ADF – Afghanistan – Intelligence

ADF – Afghanistan – Intelligence

ADF intelligence organisation and relationships in Afghanistan.


Australian Defence Force (ADF) intelligence in Afghanistan has a number of different levels and activities, including the staff intelligence cell at the National Command Element (NCE) in Kabul to tactical intelligence staff attached to both the Reconstruction Task Force (RTF) and the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) in Oruzgan Province.

National Command Element intelligence

Within the National Command Element there is an intelligence cell, headed by an intelligence staff officer, most likely at lieutenant-colonel rank, designated S-2. This cell will have access to the Joint Intelligence Support System hosted by the Defence Intelligence Organisation. S-2 will also have liaison with both US and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) intelligence structures in their respective headquarters, though it is likely that there are limitations on the transfer of intelligence between the two sets of headquarters. It is likely that the Australian NCE intelligence cell would liaise more closely with the US intelligence center, which will include elements of the U.S. Joint Intelligence Center, US Central Command (JICCENT), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and possibly the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The NCE intelligence cell would probably be comparable to the intelligence cell structure reported by Blaxland in the early ADF InterFET operation, and would include a signals intellligence group from 72 EW Squadron. (See ADF – Intelligence in overseas deployments, Australian Forces Abroad.)

Reconstruction Task Force and the Special Operations Task Group intelligence

Both the Reconstruction Task Force and the Special Operations Task Group based in Tarin Kowt have intelligence cells, and both would liaise with the NCE cell. The RTF protective group would require local tactical intelligence at the very least to carry out its role in protecting the reconstruction activities of the rest of RTF. This would focus on human intelligence about the surrounding villages and region. There would also be close liaison with the Dutch army intelligence cell in Tarin Kowt, and with the ISAF southern region command in Kandahar.

The Special Operations Task Group intelligence cell would be more comprehensive, and working more closely both the ISAF command and with US command and intelligence groups. It would include mobile and static signals intelligence elements from 72 EW Squadron.

Analysis and commentary

Frontline Afghanistan: Inside the long war, Matt Brown, ABC News, 7 May 2009

The Australians and their allies have been gathering intelligence on cell leaders and several times they have managed to track them and kill them.

Damning report on intelligence co-operation, Peter Beaumont, SMH, 7 March 2009

A highly critical analysis of the coalition’s counter-insurgency in Afghanistan has raised serious questions about combat operations there – and the intelligence underpinning them. Based on interviews with British, US, Canadian and Dutch military, intelligence and diplomatic officials – and marked for “official use only” – the report is damning of a US military often unwilling to share intelligence among its military allies.

Taliban attacks on phone systems

Taliban Destroy Cell Towers, Taimoor Shah, New York Times, 4 March 2008

The Taliban knocked out two cellphone towers near the city of Kandahar over the weekend, carrying out a threat they made last week against all four cellphone companies in Afghanistan. The Taliban demanded that the companies stop operating at night because, they said, American and  NATO forces were using phone signals to track Taliban movements.

Taliban Threaten Mobile Phone Towers, ABC, 28 February 2008

The Taliban has threatened to attack mobile phone facilities in Afghanistan. US, British, and other NATO forces operating in Afghanistan  have developed a sophisticated system of listening in on Taliban conversations, and then locating where they are. If those firms do not implement the Taliban’s decision they say the mujahideen will destroy their offices and transmission towers.

See also

Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
Additional research: Arabella Imhoff
Ronald Li
Updated: 10 February 2010