Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Comments on Zarqawi's Laptop

Dan Darling at Winds of Change has some interesting snippets on what was found in Zarqawi's captured laptop. Some of Dan's comments are:

  • I've heard there's a fair amount of porn. Now that could be disinformation, but given all the drugs, beer bottles, and the like that were found among the Pious Mujahideen™ in Fallujah I'm certainly not going to dismiss it off-hand.
  • There's information on his medical condition, so we may finally get an answer on the issue of how many legs he has and what not.
  • There is at least some record of the correspondence between him and bin Laden. Basically, bin Laden gives him a broad outline as far as strategy is concerned and Zarqawi is in charge of implementing the tactical aspects of his plan together with his lieutenants and allies, such as the Baathists.

Dan says the laptop has been in US possession for some time but that the information has been kept from the press until now. This was indirectly corroborated by an International Herald Tribune report on raids resulting from information found in the laptop.

Using leads found on the computer, troops have taken into custody several suspected associates of Zarqawi in the past two months and have raided at least one location in Iraq where bomb-making materials were found, a Defense Department official said. A senior Pentagon official said, "It's been very valuable information."

The UAV-intel analysis -action loop implicit in the actions which nearly captured Zarqawi speak volumes about much tighter the link between intelligence and operations has become. According to the Daily Telegraph:

Following a tip off from inside the Zarqawi network about the meeting, members of the task force were waiting around Ramadi and Predator drones monitored the region from the air, the report said. The senior military official said that just before the meeting, troops pulled a car over as it approached a checkpoint and at the same time a pickup truck about a kilometre behind quickly turned in the opposite direction. The US believe the militant leader was in the truck.

"Zarqawi always has someone check the waters," the official was quoted as saying. US teams began a chase, but when the truck was pulled over Zarqawi was not inside. The senior military official said they had since learned that Zarqawi jumped out when the vehicle passed beneath a bridge and hid before running to a safe house in Ramadi.

The exploitation of the intelligence must have followed the broad outlines described in the post Spy Vs. Spy where DIA Strategic Support Teams prosecuted targets immediately in order to yield more information. It is this marriage between intel gathering and operations which makes it possible to go after elusive and mobile targets like Zarqawi.

Just three comments on this incident. First, there's more stuff on that laptop hard drive than Zarqawi can ever remmber putting there. Second, the US needs a lower flying slower UAV than the Predator (whose minimum speed is about 80 knots) to track evading individuals in urban terrain. Some of the micro-UAVs under development might have pursued him under the bridge had they been available. Third, compare this incident to Curveball.