The cy-ops war in Afghanistan

The Scotsman:

Psychological warfare soldiers are using a series of subtle – and not so subtle – leaflet campaigns to turn the insurgents' messages against them.

The hardline militants routinely curse British troops in Helmand as infidels and foreigners who do not respect women and ignore local customs.

British soldiers insist that's not true, but they understand it resonates with ordinary people and they have responded with a series of leaflet campaigns designed to remind local people that most of the Taleban commanders are from outside Helmand as well.

"We place an idea in their mind and tell them what they can do about it," said Lieutenant- Commander Shamus MacLean, at the dedicated "psy-ops" cell in the British headquarters at Lashkar Gah.

"The Taleban understand the target audience far better than I ever can," he added. "If they do something that works particularly well, I am going to copy it."

Psy-ops is often known as one of war's dark arts.

Details of the campaign emerged after a major international think tank claimed the insurgents were winning Afghanistan's propaganda war. The International Crisis Group said people have an inflated view of the Taleban's strength and it urged the international community to highlight the insurgents' brutality.

British commanders are convinced they will never defeat the Taleban without first winning the support of the local people, most of whom are illiterate farmers. The insurgents, meanwhile, depend on the locals for the food, shelter, and disguise, which lets them blend in while they attack British forces.

They are over looking one of the strongest cases against the Taliban. They are war criminals.

They don't wear uniforms as required by the Geneva Conventions which has been the cause of numerous civilian casualties when targets are misidentified. They don't treat detainees humanely, in fact the usually execute them by cutting off their head. They use human shields which is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions. The military should be making this case every time there is an allegation of civilian deaths.

Why no effort is made in this regard mystifies me. In Iraq our spokesman started doing this and it made a difference immediately in the coverage. In Afghanistan we have slipped back into the defensive posture of saying we will study the situation and get back to you several news cycles later. In a war where the enemy says that half the war is in the media, we are doing unilateral disarmament. While these facts may be obvious to the media they have not been reporting them on their own.


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