The US put together a database of criminal and insurgent leaders in Iraq. The intelligence advantage made the COIN strategy effective. Instead of blindly searching through hostile civilian neighborhoods, US forces can now surgically target individuals with quick raids.

Strategy Page discusses how US Intel built up a database about the “Gangs of Iraq”.

It’s the intel collected since 2003 that has made the extra 20,000 troops so effective. Before the end of 2003, U.S. troops realized that they were dealing with a police type situation. And it was mainly caused by the Sunni Arab minority (20 percent of the population), who were the main support of Saddam.

Soon, military intelligence specialists in Iraq began learning (often from reservists who were in law enforcement) how police in the United States investigate, and identify criminal gangs back home. That was because the enemy in Iraq typically belonged to a criminal, or terrorist group, that operated like a gang. There are cultural differences, and dealing with these quirks caused the most problems.

Reservists with police experience helped Military intelligence with the newest anti-crime methods and software.

First they built up a who’s who database with genealogical software. This showed how the tribal leaders, criminals, and insurgents interconnected.

It was discovered that the “gangs of Iraq” operated in a similar fashion to ethnic gangs (including Arab ones) in the United States and Europe. Thus genealogical software came in handy, as did new cell phone tracking and bugging software and equipment. …
The genealogy software is useful in tracking the relations between family members in gangs. Many gangs are basically family based, with many distant cousins coming together because of family loyalty.

They put traditional intel – signals, images, human intel tips, financial tracking, census data, biometric data – into the database to update the relationships and the spatial positions.

Terrorist attacks are treated like serial criminals. This type of criminal behavior is most widely known when it is murder. But there are many kinds of serial crime, and U.S. intel specialists found that attacks on Iraqi police and U.S. troops was, in most cases, just another serial crime. The perpetrators would often follow a pattern, one that the software could pick out. One thing leads to another, and arrests often result. DNA analysis and all the tools you see on CSI, are brought to bear.

One thing they use is spatial autocorrelation analysis. Pattern analysis software can analyze a large number of crimes and detect the patterns.

Since its all digital, the databases can be shown to intel units in the US to train them and get them up to speed before deployments.

Year by year, the databases grew, and the picture of who was doing what to who in Iraq, and why, became clearer. So when the surge offensive was in the planning stages, there was plenty of info on who was where, how vulnerable they were, and how important.

The COIN strategy relied on years of hard intelligence work. Intel provided the picture of the enemy force structure and behavior, so the strategy could target the insurgent center of gravity.

It is an understated part of the war, but the US finally has a significant intelligence edge.

Since 4th Gen Warfare is moving into cities, police methods will grow more useful.