Showing posts with label information-operations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label information-operations. Show all posts

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Pragmatic Influence and Afghanistan

A member of an Agricultural Development Team (ADT) from the Kansas
Army National Guard talks with an Afghan farmer. (Photo U.S. Army)

RJ Hampsey writes in this short article published February 2018 about how we need to ". . . influence the Afghans to partner with us to achieve not only our objective but theirs as well". He presents two simple theories that might assist us in understanding the situation on the ground and help us re-gain a partnership with the majority of the Afghan people. He provides a 'different' perspective on what is important to Afghans and believes we should align our interests with theirs - which in turn, will help ensure that foreign terrorists will no longer operate freely in Afghanistan.

About the author: RJ Hampsey joined the Counterinsurgency (COIN) Advise and Assist Team (CAAT) in November 2009 and was assigned to advise and assist the officers, NCOs, and Soldiers executing information operations, PSYOP, and Civil Affairs in support of Regional Command East. In total he spent 36 months as a member of the CAAT in RC-E and HQ-ISAF; and the Military Information Support Task Force (MISTF).

Realpolitik in Afghanistan: Pragmatic Influence Required

Sunday, February 28, 2016

ISIS, CTF, CT, and IO News

Video - ISIS and Money. Watch a four-minute long video explaining how the Islamic State funds itself and how government and private-sector efforts can cut off its funding. Defeating the Islamic State: The Economic CampaignThe Washington Institute, February 24, 2016.

ISIS Banking Network. "Money-exchange offices in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Jordan funnel millions of dollars daily in and out of militant-held territory." Read "How Islamic State's Secret Banking Network Prospers"The Wall Street Journal, February 24, 2016. (Paywall subscription).

Money - Not Ideology. Two former Islamic State (IS) commanders who defected recently to Afghan authorities say that they joined the extremist organization not because of ideology but largely for money. (Voice of America, Feb 26, 2016).

State Dept & CVE Podcasts. The United States Department of State has been actively trying to counter violent extremism (CVE). Part of the effort is to educate communities about terrorism and violent groups through social media to include the use of podcasts. Read more in "New Podcast Series Examines Global Efforts to Counter Violent Extremism", DIPNOTE, U.S. Department of State Official Blog, February 22, 2016.

Social Media & Online Extremism. "The U.S. government, acknowledging its limited success in combating Islamic extremist messaging, is recruiting tech companies, community organizations and educational groups to take the lead in disrupting online radicalization". Read more in "U.S. looks to Facebook, private groups to battle online extremism", Reuters, February 24, 2016.

ISIS Propaganda. The international coalition is far from winning the information war against the Islamic State. Although airstrikes and proxy armies are taking its toll on the organization its social media campaign and its ideological momentum has not been blunted significantly. Read more in "Why ISIS Propaganda Works", The Atlantic, February 13, 2016.

'Khorasan Province' Video. The Islamic State in Afghanistan has released a series of videos about training that takes place along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Read "Islamic State 'Khorasan province' advertises training camp", The Long War Journal, February 23, 2016.

ISIS Info Flawed. An unusually high number of intelligence analysts (40% of the 1,000 analysts assigned to CENTCOM) said there were problems with the integrity of their reports and many have accused their bosses for slewing reports on ISIS. Read more in "400 Intel Pros Warn: ISIS Info Flawed", The Daily Beast, February 25, 2016. See also "Top House Lawmaker Accuses Pentagon of Obstructing Intel Probe", The Cable - Foreign Policy, February 25, 2016.

Obama and Global Campaign against ISIS. The State Department has released a press statement with info on the plan to destroy the Islamic State. Read "President Obama Discusses The Global Campaign to Degrade and Destroy ISIL", Dipnote Blog, February 25, 2016.

Guantanamo and Jihadist Propaganda. President Obama has vowed to close the prison on U.S. property in Cuba because it is a recruiting tool for ISIS and al Qaeda but ". . . some of those who study jihadist propaganda say Guantanamo actually isn't all that important as a recruitment tool, and it doesn't feature especially prominently in jihadist materials". Many of the prison occupants were captured and jailed soon after the invasion of Afghanistan by U.S. forces. Read more in a news report by Defense One, February 24, 2016.

Journal - Perspectives on Terrorism. Volume X, Issue 1, February 2016 is now available online. Several articles about terrorism.

Afghan Captive at Guantanamo to be Released. A man held for over a decade in America's prison in Cuba is set to be released as he is deemed to no longer be a threat. (Miami Herald, Feb 26, 2016.)

