Tuesday, March 17, 2015

AAF: Good News, Bad News, & IO

First A-29 to arrive in Afghanistan Dec 2015
Information Operations (IO) plays a big role in a counterinsurgency. On one hand, the insurgents (that would be the Taliban in Afghanistan) want to paint the government as illegal, corrupt, and unable to provide basic services and security to the population. The government side wants to be perceived as legitimate, not corrupt, and able to provide Rule of Law, development, governance and security.

Narrowing our focus, the Afghan government and its Resolute Support partners, would like to be able to show that the ANA and ANP can provide security to the Afghan population and that its security forces can successfully operate against insurgents. That, of course, is a hard sell. 2014 was a year that recorded the highest number of civilian casualties since the fall of the Taliban, the ANSF are suffering the highest combat casualties ever, and the personnel strength of the ANA is now at its lowest levels since 2011. Now comes the IO part. News releases by the Afghan government and the U.S. will paint a rosy picture. However, sometimes the facts get in the way and even with the same facts - the message can be different. For example:

U.S. Air Forces Central Command recently put a news release entitled "Afghan Air Force braces for Fighting Season '15", March 10, 2015. In the article an Afghan Air Force officer is quoted as saying "The Afghan Air Force is well prepared for Fighting Season 2015". Hmmm. Another quote by a USAF officer - "This year, they will have nearly six times the number of armed aircraft,  . . ." (by putting machine guns on transport helicopters). And, of course, this article does not fail to mention the long-over due A-29 Super Tucano (pictured above). The USAF has been talking about this CAS platform for many years as an example of how the Afghan Air Force (AAF) is constantly improving but the first one of 20 won't even arrive in Afghanistan until December 2015!

Compare the CENTCOM news release with one published on January 25, 2015 by Reuters entitled "Afghan air force ascent slow, imperiling battle with Taliban". Using the same numbers Reuters paints a different picture.

The Resolute Support advisors working strategic communications (EF8) have a lot of work to do.

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