Open-Source Intelligence and Geospatial Intelligence Supporting Evacuation of Afghan Allies, Translators, and U.S. Citizens in Afghanistan

Cerebra Gray Afghanistan Dashboard Aug 25 2021

Updates:

Recent reports on the events in Afghanistan have been chaotic, with grim reports from the ground conflicting with confident assurances from the Taliban that Afghan citizens who worked with the U.S. will be safe, that women will be treated well under Sharia law, and that freedom of the press will continue. 

Many are questioning the veracity of these claims altogether. 

Our team at Quiet Professionals has been extremely concerned about events on the ground in Afghanistan. Our roots in the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community and our decades of service in the Middle East alongside Afghan allies have resulted in many friendships and connections there and a deep understanding of dynamics in the region. 

Quiet Professionals was founded by Andy Wilson, who retired from the U.S. Army after a distinguished career, much of it in Special Forces. Andy spent much of his time in the Middle East, and continued to deploy to the region as an armed contractor after separation. Over 90% of our staff are veterans, many of whom served in Afghanistan during their military careers. 

Quiet Professionals is using our resources to determine what is happening in Afghanistan and supporting efforts to assist our citizens and allies in leaving the country.  

What makes Quiet Professionals uniquely positioned to help are our skills in the Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) and Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) fields, particularly the Cerebra Grey product, an advanced data analytics platform that allows for the rapid development of custom tools to handle correlating data in space and time, turning live feeds into maps that can be utilized over the cloud to help coordinate resources in Afghanistan.

Table of Contents

What is the situation in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is a country that has long been torn by conflict. Its location in the Middle East between far-Eastern empires and the Mediterranean and European empires once made it a key stop on the Silk Road. In more modern times, its location and resources made it the center of conflicts between the British and Russian Empires. By the 1960s and early 1970s, the country had become relatively peaceful as the country modernized. 

Then, during a 1978 Communist uprising accompanied by a pair of bloody coups, the Soviets seized the country. The U.S. and other allies opposed the uprising, sending support for the opposition. Eventually the Soviets withdrew in 1989 after years of little to no progress. Civil war continued until the Communist government collapsed, and the Taliban came to power in 1996.  

The Taliban harshly enforced Sharia law, committing massacres against their own citizens, denying women’s rights, and conducting scorched-earth policies during their conflicts that destroyed their own agriculture and infrastructure.  

In October 2001, NATO forces, led by the U.S., invaded Afghanistan after the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden after the attacks on September 11, and the Taliban regime came to an end. 

Over the next twenty years, coalition forces attempted to combat terrorists in Afghanistan while rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. While much progress was made to aid the citizens of the country, the situation remained unstable. Finally, this year the coalition agreed to begin withdrawing their troops by May 1, and the Taliban began an offensive against the Afghan government as troops withdrew.  

On August 15, much sooner than expected, the Taliban took the Afghan capital of Kabul. On August 17, they held a press conference in which they claimed they would support an inclusive government, security for aid agencies, and women’s rights to work and go to school within the Taliban interpretation of Sharia law. 

How is OSINT being used to follow recent events in Afghanistan?

Quiet Professionals and other groups with skills in OSINT have been following the Publicly Available Information (PAI) from Afghanistan and analyzing it to determine how much of what the Taliban claims is fact. 

Echo Analytics Group, a Quiet Professionals company, was founded by Buddy Jericho, CEO, who served in the SOF and Intelligence Communities, and who established the methodology used to train the SOF community in OSINT techniques to combat terrorism. Echo Analytics Groups’ focus on collecting and interpreting open-source information has allowed us to collect information from sources on the ground in Afghanistan in real time. 

Analysts from Echo Analytics Group are using OSINT techniques to determine the validity of the information emerging from Afghanistan. They are validating the sources of their information and ensuring that the highest weight is being given to those who are amid the conflict. These sources can be researched to ensure that their accounts have not been hacked or taken over by the Taliban, and to ensure that information from areas of interest, such as the Hamid Karzai International Airport, can be gathered and correlated to establish multiple sources for the same claims, in real time. 

How is GEOINT being used during recent events in Afghanistan?

Quiet Professionals is making use of their advanced data analytics platform, Cerebra Grey, to quickly stand up a software product to identify those in need of help in Afghanistan and to coordinate resources and communication with other individuals and businesses involved in evacuation efforts. 

This product starts with a survey form that can be used by those in need of assistance, either directly or by someone else filling out the survey for them. The survey includes contact information, family members in need, location, and more. 

Once the surveys are completed, they are added to the product, based within the Cerebra Grey platform. This product functions as both a map and a database, which allows information to be correlated quickly to show who needs help and what location they are in. Statuses and locations of the individuals seeking evacuation are updated in real time. 

Also being added to the database are sources of assistance. The outpouring of support for this effort has been immense, and includes support from allies located within Afghanistan, to those who are providing planes to help evacuate our friends and allies, to fuel for the planes, water, food, and more.  

Those who are added to the list are, for the most part, personally known by those who are providing support or other trusted allies in Afghanistan. In addition, OSINT analysists also contribute by researching the identities of those who are added to the list, cross-checking their PAI and the identity documents being claimed against records databases to ensure that those who fill our surveys are our legitimate allies. 

Update as of Sunday, August 22: Over 1100 Afghan friends and allies have been added to the database, and over a hundred of them have been exfiltrated from the country and have been moved to several different locations, including Ft. Bliss in Texas. Much work remains to be done.

What are potential uses for OSINT and GEOINT in the future of Afghanistan?

Although the Taliban has taken over Kabul and most of Afghanistan at the time this article was written, they have not secured the county or established the legitimacy of their government. This means that the Taliban does not have access to Afghanistan’s financial resources 

The Taliban has long turned toward illegal drugs, particularly the production of heroin, to fund its activities. Afghan is the source of 85% of the world’s supply of heroin.  

The Taliban stated during their August 17 press conference that they would ban heroin, but whether that claim proves to be true will be difficult to determine. OSINT and GEOINT are increasingly being used to track the production and transportation of illegal drugs, with OSINT being used to locate individual businesses, distributors, and their networks, and sophisticated GEOINT tools being used to spot patterns in individual cases in order to establish what changes are happening in how illegal drugs are being produced, distributed, sold, and consumed. GEOINT tools may also be used to establish locations of poppy production. 

The Taliban may turn to other sources of income to fund its activities as well, including ransomware or human trafficking, which often increases during times of war, turmoil, and natural disasters. 

To combat these activities, we will need to gather information about them quickly and effectively. Tools and platforms, such as Cerebra Grey, that allow for integration of different types of information, such as OSINT and GEOINT, may prove of great value.

Quiet Professionals is working to support our friends and allies who need help in Afghanistan. If you are able to provide direct help to those in Afghanistan, please contact us at marketingandmedia@quietprofessionalsllc.com and we will put you in contact with those who are allocating those resources.  

If you are struggling with dealing with the situation in Afghanistan, please consider reaching out for help. TRICARE and Health.mil have put together an excellent list of resources, which we have reposted because their site access has been intermittent due to the tremendous response. 

Soon, those who are being evacuated will need our help and support as they begin new lives in new lands. Please consider donating money and time to one of these organizations: 

We ask that those who wish to donate do so via trustworthy partners. Sites like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch can be invaluable in establishing which charities are worthwhile.  

Quiet Professionals is dedicated to bringing our friends and allies to safety as well as supporting them after they have been evacuated. As Andy Wilson says, “We have a moral obligation to our allies in Afghanistan. We’re going to do our best to help those who want to get out.”

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