ISIS Damaged in Eastern Afghanistan. The combination of Taliban attacks, Afghan security forces offensives, and U.S. airstrikes has damaged ISIS significantly in Nangarhar province. In part, this setback for the Islamic State was also aided by public uprisings against the organization - especially in Achin district. Some members of the group may move back into Pakistan or adjacent Afghan provinces (Logar and Ghazni).

Video - Terrorism and CT. The International Institute for Strategic Studes (IISS) has posted a video entitled The Changing Nature of Terrorism and Counterterrorism, February 24, 2016. Dr. Daniel Byman and Dr. Bruce Hoffman explain the increasingly global presence of terrorist networks, the evolution of the terrorism landscape since 9/11, and the role of technology in terrorism and counterterrorism. The video is about one hour long and can be viewed online here.

ISIS and Bomb Making. Thomas Gibbons-Neff provides us with the "how" of bomb making in "Where Islamic State gets its bomb-making materials", Stars and Stripes, February 25, 2016.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Information Operations

State Dept, IO, and ISIS. West Point students are now part of the information operations campaign against ISIS. Cadets are now ". . . trying to lure would-be-jihadists into conversations about radical Islam on the Internet." This is all part of an attempt by the Department of State and West Point's Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) to fight terror. Read more in "Marketing Against ISIS: US State Department Enlists Students to Fight Terror", Vice News, February 8, 2016.

Taliban's Msg on ISIS. The Taliban have been good at the social media game - quickly hitting social media with its messaging and smoking the U.S. and NATO's ability to manage the media fight (other than using TV and print in the urban areas). Now the Taliban wants you (U.S. citizens) to know that the U.S. government is using the "ISIS in Afghanistan" scare to keep troops in the country. Read more in "Here's What the Taliban Wants America to Think about ISIS in Afghanistan", The World Post, February 10, 2016.

Twitter Counters ISIS. The social media giant says it is increasing efforts to combat extremism on its site. Read "Twitter Steps Up Efforts to Combat ISIS"Defense One, February 5, 2016.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Information Operations

Taliban Attacks on Media. The Taliban attack on the employees of the Tolo TV network in Afghanistan is a shocker to Afghan journalists that now find themselves on the frontlines of the Afghan conflict. Tolo News is the largest media organization in Afghanistan and is not shy about criticizing Taliban activities in their TV, print, and online news outlets. In 2015 the Taliban put Tolo News on notice saying they were legitimate targets. After those threats the news agency requested security assistance from the Afghan government . . .  but despite promises to help it was never provided. Read more in "Afghan Taliban Open New Front in War With Attacks on Media", by Lynne O'Donnell, Associated Press, February 2, 2016.

Threatening News in Afghanistan. The recent attack on Tolo News by the Taliban in Kabul where several employees were killed and many more injured highlight just how bad the security situation is in Afghanistan. Ahmed Rashid, noted author and commentator on the Afghan conflict, provides us with his perspective in "Afghanistan: Threatening News"The New York Review of Books, February 2, 2016.

"Voice of the Caliphate" - Destroyed. Air strikes have put the Islamic State-operated radio station in Nangarhar province off the air. The radio station had been broadcasting the militant group's extremist messages since last year. Read more in "Air Strikes Destroy Islamic State Radio Station in Afghanistan, Officials Say", Radio Free Europe, February 2, 2016.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

ISIS and Afghanistan

ISIS - "An Existential Threat". The Islamic State is attempting to establish footholds in a number of countries - in addition to that hold on territory that it currently enjoy in Syria and Iraq. ISIS is in competition with al-Qaeda in many of these areas. Afghanistan is one of those newly developed areas of endeavor for ISIS. Of course, Afghanistan and bordering areas of Pakistan has long been a sanctuary for al-Qaeda as well. Many foreign policy observers think we need to counter ISIS's growth anywhere they try to establish themselves (including Afghanistan). Read a report on ISIS and al Qaeda entitled Al Qaeda and ISIS: Existential Threats to the U.S. and Europe, Institute for the Study of War (ISW), January 2016.

Stepping up the Fight against ISIS (or is it ISIL?). Ash Carter, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, has penned an opinion piece on the fight against the Islamic State. Read "Ash Carter: It's Time to Accelerate the ISIL Fight", Politico, January 22, 2016. He says the fight should take place in three forms 1) eliminating the centers of ISIS power in Raqqa, Syria and Mosul, Iraq, 2) protecting the homeland, and 3) fighting ISIS where it is started to establish footholds - such as Afghanistan and Libya. Glad he is now on board!

