The propaganda war against ISIL
Stars and Stripes:
In a sweltering classroom on a base outside the Kurdish region's capital, about 40 Kurdish soldiers gathered last month to learn how to fight the Islamic State group using new skills and equipment provided by the U.S. government.I am skeptical as to the effectiveness of this campaign. Recently revelations about ISIL indicate that most of its fighters are pretty low function and have only a primitive idea about Islam. The best way to change their minds about ISIL is to defeat them on the battlefield.
Their new weapons are laptops, digital cameras and sets of a low-power, portable radio kit called a "radio in a box." Their mission: to destroy a target that has proven to be highly resistant to U.S. efforts -- the Islamic State's extremist ideology.
"You cannot defeat an idea with a bullet," U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Melissa Giannetto told those seated in the classroom, the first of the Kurdish forces, or peshmerga, to undergo training under the Vocalis Program. Designed by the Marine Corps, it aims to train them to "choose decisive messages that will destroy (the Islamic State's) influence."
Military successes on the ground in Iraq and Syria are not enough, Pentagon officials say. In the words of trainers, the coalition needs help the Iraqi and Kurdish forces to "win back the information battle space."
Since the three-year program was launched in January, it has trained and equipped more than 220 members of the Iraqi Ground Forces Command and Counterterrorism Service. The first peshmerga completed their training media last week.
After training and equipping operators in social media and traditional media techniques in the first year, Vocalis will provide "train the trainer" courses in the second year, followed in the third year by establishment of a "center of excellence" to sustain the training, Col. Christopher Garver, a spokesman for the U.S.-led counter-Islamic State coalition, said in an email.