Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gen X Taliban – No Easy Target for PSYOP

“Taliban X: The next generation of terrorists” appeared in the August 10, 2010 edition of the Washington Examiner (http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/world/Taliban-X_-The-next-generation-of-terrorists-1008566-100291009.html) talks about the up and coming teenagers and 20 somethings who are turning to martyrdom over conventional insurgency activities. This is a troubling, but not surprising development.

Photo source: http://baneofyourresistance.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/85856406.jpg
Baby elephants are staked down at an early age to train them not to wander. Even when they are fully grown and can easily pull out the stake, they still adhere to their childhood experiences. The ‘generation gap’ has been around as long as there have been parents and children. These children, like many Palestinians, have had the personalities forged by the cauldron if a hard life growing up in the squalor of refugee camps. Their idea of ‘normal’ has been the result of their environment and perception formed of their tormentors and enemies.

Their reference frame is a function of this desperation and they become relatively easy marks for recruiters who offer an escape path and can appeal to emotion via an intellectual and spiritual path. According to the article, “Terrorist groups from Pakistan and foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia, Palestine and elsewhere have sown a form of jihad that resonates among the younger generation, officials told The Washington Examiner.”

The article quotes unnamed officials as saying that the jihadist creed espoused by foreign fighters is more appealing. I have a different take, I think the Xers are seeking paths that are different from their parents because they have built up frustration and disdain during the lives and are seeking a way out.

The depth of commitment and the lack of suitable alternative reference frames and alternatives makes this new force a very difficult influence target. A target that, IMHO, is not susceptible to third party messages, but must be worked with by charismatic figures that are close to their age, have experienced the same early life, but have found other paths out of it.

Credibility is key here and the new champion must have the ethnic street credibility of the target otherwise any messages or efforts to redirect the individual messages will fail.

Having described a potential counter measure, the issue becomes who is responsible? The proper answer would be the Afghan government. However, as a practical matter that should doesn’t seem to fly. Are there ‘warlords’ who are current or potential allies? If so, this alternative can be a good one because they have the credibility and access.

While the issue is an important one, I am not of the opinion that it can be addressed by either ISAF or the Department of State.
Alternatively I wonder how or if the Israeli government has addressed this issue and if they have had any experiences, positive or negative, that they are sharing with appropriate authorities.

No matter what is happening on the ground, we must be certain that SWC is integrating this challenge into the curriculum so that our soldiers can recognize the phenomena in the field and deal with it as best they can employing the trademark ingenuity of American soldiers.

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