ISIS Radio Station in Nangarhar. The Islamic State used the Internet and social media platforms to spread its message in Iraq, Syria, Libya and around the world. But in the impoverished country of Afghanistan most people have access to radio broadcasts but little access to the Internet. For that reason the Islamic State is using radio broadcasts to spread its message. Read "IS radio beams propaganda, threats across rural Afghanistan", Fox News, January 21, 2016.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Information Operations (IO) & Social Media

"Once again the Obama administration is revising its programs to counter and defeat the self-styled Islamic State, particularly on the battlefield of ideas. With no apparent decline in supporters flocking to the movement nor any shortage of unhinged murderers inspired by it, State Department officials announced that they were creating a new "Global Engagement Center" to combat the Islamic State online. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama me with social media-savvy representatives from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to convince them to join the effort".  - - - -

This is yet one more attempt by the United States to attempt to win the social media battle against the Islamic State. Read more in "Why the U.S. Is Losing the War of Ideas Against Transnational Extremism", by Steven Metz, World Politics Review, January 15, 2016.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Information Operations (IO) News

Counter-Messaging IS. Much has been wrote about how the western nations are having trouble in the information operations arena in countering the Islamic State's narrative. IS has mastered the art of using social media to advance its status among Muslims and for recruitment purposes. David Gartenstein-Ross and Nathaniel Barr believe they have some solutions to this vexing problem. They are saying that there is a gap in the analytic framework that leaves Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) practitioners at a disadvantage. Read "Fixing How We Fight the Islamic State's Narrative", War on the Rocks, January 4, 2016.

"Safe to Say". You have to love the spokespersons for the Defense Department. Adm Kirby was the last one that I could really like. The others . . .
Question: "Is it safe to say that there is still a combat mission in Afghanistan?"
Peter Cook: "It's safe to say Afghanistan is a dangerous place."

Sunday, December 6, 2015

IO News

MISO Training. The 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina is responsible for training up the personnel who staff the U.S. Army's Military Information Support Operations (MISO) Teams. Read more about the training of the psychological operations Soldiers in "Good Luck, Charlie",, November 30, 2015.

Documentary - "Frame by Frame". Read this news article about a documentary on four photojournalists who work in Afghanistan. "The Beauty and the Peril of Being a Photojournalist in Afghanistan", Mother Jones, November 29, 2015.

DoS Counter-Messaging in Disarray. The State Department's efforts at producing content and posting items on Twitter, Facebook and other social media is lacking - so says an independent review of the DoS program by a panel of 'marketing experts'. The DoS has had the lead in this area of 'public diplomacy' but seems to be coming up short. Read "Panel casts doubt on U.S. propaganda efforts against ISIS", The Washington Post, by Greg Miller, December 2, 2015.

DoD Takes up the Slack! The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has been given more latitude in the conduct of 'messaging' in language contained in the FY2016 defense authorization bill signed into law by President Obama in November 2015. Section 1056, (a), (3) states that

". . . the Secretary of Defense should develop creative and agile concepts, technologies, and strategies across all available media to most effectively reach target audiences, to counter and degrade the ability of adversaries and potential adversaries to persuade, inspire, and recruit inside areas of hostilities or in other areas in direct support of the objectives of commander . . "

Social Media and Counterterrorism. A recent news report provides insight as to how counterterrorists can use social media to track down terrorists. Read "Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes", Voice of America, December 1, 2015.

Social Media Toolkit and Cubic. A new tool called the Social Media Replication Toolkit System is assisting Soldiers monitoring (and using?) social media in training during exercises. It is hoped that the toolkit will assist in getting forces to understand at the small unit level how social media can be a war fighting tool. Read more in "Cubic Looks to Train Soldiers to Use Social Media as Battlefield Tool", Defense News, December 3, 2015.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Information Operations (IO)

ISIS and Social Media. Radical jihadi fighters have found a voice on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and other Internet platforms.. The jihadists generate support, spread their message, raise money, and recruit using social media. While government efforts are underway to counter the jihadist message it has - up to this point - been largely ineffective. The jihadist network is just too big and much more flexible than any of the government organizations. Many of the foreign fighters now fighting in Syria have been recruited via social media. Some social media platforms have taken to banning these jihadist accounts - Facebook, Twitter, etc. Read more in "Should ISIS fighters be allowed on social media platforms?", by Maddy Crowell, Yahoo! News, November 21, 2015.

