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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 only offers a place to a maximum number of 38 students.


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 organizational structures of states and non-state actors and institutional as well as human factors affect the performance of intelligence.
3. To assess the performance of intelligence in diverse settings of war and 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 organisations are confronted with and connect those to the academic debates. The course is closed by a 3-hour seminar in which the students provide a group presentation on a topic related to the course. 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 calculated grade of the assignments must be at least 5.50 in order to pass the course.

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

Group presentation, mid-term

  • 20% of final grade

  • Grade cannot be compensated, a 5.5 is required to pass the course

  • Resit is not possible

Final and individual essay

  • 80% of the final grade

  • Grade cannot be compensated, a 5.5 is required to pass the course

  • Resit is possible

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

Transitional Arrangement
Passed partial grades obtained in the year 2023-2023 are no longer valid in the year 2023-2024
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 t.b.a..

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.

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

Contact Bas Rietjens