U.S. Military Information Operations in Afghanistan

U.S. Military Information Operations in Afghanistan: Effectiveness of Psychological Operations 2001-2010

Arturo Munoz
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 202
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mg1060mcia
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  • Book Info
    U.S. Military Information Operations in Afghanistan
    Book Description:

    The U.S. Marine Corps, which has long recognized the importance of influencing the civilian population in a counterinsurgency environment, requested an evaluation of the effectiveness of the psychological operations element of U.S. military information operations in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2010 based on how well messages and themes were tailored to target audiences. This monograph responds to that request.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-5156-1
    Subjects: Technology, History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: Definition and Objectives of Psychological Operations in Afghanistan
    (pp. 1-18)

    From the beginning of the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, psychological operations (PSYOP) were employed to gain popular acceptance for the overthrow of the Islamic Emirate, the presence of foreign troops, and the creation of a democratic, national government. During the initial period of this nation-building effort, it seemed that success was being achieved. However, disenchantment with the Karzai administration began to grow, augmented by increasing resentment against North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and U.S. military tactics negatively affecting local populations. The Taliban movement began to revive. Meanwhile, according to a 2009 paper written by COL Francis Scott...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Methodology for Assessing the Effectiveness of U.S. Military Psychological Operations
    (pp. 19-30)

    This monograph tracks the implementation of PSYOP in Afghanistan from late 2001 to 2010. It is an inexact undertaking. Tracking the evolution of specific campaigns in Afghanistan is difficult because there is no central repository of data, neither in the United States nor in Afghanistan, concerning themes and messages disseminated or specific operations and their impact on target audiences. Moreover, IO and PSYOP in Afghanistan have been characterized by a high degree of variation between the different components operating in theater, including special-forces teams in the field, regional commands (RCs), task forces, and the ISAF headquarters in Kabul. What might...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Main Themes and Messages and Their Effectiveness
    (pp. 31-94)

    Some of the basic PSYOP themes and messages used today date from the beginning of the U.S. intervention in 2001–2002. This affords a good timeline for determining how successful they have been in influencing audiences. Other themes are new, reflecting the fundamental changes in COIN strategy that have taken place and the changed political situation. Overall, however, there is significant continuity in messaging over the past eight years. Most of the actual leaflets and posters reproduced in this chapter are no longer being disseminated, but the messages and themes they illustrate continue to shape the bulk of the propaganda...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR A Review of the Means of Dissemination in Psychological Operations
    (pp. 95-108)

    Interviews with returning U.S. military IO personnel indicate that the basic means of IO dissemination consist of radio broadcasts, leaflets, press releases, and face-to-face communication with villagers; meetings with local elders are the preferred approach. Each approach is described in this chapter.

    Although the U.S. military continues to sponsor certain radio stations in Afghanistan, most of the radios used are commercial radio stations or Afghan government–controlled radio stations, often owned by provincial governments. In either case, the U.S. military either buys airtime for a public service announcement or provides press releases. Interviews in May 2009 with U.S. military personnel...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Effectiveness in Countering Taliban Propaganda
    (pp. 109-118)

    Although there are notable exceptions, the bulk of the evidence suggests that IO and PSYOP have often failed to counter Taliban propaganda effectively, particularly in the area of civilian casualities and disrespect for Islam. A May 2010Afghanistan Digestarticle described pessimism among Kandaharis regarding their security situation and negative perception concerning the announced USMIL offensive, suggesting that IO and PSYOP had not achieved their objectives among that target population:

    Caught between the two sides, civilians are hoping to avoid the crossfire. Mohammad Karim, a farmer from Ashgho, said: “The Taliban publicly executed a man in our village by hanging...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Organizational Problems Affecting Information Operations and Psychological Operations
    (pp. 119-136)

    Interviews with USMIL personnel returning from the field, a review of OEF conducted by Major Cox at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and other USMIL and academic studies reveal a set of interrelated problems summarized as follows:

    lack of standardized IO and PSYOP integration with operations

    long response times and coordination-process delays

    ineffective interface between IO and PSYOP

    isolation of IO officers

    conflicting IO, PSYOP, and PA functions

    failure to exploit the informal, oral Afghan communication system

    general lack of MOEs.

    It should be emphasized that these problems are not meant to be a universal characterization of...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN New Initiatives Being Implemented to Improve Psychological Operations
    (pp. 137-142)

    Two major initiatives to improve the efficacy of USMIL IO are under way that should be highlighted: the revision of IO doctrine and the announcement of a new multimedia strategy.

    The Army is presently making doctrinal changes to improve IO:

    Under President Barack Obama’s directive, the army is rewriting its information operations manual. [LTC] Shawn Stroud, who until May 2009 served as director of strategic communication at U.S. Army Combined Arms Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas—which is coordinating the update—says previous versions of the army information doctrine gave senior officers far from the battlefield the responsibility for making...

  16. CHAPTER EIGHT Recommendations for Improving the Effectiveness of Psychological Operations
    (pp. 143-150)

    Building on the recommendations made in the 2003 DoDInformation Operations Roadmap,as well as other military and academic studies, this monograph recommends that the following actions be taken to improve PSYOP in Afghanistan and elsewhere.¹

    To assist in the ongoing DoD revision of IO and PSYOP doctrine and practice, a conference should be held attended primarily by IO and PSYOP personnel who have served in Afghanistan. The objective would be to define best practices based on their experiences and make recommendations for whatever reforms they believe should be made operationally, organizationally, and doctrinally. This would also include suggestions for...

  17. APPENDIX A Plan for Campaign Against Improvised Explosive Devices
    (pp. 151-156)
  18. APPENDIX B Campaign Plan to Support the 2004 Afghan Presidential Elections
    (pp. 157-164)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 165-176)