Friday, September 11, 2009

PSYOP Done Right in Afghanistan

The September 10, 2009 article, “Information Ops in Afghanistan: Call Haji Shir Mohamad ASAP!” in Politics Daily ( shows how local PSYOP can have profound effects if done properly at the local level.

The article describes how Lt. Joseph Cardosi's phone tree goes into action to inform credible local leaders as to what is really going on quickly and candidly. The fact that the good LT has a phone tree is a credit to his (and perhaps his predecessor’s) ability to develop and maintain a solid relationship with local influence leaders.

While the Taliban may employ low powered mobile radio stations to broadcast their messages, LT Cardosi’s phone tree can make the targeted phone calls to help insure that local leaders are informed. Complementing this ‘direct marketing’ activity is a more indirect media – radio.

Since the illiteracy rate is very high in Afghanistan radio is the local media of choice because its messages, languages and news can be targeted to a very local audience. PSYOP forces employ radio (typically FM) by supporting a radio station actually located within Combat Outpost (COP) Zormat near the village of Kowti Keyh. According to the article, the station is “run by locally hip Afghan DJs” and that “U.S. troops regularly give out hand-crank-powered radios to villagers.”

Having a more powerful transmitter than the Taliban has the effect of being able to over power (or jam) their signal as described by the intrepid reporter:” That's not the only way to neutralize "enemy propaganda.'' One night, Cardosi and I climbed up a two-story tower to see if we could get the Taliban on a portable radio. Sure enough, at 96.1 FM, a Talib's harsh voice emerged through the crackling static, reading a religious lecture. Smiling broadly, Cardosi climbed down and had the more powerful U.S.-backed station shift its broadcasting frequency slightly to drown out the Taliban signal.”

The combination of direct relationships, well powered radio and flexibility to shift frequencies to in effect jam the Taliban is a great example of doing everything right and ought to be emulated wherever possible with whatever local variations are warranted.

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