Brig. Gen. Eli Pollack gives interview as he concludes his tenure as head of Field Intelligence Corps
Over three and a half years as commander of the Field Intelligence Corps, Brig. Gen. Eli Pollack has turned it into a combat intelligence unit. Now, he concludes his tenure with a special interview, covering the changes within the unit - changes made possible by technological advancement and tight cooperation with infantry units, resulting in the prevention of thousands of attacks on all fronts.
Brig. Gen. Pollack, arrived at the interview shortly after the Shahaf Battalion, the field intelligence battalion of the northern command, concluded an exercise. After four nights of intense observation deep in enemy territory and continuous direction of forces, helicopters, artillery, and snipers, he relaxed into his seat.
"In 2006, there was hesitation about whether to send field intelligence units into Lebanon at all," he recounted. "But today, I know commanders send them at the forefront of our power. Wherever there is a battle, we will be there in the heart of the operation with a significant force."
During his tenure, Brig. Gen. Pollack has seen many dramatic changes take place in the region and in Israel's strategic situation. Many of the changes that the Corps underwent came as a response to the evolving regional reality. "Following the unrest and uncertainty in the surrounding areas, Israel is looking to secure its borders. Israel's peaceful borders - or at least those with no active combat, such as Syria - should be secure against any scenario," he explained.
"Should any dire predictions materialize, within a few years the Corps will grow thin, spread out across the entire country's borders - from Mount Hermon in the north to Eilat in the south," he continued. "Quiet areas can become active and noisy, increasing the need for us to grow, for us to be everywhere at once. Every regional commander has spoken to me about it. The understanding at the higher ranks is that the main way to stop attacks is not a fence; a fence is an obstacle, and an obstacle can be overcome. The solution is to collect intelligence about the threat in real time and prevent it."
The expansion and redeployment of the Field Intelligence Corps began this year. Last March, Aytam, a new combat intelligence battalion, was deployed in the Sinai area. Brig. Gen. Pollack also revealed that the battalion was created with several long-term considerations, addressing one of the potential scenarios receiving a lot of attention in the Southern Command. The concern is that once the border with the Sinai has been secured, terrorist elements and infiltrators will bypass Egypt and attempt to penetrate through the Jordanian border.
"The new battalion was created with the understanding that the situation on the eastern border will change. We have a plan in our back pockets ready for the day when enemies may attempt to enter Israel through Jordan. Given the order, we will be prepared to deploy field intelligence troops to the east. The new battalion will be able to operate in several areas and easily adapt to the new setting," Brig. Gen. Pollack explained.
In the meantime, there is already a frenzy of activity surrounding the fence being built on the Egyptian border. "We increased our area of observation more than one hundred percent in the Sinai.
The resources available to us, such as radar and UAVs, have also doubled," said Brig. Gen. Pollack. "Active combat units patrol the border every night. There is a lot of activity on the border, which has resulted in preventing several attacks along with reducing the number of penetrations. Within a year not only will there be a fence - nothing will happen along the Sinai border without us knowing about it."
Along with its readiness to improve security in various sectors, the Field Intelligence Corps continues to work on preparations for emergency scenarios, including war. In times of emergency, the Corps' activity is focused primarily on providing observation for infantry and reserve battalions and reconnaissance in enemy territory, as well as identifying targets in real-time within the line of fire.
"The Corps is building its emergency preparedness. The weapons, the training, the techniques – all of the factors have undergone significant improvements," said Brig. Gen. Pollack. "We are training for wartime scenarios and building ourselves up for these missions; there are plans for each region. We will be at every battlefront. Commanders rely on our skills and understand how we will multiply their power in the field."
Brig. Gen. Pollack continued to reiterate the deep understanding of the importance of field intelligence to the army. The importance extends beyond the evolving threats in the region into the concept of intelligence within the army. "Today there is a deep understanding of the importance of our ability to gather intelligence, and how it can bring harm to the enemy, prevent attacks, and serve the army command. This understanding has led to changes in the IDF activity. Today you can send fewer patrols along the fence because of our observations, so the combat soldiers on the border can focus on other tasks. In some places, our activities can even lead to a decrease in the number of combat soldiers necessary to man a border. All commanders understand this, and everyone wants more field intelligence forces in their areas. They understand that our presence brings more power and operational capability."
The "knowledge center" is a concept that Brig. Gen. Pollack frequently uses when speaking about the importance of the corps to commanders. "Only my soldiers can say exactly where someone penetrated the border four years ago. Each battalion comes and goes, but we always stay in the same place. We focus our huge amount of knowledge, and through our many resources which supplement each other, we manage to prevent a lot of events. This year, in Gaza alone, we have prevented dozens of attempted attacks and penetrations thanks to our intelligence gathering capabilities. What an observer would not see due to fog, the radar picks up. What is happening beyond the range of sight gets picked up by our observation balloons. What we observe gets reported directly to the battalion commanders, who will deploy troops to the area who will respond to the event. These forces complement each other. The cooperation between logistics, infantry, engineering and field intelligence has grown considerably over the past few years. They have been using us in a fantastic way and it has resulted in a lot of success. There is no perfect defense, there are still mistakes, but as a professional corps, we make sure to take each event and study it inside and out so we can derive every lesson we can from it, and lessons that we learn today will prevent more events tomorrow."