The Mongol Intelligence Apparatus: The Triumphs of Genghis Khan’s Spy Network
By John Ty Grubbs
International Association for Intelligence Education (2010)
Introduction: Intelligence has played a role in most, if not all, militarized disputes in history. Long before U-2 spy planes and explosive-filled undergarments, leaders sought out information regarding their enemies’ strengths, weaknesses, motivations, etc. Accurate reliable intelligence is a lethal weapon on the battlefield. Today, Western intelligence agencies sift through mountains of data and exploit an untold number of human sources in order to improve situational awareness against various asymmetric threats. Many of these threats are emanating from Asia and the Middle East. Gathering intelligence in these regions has never been easy. Xenophobia is pervasive in these areas where tribes and clans often hold more clout than religion and nationality. Those able to extract intelligence from this region can conquer enemies of monetary and numerical superiority.
In 1162, a young Mongol boy by the name of Temujin was born with a blood clot in his fist. This was said to be a sign of a great leader. The prophecy was fulfilled in a way few could have foreseen. Temujin was to become the leader of one of the greatest empires in human history. He was a great military strategist, but his unparalleled ability to run intelligence operations was the key to his victories.
An early anda (blood brother) of Temujin’s, named Jamuqa, would become one of his earliest rivals. Jamuqa and Temujin were both promising young Mongol leaders. Their companionship was real and the bond between them was not easily broken. It was Jamuqa who had aided Temujin in his battle against the Merkit tribe to recover his kidnapped wife Berta. In 1206, however, a quriltai (a meeting of tribal and military leadership) was convened and Jamuqa was conferred as Gur Khan (Universal Ruler). This caused some division amongst the Mongol peoples. Jamuqa and Temujin were two strong personalities with equally strong followings. Although Jamuqa was considered the superior military strategist, it was Temujin that had an aptitude for accessing intelligence and could enable various groups to coexist. Their friendship quickly dissolved after the quriltai. Neither men were fit for subordinate roles.