The opinions contained are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of NATO, the U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Army
Reprinted from Small Wars Journal, posted 15 January 2010 at http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/348-franz.pdf.
Understanding the complex operational environment (OE) in Afghanistan means seeing the local conditions and activities and how they affect people's lives. If the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) and NATO's International Security Assistance Force-Afghanistan (ISAF) are truly focused on gaining the support of the people, we must better understand the lens through which the people are watching our efforts play out and we must know what may drive them away from supporting the government. This means understanding not only the nature of the threats to security posed by negative influences, insurgents, and terrorists but also the aspects of Governance and Development that most impact their daily lives. Host Nation Information Requirements (HNIR) is a category of reporting on these critical factors affecting the people in Afghanistan.
More important than the structure of government, people are most concerned about the extension of governmental services and the ability for their national and local officials to deliver basic necessities and support for a functioning community-to include security. But the OE in Afghanistan is much more complex, nuanced and dynamic than just answering the question of satisfactory governance-rendering a basic collection of facts, polling data, anecdotal references and statistics insufficient for true understanding within the partnered commands.
The ISAF Joint Command (IJC) instituted a bottom up, inclusive information system to answer key information gaps and assist ISAF and Afghan Partners with clear commander critical information requirements (CCIR). More than just asking the right questions, the ISAF and Afghan operating forces along with civilian partners in the field, must understand what the answers are that will drive resources and prioritization, providing better insight into the real issues and perceptions at local levels. The IJC has created a reporting system and fusion process to bring this information to the command in a timely, accurate and comprehensive way.
The Need for HNIR, Why Now?
Things have gotten worse for the Afghan people since 2005. Despite significant financial and security contributions of the international community and from the Afghan people, in terms of dollars, time and lives, many areas of Afghanistan are now less secure and less governed. The reasons are likely two-fold: a strategy that embraced counter-insurgency (COIN) concepts but failed to apply it at the operational and local levels, and a near-absence of synchronicity coupled with disunity of effort among ISAF, the International Community and the Government of Afghanistan, to include the Afghan security ministries. These two root problems have been identified by informed and not-so informed observers. The inability to adjust course has been stymied by inertia to change, organizational culture, complacency, in some cases apathy and greed; and perhaps most importantly, an inability to develop, see, share, and understand information falling outside traditional information spheres.
The current doctrinal approach to CCIR in a COIN environment is insufficient to address the key elements that affect the perceptions and support of the population. This information gap hovers directly over the Center of Gravity in a COIN environment-the people's support to the Host Nation government. With this informational gap, commanders …