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Thread: Taliban's superior information operations

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    Default Taliban's superior information operations

    Gentlemen,

    It looks like I'll be briefing some people tomorrow on why the Taliban is kicking our backsides in the IO department. If any of you have any unconventional thoughts on the matter, please pm me and I'll pass them on to the government people I'll be talking to, with appropriate credit given to whom it's due.

    Meh

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    Council Member IntelTrooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meh View Post
    Gentlemen,

    It looks like I'll be briefing some people tomorrow on why the Taliban is kicking our backsides in the IO department. If any of you have any unconventional thoughts on the matter, please pm me and I'll pass them on to the government people I'll be talking to, with appropriate credit given to whom it's due.

    Meh
    Awesome.

    1-The Taliban are locals, and they know what messages/delivery methods resonate with the locals. How many ISAF propaganda videos are for sale in the bazaars? How many Taliban propaganda videos are for sale? What's the content of those videos? Why/how does it appeal to rural Pashtuns? Oh, and by the way, posting stuff on USFOR-A's Facebook page, or other Internet sites doesn't count. The vast majority of Afghans don't use the Internet.

    2-Where are the radio stations? Why isn't one located on/near every FOB? And don't try to pull the AFN gloss job on the news. Afghans are smart, and they know when someone is trying to manipulate them.
    "The status quo is not sustainable. All of DoD needs to be placed in a large bag and thoroughly shaken. Bureaucracy and micromanagement kill."
    -- Ken White


    "With a plan this complex, nothing can go wrong." -- Schmedlap

    "We are unlikely to usefully replicate the insights those unencumbered by a military staff college education might actually have." -- William F. Owen

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    information operations cannot change the reality on the ground all by themselves. If the taliban look like they are coming back and the infidels are visibly planning to get out and their only local agents are corrupt and incompetent, then what kind of smart IO will convince the local population to support the infidels? (I am not saying that is the entire reality of Afghanistan, just that wherever things are closer to this scenario, no IO can fix them).

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    Quote Originally Posted by omarali50 View Post
    information operations cannot change the reality on the ground all by themselves. If the taliban look like they are coming back and the infidels are visibly planning to get out and their only local agents are corrupt and incompetent, then what kind of smart IO will convince the local population to support the infidels? (I am not saying that is the entire reality of Afghanistan, just that wherever things are closer to this scenario, no IO can fix them).
    I agree that IO is not a fix-all for the horrible situation, especially in relation to local governance. However, a good IO campaign will provide a little buffer for when you screw up. In Nangarhar, for example, the total absence of an IO campaign gave us (coalition and ISAF) no room to screw anything up. When it inevitably happened, the outcome was always bad.
    "The status quo is not sustainable. All of DoD needs to be placed in a large bag and thoroughly shaken. Bureaucracy and micromanagement kill."
    -- Ken White


    "With a plan this complex, nothing can go wrong." -- Schmedlap

    "We are unlikely to usefully replicate the insights those unencumbered by a military staff college education might actually have." -- William F. Owen

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    Council Member Spud's Avatar
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    A simple fix

    practice the art of mission command in the information battlespace. We're so caught up on approvals and authorisations that we are never ahead of the curve. Letís allow our professionals to operate within their domain without second guessing every decision they make or commenting on the perceived effectiveness of product they develop.

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    Meh,

    From this armchair and having done some reading and listening I'd go for:

    a) Boosting the hours broadcast by the BBC World Service Pashtun's service
    b) Identify other popular, existing radio stations and consider them too
    c) Provide repeater stations for radio signals
    d) Remember the adult literacy rate is poor

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member IntelTrooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    d) Remember the adult literacy rate is poor
    And handing out pamphlets trying to explain complex concepts with stick figures is not a good substitute.
    "The status quo is not sustainable. All of DoD needs to be placed in a large bag and thoroughly shaken. Bureaucracy and micromanagement kill."
    -- Ken White


    "With a plan this complex, nothing can go wrong." -- Schmedlap

    "We are unlikely to usefully replicate the insights those unencumbered by a military staff college education might actually have." -- William F. Owen

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    One additional thing you can look at is sponsoring anti-Taliban songs - a song has two advantages: it can be played on a radio, and it can be sung by a person in a f2f situation. Songs are also critical for establishing status in oral cultures, so find ones with the messages you either want or related to them and support the performer by jazzing them on the play lists.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by IntelTrooper View Post
    And handing out pamphlets trying to explain complex concepts with stick figures is not a good substitute.
    Actually ... handing out pamphlets without an ability to communicate F2F and explain the meaning behind the stick figures is the issue ... not the product itself. Handbills have very good success in increasing understanding if we get in and explain them (they are then used for further education/information within the community) as we distribute. This means going through and identifying all the elements of the imagery at a very basic level (like you'd do for a two-year old kid -- this is your Mullah, this is an ISAF soldier -- he's here to help you, this is Terry -- he's bad, this is you -- see your beard is the same) The issue is when we air drop 100,000 leaflets and let Terry come out of the hills and provide his interpretation of what is meant by the imagery or just give them to units to distribute without guidance on how to do it. Product rarely stands alone in an environment like AFG ... convincing people that we need to do more than just hand them out as a tasker is the issue.

