Lindsay Beyerstein in In These Times:
A pilot program to embed anthropologists on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan has sparked major controversy in the anthropological community. The program, known as the Human Terrain System (HTS) project, reflects a much larger trend in the national security establishment, with the military increasingly hungry for cultural expertise to fight counterinsurgencies and sustain long, low-intensity conflicts. Anthropologists are struggling to come to grips with the ethics of research on the front lines.
The Human Terrain System project is a joint undertaking by the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) and U.S. Army Training and Doctrine command (TRADOC) in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Headed by Col. Steve Fondacaro, HTS assigns five-person teams of social scientists and intelligence specialists to forward-deployed combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan. These Human Terrain Teams (HTT) serve as cultural advisors to the brigade commander and his senior staff. HTTs in the field are supported by a team of U.S.-based social scientists. The FMOS serves as a central clearinghouse for cultural information and maintains a network of subject area experts in the Defense Department and academia.