Afghanistan who holds the correct maps?

Afghanistan who holds the correct maps?


The smoking-out operation of the AL-Qaeda activists brought in focus the availability (or non-availability) of accurate maps of Afghanistan. US and Russian mapping agencies had a tough time convincing each other that they are having more precise maps of the country. We bring you here some excerpts of view points on this.

According to Robert David Steele, OSS CEO ([email protected]) author of ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (AFCEA, 2000): “The current efforts of the Administration toward intelligence reform merit support from the Congress and the public. It is imperative, however, that the reform be substantive and that there be considerable changes in the leadership, strategy, and qualitative methods of intelligence and counterintelligence, or this reform effort will fail.”

“The National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) is a vital case in point. Today, as increasing numbers of U.S. ground forces are being channeled toward operations in Afghanistan where their lives will be a risk from both hostile combatants and treacherous terrain, NIMA has yet to produce adequate 1:50,000 combat charts that are essential to the successful navigation of terrain, coordination of firepower, and evacuation of wounded personnel.”

“The best maps in the world for Afghanistan are instantly and cheaply available from the Russian military through East View Cartographic, an established open source provider of proven reliability. The maps are so extraordinary that they include just under 1,000 caves across Afghanistan, all carefully marked. While by no means comprehensive, these combat charts are superior to anything NIMA might be able to produce within the next year. The best NIMA has to offer right now is 1:100,00 maps not suitable for combined arms operations, and based on 1950’s information.”

“NIMA says these Russian military maps are ‘significantly flawed and inaccurate’ not only with respect to labels, but also geospatially and geodesically. The former Russian manager responsible says that NIMA is wrong. He says that these Russian military maps, maps that could save American lives, are the best Russia has ever produced because they are not only based on aerial imagery instead of satellite imagery, but reflect extraordinary accuracy from ground control surveys conducted during the lengthy Russian occupation of Afghanistan.”

Or US…?
Mr. Robert David Steele, may be an expert on intelligence matters, but it is obvious he is a rank amateur in military mapping needs, requirements, and procedures. The maps of the subject area exist in the files of the Survey of India (Indian Datum 1916, Kalianpur Origin point, Everest 1830 ellipsoid), the aforementioned Russian maps (“ System 42” Datum, Pulkovo Origin point, Krassovsky 1940 ellipsoid) and operational use is on the World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS84) Datum, Mass-centered origin, GRS 1980 ellipsoid). Mr. Steele’s bright idea would only guarantee maximum deaths of U.S., British, and Northern Alliance forces as a result of “Friendly Fire.” Introducing Russian maps into the Theater of War is ridiculous. Using these products at NIMA facilities in the U.S. is of minor interest because of other assets already in place.
Prof. Clifford J. Mugnier Chief of Geodesy
Centre for Geoinformatics
Lousiana State University
E-mail : [email protected]
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