Operational intelligence and RAMSI
As a Regional Mission, RAMSI’s operational planning is complicated by diverse national capacities and requirements, and questions over the accuracy and timeliness of operational intelligence. There has been criticism of the lack of sharing of operational intelligence and inter-agency co-operation in the early days of the RAMSI deployment. The violence and arson in Honiara in April 2006 in the aftermath of national elections also highlighted the gaps in police and military preparedness.
Second Interim Report, Commission of Inquiry into the April 2006 Civil Unrest in Honiara, Government of Solomon Islands, 7 September 2007
“There is now a clearer picture of the unprepared state of policing on 18 April 2006. While the Solomon Islands Police Force (SIPF) had the primary legal responsibility for the maintenance of law and order, including the security of Honiara, it was not armed and the ultimate security of Honiara was de facto under the control of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) Participating Police Force (PPF) Combined Tactical Force (CTF). There was clearly a failure in security [and] there is conclusive evidence that the SIPF had no riot control capacity on 18 April 2006….There was clear evidence that weak intelligence assessment by SIPF had caused a failure in security alertness in Honiara on the morning of 18 April 2006.”
AFP reply to Questions on notice, Senate inquiry into Australia’s involvement in Peacekeeping Operations, 2007
[In the lead up to the April 2006 riots] “Information processes were in place, and were robust. However, no credible intelligence emerged either before or after the event that there was any identifiable threat to public safety on 18 April 2006. Intelligence support to the mission was reviewed following the April 2006 riots. The review identified the need to establish a centralised analytical capability within the mission to improve both coordination and RAMSI’s force protection needs. The AFP is funding the Coordinator’s position within the new organisation structure, to better manage the information process and to enhance the analytical capability. Recruitment of identified staffing expertise required by the organisation is being addressed by the AFP along with other agencies. Additionally, there is an enhanced focus towards improving the Solomon Islands Police Force’s intelligence capability.”
Commentary and analysis
Counterinsurgency in a Test Tube: Analyzing the Success of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), Russell W. Glenn, RAND National Defence Research Institute, Monograph MG-551, 2007, p77
“As in the case of interagency operations, the multinational intelligence arena was a source of controversy. The problem interestingly seems to have been one spawned by Australian concerns about maintaining intelligence-exchange relationships with the United States….It should be noted that these problems were not restricted to issues relating to US-source intelligence materials alone.
“Demonstrating that other nations also need to reconsider their intelligence procedures, it was the denial of access by other RAMSI military representatives to the Australian Defence Restricted Network (DRN) and Defence Secret Network (DSN) that caused much in the way of frustration. The aggravation was very similar in character to that experienced by those working with the United States in Iraq. Imagery of Solomon Islands landing zones was not releasable to New Zealand personnel because it was posted on the DSN, despite being unclassified. A limited number of New Zealanders were provided access to the DSN after high-level negotiations between the two countries, but that access was not granted until close to the end of the first RAMSI military rotation. The consequences of this denial could have been severe given a more robust threat.”
There was a lack of operational intelligence available to the military and police operating on the ground, especially at the time of the April 2006 riot in Honiara, sparked by the election of Snyder Rini as Prime Minister, which saw serious damage to the business centre and Honiara’s Chinatown.
RAMSI – the challenges ahead, Mary Louise O’Callaghan, presentation to workshop “Solomon Islands: Where to now?” Australian National University, 5 May 2006.
“PPF head Will Jamieson has stated publicly that there was no intelligence to suggest the kind of orchestrated violence that the police ultimately faced. If not a failure of intelligence, at the very least this points to an alarming lack of institutional memory within the mission at this time.”
“Standing amid the ashes and ruins of Honiara’s Chinatown a few months ago was to experience a profound sense of failure. RAMSI had failed, Australia had failed, the region had failed, that such devastation could happen. But Solomons society also failed if it could impose such a trauma on itself. For anyone who has spent any time in the South Pacific, it was a visual and emotional shock to stand in the middle of Chinatown after the riot. The street at the commercial heart of Honiara is rubble and ashes for most of its length. This was not the damage of a natural disaster—this cyclone was destruction visited on Honiara by its own people. Australians looking at this ruin had to ask questions about the failure of intelligence and security that allowed the mob to run amok. Australia had to contemplate its policy lapses.”
Helping a friend, Lieutenant Colonel John Hucheson, Australian Army Journal, Vol.2 No.2, p47
The former commander of the Combined Task Force has stated that, during attempts to capture high profile criminals by joint police-military forces in 2003, “there was a distinct lack of shared information between the police and military. Lack of information resulted in insufficient time for briefing, rehearsals and the preparation of police for a potentially dangerous inter-agency operation.”
CJTF 635: regional assistance mission to the Solomon Islands: an Australian army unit’s quick response, Lt. Colonel Chris Field, Marine Corps Gazette
“The 1 RAR RCG and CJTF–635 were supported by a daily joint targeting board (JTB) that was implemented by CO, 1 RAR upon arrival in the Solomon Islands [in December 2004]. The daily JTB fused intelligence gained by the CJTF with PPF intelligence in order to target areas for CJTF/PPF patrolling. Upon arrival of the 1 RAR RCG, every CJTF patrol was in support of the PPF, and every CJTF patrol was against targets developed by the JTB. The CJTF’s 12 sections were not sufficient to allow wasted or misdirected patrol efforts.
“The daily JTB allowed CJTF–635 to synchronise operations in support of the PPF. …The daily JTB allowed CJTF–635 to quickly tailor tactical operations to support PPF campaign goals. The daily JTB ensured excellent communications between the PPF tactical operators and the CJTF tactical operators, particularly the police and soldiers on patrol. Most importantly the daily JTB enabled the following tactics, techniques, and procedures to be developed between the PPF and CJTF–635: developing a joint patrol roster, pairing CJTF–635 section commanders with PPF shift supervisors, aligning the CJTF–635 patrol timings with PPF patrol shifts, supporting all RAMSI patrolling with intelligence assets, and aligning PPF/CJTF community relations tasks with the operational need.”