Intelligence Support to Urban Military Operations

01.04.16 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

To the eyes of a military planner, a city presents “an elaborate combination of horizontal, vertical, interior, and exterior forms superimposed on a landscape’s natural relief, drainage, and vegetation.”

A newly reissued U.S. Army manual contemplates the difficulties facing military action in the urban environment with a focus on intelligence collection. See Intelligence Support to Urban Operations, TC 2-91.4, December 2015.

“With the continuing growth in the world’s urban areas and increasing population concentrations in urban areas, the probability that Army forces will conduct operations in urban environments is ever more likely,” the manual states.

“Providing intelligence support to operations in the complex urban environment can be quite challenging. It may at first seem overwhelming. The amount of detail required for operations in urban environments, along with the large amounts of varied information required to provide intelligence support to these operations, can be daunting.”

“In urban terrain, friendly forces will encounter a variety of potential threats, such as conventional military forces, paramilitary forces, insurgents or guerrillas, terrorists, common criminals, drug traffickers, warlords, and street gangs. These threats may operate independently or some may operate together. Individuals may be active members of one or more groups.”

“The enemy situation is often extremely fluid–locals friendly to us today may be tomorrow’s belligerents. Adversaries seek to blend in with the local population to avoid being captured or killed. Enemy forces who are familiar with the city layout have an inherently superior awareness of the current situation.”

“Finally, U.S. forces often fail to understand the motives of the urban threat due to difficulties of building cultural awareness and situational understanding for a complex environment and operation.”