Wednesday, February 18, 2009

PSYOP Surged in Afghanistan?

President Obama has agreed with SecDef Gates that a surge is what is needed in Afghanistan to turn the growing tide of violence and to deal with the annual Taliban spring offensive. Units that were scheduled to go to Iraq are being re-directed to Afghanistan with the popular opinion that “a surge worked in Iraq and by golly it ought to work in Afghanistan also.”

I’m reminded of the expression “ready to fight the last war”. Afghanistan has withstood the efforts of would be conquers for centuries, Pakistan is no more settled on its approach to the tribal no man’s land today than it was years ago. Is more troops the answer? I’m inclined to think not exactly.

Merely increasing the amount of US footprint might increase the security for a while, but unless there are fundamental changes in the Afghani tribal security picture, the economy and the government, a troop surge is like adding more crew to the Titanic.

Some fundamental questions need to be raised – which have hopefully been asked answered. Questions like:

Is there an overall information engagement plan for the country?

Have the vagaries of large numbers of disparate tribes with low levels of literacy or specialty dialects been factored into the overall plan?

Are PSYOP soldiers training with the newly redirected units?

Has the linguistic pool been increased to provide the larger force with the coverage they will need?

What lessons learned in Iraq can REALLY be applied to Afghanistan?

Will the low level of technology and mass media aid or hamper PSYOP and information engagement efforts?

Does it make sense to build up a journalistic infrastructure in Afghanistan? If so, under whose auspices?

Given that Afghanistan is a NATO mission will US training and doctrine easily mesh with other nations’?

Are multi-national exercises or combined-joint pre-deployment training planned?

Strikes me that the mission in Afghanistan is far more dangerous and far more complex than Iraq. Afghanistan lacks the urban clusters of Iraq and it’s ethnic composition is more of a mosaic than a simple bifurcation.

It’s clear to me that adaptation and innovation are key to success in Afghanistan. Perhaps we’ll need to mount some loudspeakers on the local transportation show above. (Photo courtesy of:


    Anonymous said...

    All good questions. Ones I hope this administration is working hard on finding the answers to.

    For my sake and the folks headed there soon.


    Anonymous said...

    Yes, great questions. Could you write about any current efforts to understand the MDMP taking place in regards to the strategic level of planning for Afghanistan when it comes to psyop?
    That is, do we have active voices trying to understand how these these plans are being made and some kind of lobbying force to increase the role of psyop and IO?
    I don't mind putting my life on the line as much if I know that the people on high have a good understanding of the big picture and plan strategy around the human terrain, rather than force the people to the strategy.
    It seems like a huge mistake to force Afghanistan to continue to along the path laid out by British colonizers.

    Lawrence Dietz said...

    I'm afraid that I have no personal knowledge of what is going on at the highest level. However, it is my best guess that emphasis is on the 'warfighter' and recreating the perception of success created by the surge in Iraq.

    Ralph Peters (whether you like him or not) published a piece the other day indicating that more forces do not mean more success.

    I'll send some e-mails to Congress people and report back.

    Thanks for the input.


    Anonymous said...

    Good questions... but no real comments possible here. I would like to see this entire blog relocated to the SIPRNET.

    Lawrence Dietz said...

    Got a comment about moving this Blog to SIPR. Not happening. I try to be a voice on the outside.

    Anonymous said...

    That "Afghanistan has withstood the efforts of would be conquers for centuries" is any historical inquire shows to be myth. The Persians and Mongols controlled Afghanistan for centuries. Arabs converted the locals to Islam--not by kindness one guesses. Both the Russians and Brits controlled both internal and external Afghanistan policy for over 100 years (even considering British setbacks). The USSR was on the cusp of total control until the Reagan administration shipped Stinger missiles to counter their air superiority. Finally the U.S. had the place in hand in 2002, then we turned our attention and resources to Iraq. We took our eyes off the ball and the Taliban became resurgent.

    How the myth of 'unconquerable Afghanistan' keeps getting strewn around the web is beyond me.

    Lawrence Dietz said...

    At the risk of quoting President Clinton, I suppose it 'depends' on what you mean by conquer. Your points are well taken, thanks for your comments.