Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Crucial Time for PSYOP in Afghanistan

The September 3, 2009 Wall Street Journal ran the editorial “The Afghanistan Panic
We can still win a counterinsurgency, but not on the cheap” ( and on the same day, the Washington Post ran a similar editorial: “Setback in Afghanistan: The right response is not a retreat.” ( Other articles include the NY Times of September 7, 2009 “Crux of Afghan Debate: Will More Troops Curb Terror?” ( and the September 7, 2009 Miami Herald “Clear mission in Afghanistan eludes Obama” (

Photo from the Associated Press (Wall Street Journal) U.S. soldiers secure the site of a suicide attack in Mehterlam, the capital of Laghman province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009.

All of these address the need for more ‘boots on the ground’ as a means to implement General McChrystal’s latest strategy which is expected to center on protecting the Afghans against the insurgents.

There is a tendency to compare the current situation in Afghanistan with Iraq before the surge or with the quicksand like conflict known as Viet Nam. Resisting the urge for such comparisons, at least for the moment, let’s start out with what we do know:

1. Combat activity in Afghanistan is higher and more dangerous today than ever before.

2. The Afghan government is viewed as illegitimate and corrupt with the recent election serving more to degrade the government’s reputation with its people rather than bolster it.

3. Afghanistan is a combination of many different localities, each with its own tribal environment, level of security against the insurgent dejure, economic base and perspective on the Americans as the latest military force in the country.

4. The adversaries in Afghanistan have a primitive yet effective Information Operations campaign whereby they can quickly turn incidents such as air strikes and rumors into propaganda vilifying the Americans and reinforcing their high ground positions. Good example is the alleged hospital raid conducted by Americans (

5. Internet and media based messages (good or bad) don’t reach the average Afghan.

Given the above, there are a few things that ought to be done:

1. President Obama has to make it very clear that we are committed for the long haul and that our commitment must be matched by the wholesale cleansing and rededication of the Afghani government.

2. The nature of the mission and strategy in Afghanistan must be clear to everyone, especially to those on the ground so that an aggressive and responsive information engagement strategy and operational plans can be developed to support Commanders on the ground and up the chain of command.

3. DOD should consider fielding more Combat Camera units to capture video on the ground which can be used to confirm actual events and for training/lessons learned.

4. PSYOP needs to be integrated within a real time information engagement operating command section at the highest levels within Afghanistan (military and civilian). This section would have full has media reach via the with PAO. A dimension of the section’s responsibilities ought to be Pan-Regional and include access to all major Arab language outlets to include Aljazeera.
5. Bear in mind that only local relationships and credibility will impact the local village, orchestrate the tools of statecraft at the local level to reinforce the position of local leaders and influencers who are or can be induced to support the Afghani government and US efforts.

6. Should additional troops be assigned, insure that their PSYOP support is increased proportionally as well.

7. Focus on simplicity and attainable objectives at the local level.

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