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    Check this thread for my view: (free slide included)

    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=7375
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
    Who is Cavguy?

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    Quote Originally Posted by IntelTrooper View Post
    Awesome.

    1-The Taliban are locals, and they know what messages/delivery methods resonate with the locals. How many ISAF propaganda videos are for sale in the bazaars? How many Taliban propaganda videos are for sale? What's the content of those videos? Why/how does it appeal to rural Pashtuns? Oh, and by the way, posting stuff on USFOR-A's Facebook page, or other Internet sites doesn't count. The vast majority of Afghans don't use the Internet.

    2-Where are the radio stations? Why isn't one located on/near every FOB? And don't try to pull the AFN gloss job on the news. Afghans are smart, and they know when someone is trying to manipulate them.
    What's killing us in Afghanistan is not that we are failing to respond effectively or in a timely manner to the Taliban propoganda. We are, of course, and failing badly, but that isn't the problem, only a symptom.

    And the radio, while not a panacea, could be an instrumental part of the conditions of victory. We are better than we were at building and staffing radio stations, but not in employing them. The Taliban are beating our teeth in in that arena as well.

    The problem, the real problem with our use of radio stations in Afghanistan is that we have a catastrophic lack of imagination in creating content for them and a seeming unwillingness to grasp to grasp how vital it is for us to completely and utterly dominate the airwaves and capture the imagination of the Afghan people.

    For a nation that was once so glued to our own radios in the decades preceding and during the Second World War, we have completely forgotten what a powerful influence it can be. Now that we have moved beyond television to the internet, we don't think of what magic there can be in a little hand cranked box in a country almost wholly dominated by agriculture and darkness. Our collective memory forgets how much of our grand parents lives were informed and influenced by the images they conjured up in their own minds as they sat listening to the voices, the sounds and the stories that came from those primitive speakers.

    Those who would drag Afghanistan back to the dark ages are very aggressive about using the radio and they are no doubt finding their audience in the vacuum we have left in this medium. For 1% of what we are wasting on CERP projects that achieve little or no effect and with that talent available among the Afghans themselves, we could begin taking back the airwaves and engage the Afghan people with the most powerful weapon we have available: Hope.


    I'm working on a paper on the topic for the NDC. Let me know if you want to see it when I'm done.

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    Cheers for all the feedback. Had a good talk this evening. The odds of getting everyone to sing off the same IO hymnsheet, though, remain very bleak.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Misterhawk View Post
    The problem, the real problem with our use of radio stations in Afghanistan is that we have a catastrophic lack of imagination in creating content for them and a seeming unwillingness to grasp to grasp how vital it is for us to completely and utterly dominate the airwaves and capture the imagination of the Afghan people.
    Quoted for truth.

    I'm working on a paper on the topic for the NDC. Let me know if you want to see it when I'm done.
    Please post a link or PDF when it's ready! Maybe it would make a good journal article.
    "The status quo is not sustainable. All of DoD needs to be placed in a large bag and thoroughly shaken. Bureaucracy and micromanagement kill."
    -- Ken White


    "With a plan this complex, nothing can go wrong." -- Schmedlap

    "We are unlikely to usefully replicate the insights those unencumbered by a military staff college education might actually have." -- William F. Owen

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meh View Post
    Gentlemen,

    It looks like I'll be briefing some people tomorrow on why the Taliban is kicking our backsides in the IO department. If any of you have any unconventional thoughts on the matter, please pm me and I'll pass them on to the government people I'll be talking to, with appropriate credit given to whom it's due.
    Well here's an unconventional thought, albeit late. Folks cannot do IO if they are dead or cannot get near the villages to pass on their message. IO only works for the winning side. It's a nice to have, and it is not and has never been decisive in the face of military success.

    Boil it down. What is IO in real practical terms? In the simplest terms, what can it actually do? Really? Matching words with actions - thank you Tom Odom - is common sense, and utterly dependant on the viability and effectiveness of the action. Do not make promises you cannot keep or have not already kept.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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