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  • Taliban Out-Surging Us in Information War

    A glaring omission in President Obama’s speech Tuesday was any attempt to address the propaganda war that is currently being waged with increasing sophistication and success by the Taliban again the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. Information operations are a critical aspect of warfare and will help determine the outcome in Afghanistan, being focused on the hearts and minds of the Afghan population. Unless the Afghan people and their tribal leaders reject the extremist, violent Islamism of the Taliban and al-Qaeda and the grim vision of the future they represent, military and political victories by the United States and its allies will be short lived.

    Regrettably, strategic information and public diplomacy campaigns to reach the Afghan people have taken a hit since the arrival of the Obama administration. One of the first troubling decisions of the new administration was to close the Office of Support for Public Diplomacy within the Department of Defense, reflecting an attitude of suspicion of psychological operations as undertaken in a military context. Yet, no one has more at stake than the military commanders on the ground in theaters like Afghanistan or Iraq, where the friendly or unfriendly attitude of the local population can mean life or death for the troops.

    According to a report this week in The Times, the Taliban are out communicating NATO in Afghanistan. Since 2006, Websites such as ”Voice of Jihad” have been displaying images of killed and captured NATO soldiers and extol recent Taliban victories. The websites work as effective recruiting tools for their forces. In addition, the Taliban have a full fledged public diplomacy campaign going on, producing magazines, DVDs of successful attacks and a variety of Taliban cassettes with songs celebrating Taliban heroes and martyrs. According to the Times, you can even get down loadable Taliban mobile phone ring tones. This is a professional and highly effective operation – an interesting contrast to the image here of the Taliban as stone-age, cave-dwelling enemies of modernity.

    NATO is only now in the process of catching up, aware that it faces on uphill battle. Earlier this year, NATO’s new communications directorate opened in Kabul with a staff of 120 staff, and huge resources are now being committed to catching up. Also earlier this year, in August, U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke established a new united within the State Department for countering militant propaganda in Afghanistan and Pakistan – in other words engaging in strategic communication, previously the purview of the Pentagon. According to the New York Times, the Holbrooke effort is funded to the tune of $150 million. Holbrooke told Tom Shanker of the New York Times, “Concurrent with the insurgency is an information war. We are losing that war. The Taliban have unrestricted access to radio, which is the main means of communication. We can’t succeed, however you define success, if we cede to people who present themselves as false messengers of a prophet, which is what they do. We need to combat it.”

    As of yet, very little has come out regarding the State Department’s efforts or successes — if any. However, if the Taliban is still winning the information war, Mr. Holbrooke might consider handing the responsibility back to the Pentagon.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to Taliban Out-Surging Us in Information War

    1. Linda Carlsbad, CA says:

      How could they be winning in the information war. One thing that our President is great at is putting out info. This is how he won. This is unexcusable. Unless they don't want to win, and don't care about out soldiers.

      This administration is a big, fat joke. They have not done one thing to help anyone in the United States, or overseas. But, they can't believe how tough we are, we will overcome anything they can throw our way. We are American's!

    2. MILNEWS.ca, Canada says:

      It would also be helpful if MSM, when broadcasting/printing Taliban statements, _consistently_ mention that Taliban claims are exaggerated. Here's a very localized example: since October 2008, the Taliban claim to have killed more than 500 Canadians in RC-South, compared to 36 Canadians actually being killed in that timeframe – a +14:1 Taliban:actual ratio.

      (More here http://is.gd/5breG if you're interested)

    3. Anon says:

      I´ve heard the usurper Mr. Obama speak at West Point, December 1, 2009, due to his Afghan war strategy, as well as, Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates, and Admiral Mullen in the Senate, Armed Services Committee, December 2, 2009, defending their usurper, Mr. Obama, but non could explain, nor defend:

      Mr. Obama flat out tells the Taliban, and al Qaeda that we will fight, but only until July, 2011.

      I´ll bet the usurper in the White House plays Texas Hold´Em with all his cards face up. (It began January 20, 2009.)

    4. Nikos Retsos, Chic says:

      First, the name Heritage Foundation brings to my mind a respectable organization, but upon reading the article, I feel that it is grossly bogus.

      Here is why:

      The Taliban will never out surge the U.S. global propaganda machine. The "Voice of Jihad" cannot outclass the global U.S. media networks, in print, radio – the Voice of America, and TV networks located in Middle, and its supporting allied media empires – like BBC, Radio Australia,

      Deutsche Welle, Radio France International, etc.

      The "Voice of Jihad" is a "dead horse" in Afghanistan! Why? Who has computers in the Afghan villages to open that website? And the claim that the Taliban have "downloadable mobile phones" is bogus as well. But, if they do, that is not an advantage for them – it is a curse! The

      U.S. Predator drones are listening for mobile hostile signals from the sky, and if the Taliban use them, they will be obliterated with Hellfire missiles from the Predators before they finish their conversation.

      The U.S./PBS Documentary magazine "Frontline" showed Taliban video in August in which Taliban in a mountainside had stopped for lunch. Their lunch was a piece of bread only passed around by their group leader. Nothing else! And that proved that the Taliban live an ascetic and hard life without the luxuries of well-cooked food, laundry services, karaokes, and prostitutes that the Nato forces enjoy. It is a life of strong beliefs, and human sacrifices that is prominent in Asia – as it also is in the regional Buddhist tradition.

      Therefore, the powerful Taliban propaganda machine that the article portrays as omnipotent, is, actually, non- existent! Nikos Retsos, retired professor

    5. Bobbie Jay says:

      Nikos, you state to be a retired professor. I've never heard a professor use the word "never" in the text you have!

      What the world has become, tells me, the word "never" has become ill defined.

    6. J Michael Waller, Wa says:

      It's not a question of how much money we put into it. It's a question of political will to fight the information war the way it needs to be fought. That will is still lacking on both the civilian and military sides. Too many innovative people are fearful of bureaucratic and legalistic roadblocks, and of what the Washington Post might say. Throwing money at the problem won't defeat the Taliban's propaganda. We need leadership. The president's "glaring omission" proves my point.

    7. Hello! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 3gs! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the great work!

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