Thursday, September 20, 2012

Green on Blue Attacks: Can Brochures Really Help?

All of us are concerned about “Green on Blue Attacks”.  Incidents where Afghans turn on coalition forces. The Afghan government has developed a 28-page "Brochure for Understanding the Culture of Coalition Forces" (see: The document which is being distributed to Afghan soldiers and presumably Afghan National Police, is regarded as a positive step in building bridges of understanding across the cultural divide.

Media reports and other sources keep saying that most of these attacks are angry, offended or troubled individuals. Reportedly foreign influence and Taliban infiltration are involved in a small percentage of the incidents.

What has this got to do with MISO/PSYOP?

We look at target audiences, assess alternative media and delivery means, develop messages and execute. We do all this to support the CDR and his mission. No one would deny that the mission in Afghanistan is complex, unique for us as a military force and unforgiving. 

Sowing distrust for allies is among the most classic forms of PSYOP. This very cost effective strategy exploits existing feelings, grudges, histories, preconceived opinions or other already negative impressions. 

Deception, such as  wearing the uniform of a friendly force is another classic technique. The Germans were renowned for their efforts employing this tactic during the Battle of the Bulge.
The Green on Blue attacks seem to include a bit of both of these.

Perhaps a brochure is fine for those who can read and for those who are open to learn. For those who can neither read or who are fixed in their beliefs or who lack the discipline and training to carry weapons, brochures are of no use.

If I were a cynic I might say the purpose of the brochure for the Afghan government to try and convince NATO that the government is actively involved in helping to stop the attacks by negating bad feelings through education. History, however, would not be on the side of this argument.

These incidents appear to be caused by individuals who have not been properly screened to see if they are suited to do what they are tasked to do. No amount of influencing will change this, so perhaps the brochure effort can serve as a very bad example on two fronts: 1. It will not accomplish the task for which it was developed and 2. It serves to show yet another misstep by the Afghan government. 

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