OPED By Maj. Gen. (Dr) Ashok Kumar (Retd)
Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, has failed the nation because it could neither gather the input about the intention of Hamas nor have worthwhile inputs about the large-scale preparations and training being undertaken by Hamas to attack Israel on October 7.
It happened despite Mossad being one of the best intelligence agencies in the world and being equipped with modern surveillance devices, ultra-tech input processors, and decision support systems.
What has been the cause of these intelligence failures, even with “Mossad’? Is it one of the events, or has this trend been noticed in the performance of intelligence agencies of other countries as well, and if yes, what are the common threads observed in such failures repetitively?
It will be worthwhile to commence the analysis from the Mossad itself. “Mossad” has been credited with many successful operations in different corners of the world to further the national interest of Israel and its policies.
In the process, the expertise gained has remained focused a little away from the intelligence gathering required for conventional conflicts. The latter is less fashionable and does not give the requisite visibility to the intelligence agencies.
This is one of the apparent reasons why Mossad did not invest adequately in the ‘source operations,’ which could have been tasked to provide all the inputs and developments undertaken by the Hamas operatives.
Such failings become more reinforced when apex decision-makers disregard unconventional threats and think only ‘rationally.’ More often than not, such combinations in the apex national leadership and the nation’s intelligence agencies create major national embarrassments. Militaries often fall prey to such ecosystems and don’t invest adequately in intelligence gathering.
As discussed earlier, Mossad is not the only intelligence agency that has failed its nation. It has also happened in India, wherein none of the intelligence agencies could give out any reasonable inputs concerning impending Kargil operations, which took place in 1999.
The defense forces were shocked, and it took quite some time to comprehend the threat and formulate a suitable response. This has led to initial reversals and more considerable casualties on the Indian side, besides surprising a nation like India.
India had dismembered Pakistan almost three decades ago and created Bangladesh from East Pakistan. India could never anticipate that the unheld territories on Line of Control (LOC) could be occupied by Pakistan, which was politically nurturing positive relations with India as a follow-up of the then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Lahore bus trip.
Kargil was not the only event in the conflict history of India where the ‘intelligence inputs’ were missing. It happened again in context with China in April-May 2020, wherein the Chinese carried out transgressions at multiple locations across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.
No firm inputs were made available to the country’s defense forces about the Chinese intent, and the defense forces were caught by surprise. The apex national stakeholders could also not visualize such actions by China, with whom India maintained peace and tranquility on the LAC due to bilateral agreements.
Not only this, India was the most important market for China. Despite all this, the 2020 aggression happened. India’s external intelligence agencies did not focus enough on input gathering for conventional conflicts and clashes, which has often been neglected worldwide by most intelligence agencies.
It has raised a question mark on the efficacy of its war equipment, which it has been exporting to nearly 70 countries worldwide. The reputation of its industrial base has also been exposed as it could neither repair its tanks and guns in the operationally acceptable timeframe nor replace them on time.
The above are some of the examples taken from both the superpowers besides the latest conflict of the world between Hamas and Israel. In contrast, it is understood and will be appreciated that external intelligence agencies have to undertake numerous tasks in the national interests.
It is not limited to Israel and India; almost all nations have suffered from this, including superpowers like the US and Russia. US intelligence agencies failed the country during its latest fight with the Taliban in Afghanistan, where it had to withdraw in haste.
The US faced international humiliation, dumped the legitimate government, and let the Taliban take over Afghanistan, reeling under severe chaos and disrespect for human values, primarily affecting women’s rights.
Russia also suffered such intelligence failure at the time of the launch of its special operations in Ukraine in February 2022, when it could not gather adequate and reliable inputs about the Ukrainian response.
It was probably unable to gauge the impact of the international community on this conflict. Due to these reasons, the battle is continuing to date and has decimated the image of Russia as a superpower.
These tasks are fashionable and impactful, but such a trend must be reversed. While doing all this, the national intelligence agencies tasked with external intelligence gathering need to have priority to focus on those inputs that affect a nation’s security.
There should be no reason a nation can be surprised by its adversary for any impending transgression, unfair entry into its sovereign borders, clashes, conflicts, or wars. The country that learns this lesson first after carefully examining the performance of intelligence agencies worldwide will be the winner and savior of its population as against losses suffered by Israel.
- Major General (Dr) Ashok Kumar, VSM, (Retd), is a 1999 Kargil war veteran, visiting fellow of the New Delhi-based Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), and defense & strategic analyst with a special focus on China. He tweets @ChanakyaOracle. VIEWS PERSONAL OF THE AUTHOR
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