forces: a lack of recon aircraft and the inability to meld all of the various sensor data into a single "product" that can be used in real time. Few Taliban or Al Qaeda leaders have been caught or killed, and there is no precise information on where the rest of them are. They have been able to use their cell phones with impunity because a lot of cell phones are in use in Afghanistan, and the communications of the top Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders are encrypted and hidden inside innocuous conversations. The Air Force is bombarding contractors with requests for any new technology that could be mounted on existing aircraft and provide electronic signal intelligence, imagery, measurement and signature intelligence, and communications interception intelligence. Even so, the US remains confident. While the enemy leaders and hard core fighters are in cave complexes, there are only so many of them, and they are being methodically destroyed. Once the enemy leaves their caves and starts moving, they will have no jungle to hide in, but will be moving across bare mountainsides and easy targets. Once winter sets in, it will be harder for them to move (and easier for the US to find them). Even if they hole up in caves, they will need supplies and the caravans that deliver them can be tracked. More troops and special forces are moving into Afghanistan to establish roadblocks and check anyone moving into or out of Taliban-held refuge zones.--Stephen V Cole


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