Thursday, October 29, 2009

PSYOP and the “New” Afghan Strategy

A number of publications such as the New York Times and The Washington Post (October 29, 2009 - have reported that President Obama is considering a ‘hybrid’ strategy whereby we protect a number of key population centers and critical infrastructure such as highways.
Photo from Washington Post – AP David Guttenfelder

The President is “a great thought thinker” and is not a man to act in haste. His tenure as a Constitutional Law professor no doubt strengthened what was already a strong analytical streak. He has reportedly gone so far as to order a Province by Province analysis (also in the October 29, 2009 Washington Post -

Since this is also the approach I posted about before the media stories, it is necessary to take the analysis down a level and address PSYOP under this strategy. Before doing that we need to add in an October 27, 2009 story from Reuters reporting that the US will pay Taliban to renounce the insurgency (Reuters -

PSYOP will likely be given a number of missions to accomplish under this new strategy.
· Reinforce the perception of stability, security and Afghan national government support within the protected zones.
· Provide tactical PSYOP support to infrastructure protection to minimize civilian interruption with that function.
· Employ tactical PSYOP to convince the Taliban to renounce the insurgency and accept payment for their sound decision.
· Develop a broader PSYOP strategy that will leverage the security of the “protected” zones to other parts of the country with the goal of increasing popular support against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
· Seek out key leaders outside the protected zones and persuade them to join this new tide of Afghani pride and nationalism and renounce the Taliban.
· If one or more areas become an example of success – leverage that example at the strategic, operational and tactical PSYOP levels to induce other areas to do the same.

These will not be easy missions as serious considerations need to be given to:
· Troop protection for PSYOP and CA forces working outside the wire.
· Developing and maintaining highly reliable and timely intelligence on each protected zone, adjoining zones as well as key leaders both friend and foe.
o Social networking in the most primitive sense needs to be employed to interlink families and tribes that form natural alliances and to be able to pit historic and natural enemies against each other to weaken the Taliban efforts.
· Coordinating all the elements of power, hard and soft, in support of reinforcing security at the local level whether or not this reinforces the need for or the success of the Afghan national government.
· Rules of engagement inside protected zones and how to protect the force without antagonizing the local population. This implies increased use of non-lethal means and diplomacy. It also implies a ready supply of security vetted and knowledgeable local interpreters.
· Given that some level of troop increase will be supported, how should additional PSYOP resources be deployed to support those troops and who will be the troop provider.
· Are there changes that must be made to the force structure to insure a ready supply of PSYOP forces in support of the “Big Army”? Can the USAR survive under the current merciless operational tempo?

The White house has dithered on the Afghan strategy and while I respect the need to make a carefully reasoned decision, let’s hope the decision includes these considerations as well as how the President’s popularity is likely to fare afterwards.

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