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Intelligence in War and Conflict


Admission requirements

Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management can take this course.


This course addresses the practical and theoretical role of intelligence during war and conflict and seeks to link the academic study of intelligence to the most pressing scholarly debates about complex conflicts. It studies how information is being provided to decision-makers such as military commanders and politicians that may help illuminate their decision options. The main focus will be on contemporary and future conflicts from a consciously multi-perspective approach (i.e. Western vs. global perspectives). These approaches include a focus on so-called ‘stabilisation missions’ (e.g. Afghanistan – which will also be addressed from a critical non-Western perspective), peacekeeping missions (e.g. Mali), but also hybrid conflicts that are designed to blur the distinction between peace and war as well as the conflict in the Ukraine. With regard to most of these missions, recent studies highlight that conventional intelligence aimed solely at states, militaries, and target individuals is no longer sufficient. Rather, it is crucial for the actors involved to gain extensive knowledge of local populations (cf. the ‘local turn’ in conflict and peace studies) and their societies as well. Such a comprehensive intelligence approach poses great challenges that need to be studied both from a policy-oriented and theoretical perspective.
The main teaching materials of this course include scientific literature as well as policy documents, documentaries and blogs.

Course objectives

Overall objective:
On completion of the course the student should be able:
1. To reflect on the intelligence process in diverse settings of war and conflict from the strategic to the tactical level.
2. To reflect on how intelligence organisational structures of states and non-state actors and institutional and human factors affect the performance of intelligence.
3. To understand how different levels of environmental complexity influence the functioning of intelligence.
4. To assess the performance of intelligence in diverse settings of war and conflict.
5. To reflect on the future of intelligence in war & conflict.


On the right side of programme front page of the E-guide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

The course consists of 5 interactive lectures of 3 hours each. Next, the students will make a field visit to an intelligence organisation of the Netherlands Ministry of Defence. During this visit the students will focus on some of the practical challenges intelligence organisation are confronted with and connect those to the academic debates. The course is closed by a 3-hour seminar with experienced practitioners that focus on the future of intelligence. Attendance in the lectures, seminar and field visit are all compulsory.

The total study load is 140 hours:

  • 18 hours (lectures and seminar (6*3 hours))

  • 10 hours (participation in field visit)

  • 112 hours (self-study: reading, preparing lectures, assignments, etc.)

Assessment method

The final grade for this course is based on two assessments:

  1. Group presentation, mid-term (20% of the final grade)
  2. Final and individual essay (80% of the final grade)

Both grades cannot be compensated. A 5.50 for each assessment is required to pass the course.

The re-sit assignment will test the same course objectives, but will be different in terms of topics, cases or substance.

The calculated grade of the assignments must be at least 5.50 in order to pass the course.

Transitional Arrangement
Passed partial grades obtained in year 2021-2022 are no longer valid during year 2022-2023. All students are expected to enroll for an elective via mystudymap on a first come first serve basis.

Reading list

A selection of books and articles, to be announced on Brightspace.


Register yourself via MyStudymap for each course, workgroup and exam (not all courses have workgroups and/or exams). Do so on time, before the start of the course; some courses and workgroups have limited spaces. You can view your personal schedule in MyTimetable after logging in.

Registration for this course is possible from Wednesday 8 March 13.00h.

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in MyStudymap you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.

After registration for an exam you still need to confirm your attendance via MyStudymap. If you do not confirm, you will ultimately be de-registered and you will not be allowed to take the exam.

More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.

Please note: guest-/contract-/exchange students do not register via MyStudymap but via uSis. Guest-/contract-/exchange students also do not have to confirm their participation for exams via MyStudymap.

Contact Bas Rietjens