Paper - Social Media and Articulation of Radical Narratives in Afghanistan. This research and policy paper wrote by Niamatullah Ibrahimi, Musab Omer, and Mohammad Irfani was provided logistical support by the Afghan Institute of Strategic Studies (AISS) and financial support from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). The report was done in November 2015. "The paper explores the role of social media as a medium of articulation of religiously-inspired radical ideologies and narratives in Afghanistan."

Tolo TV Targeted by Taliban. An Afghan media mogul is named as a target by the Taliban because of his (and his firm's) showcasing of Taliban atrocities. Read more in "The Muslim Media Mogul Standing Up to ISIS and the Taliban", The Daily Beast, by Lloyd Grove, November 26, 2015.

Should Jihadist Websites Be Shut Down? One writer thinks it would be bad policy to censor terrorist content on the Internet. Read more in "Shutting Down Jihadist Websites Won't Stop Terrorism", by Kaveh Waddel, The Atlantic, November 24, 2015.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Information Operations

Women's Radio Station - Destroyed. The Taliban ransacked the Kaihan Radio Station during its brief stay in Kunduz City during October. The radio station was backed by U.S. and Western funding and produced programs on peace building and understanding the law as well as addressing topics on religious issues, women's rights, and cultural taboos. The very expensive equipment needed to run a radio station was either destroyed and taken by the Taliban - including transmitter, mixer, microphones, televisions, headphones, and computers. Read more in "An Afghan women's radio station becomes a Taliban casualty", The Washington Post, by Sudarsan Raghavan, November 16, 2015.

Article - New Narrative Needed for Afghanistan. Abdullah Ahmadzai, country representative for The Asia Foundation in Afghanistan, is concerned for the future of the young people of his country. He sees the failing economy and deteriorating security situation as a signs of despair for the nations youth. He believes that ". . . Afghans need a clear, credible vision of the future articulated to them; . . ." Read more in "Afghans Need a New Narrative", Thomson Reuters Foundation, November 17, 2015.

Leonie Industries Cut Loose. Leonie Industries lost out in bidding to SOSi International last month for the Pentagon's contract for propaganda. Read more in "Propaganda contractor dumped by U.S. Army", USA Today, November 18, 2015.

Inside the ISIS Media Machine. The efforts by the western nations to counter the ISIS information operations campaign has been overwhelming unsuccessful. Read "Inside the surreal world of the Islamic State's propaganda machine", The Washington Post, November 20, 2015.

ISIS "Going to Darknet". Many of the postings on Facebook, Twitter, and other Internet sites are taken down after discovery. To combat this ISIS is now posting on the "Darknet". Read more in "After Paris, ISIS moves propaganda machine to Darknet", CSOonline, November 15, 2015.

Countering ISIS Propaganda. "The Islamic State (or ISIS) has recruited an estimated 20,000 fighters since 2011." This recruitment is aided significantly by the use of propaganda and social media. Attempts to countermessage ISIS have largely been unsuccessful - due to the "sheer size of the ISIS communications footprint" and limits in size and scope of countermeasures. Read more in an article by Alberto M. Fernandez, Vice President of the Middle East Media Research Institute, entitled Four ways to counter ISIS propaganda more effectively,, November 16, 2015.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Information Operations (IO)

Why Include IO in the AWN Newsletter? In a counterinsurgency - which is what the Afghan government, Afghan security forces and coalition 'advisors' are engaged in - there are four main lines of effort that need resources, time, energy, money, and personnel: Security, Governance, Development and Information Operations. During our time in Vietnam the U.S. military hardly ever lost a tactical battle . . . yet we lost the war in the arena of public opinion. One just has to look at how the story on the U.S. air strike on the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) medical facility in Kunduz City has taken over the headlines (at the expense of more positive news - such as the ANDSF successful counterattack in retaking the city from the Taliban) to appreciate the power of the media in a conflict. So  . . . in the interests of 'educating the counterinsurgent' engaged in the fight in Afghanistan various news articles and resources on IO are included within this newsletter and posted on the blog.

ISIS Winning the Narrative? Is the Islamic State beating the U.S. and other western nations in the 'Battle of the Internet"? One writer does not think so. Read "ISIS Is Not Winning the War of Ideas", The Atlantic, November 11, 2015.

Reviving the USIA? Do we need to bring back the United States Information Agency? One writer, Matthew Armstrong, says "No"! Read "No, We Do Not Need to Revive the U.S. Information Agency", War on the Rocks, November 12, 2015.

Social Media and Kidnapping. "Technological advances have transformed the dynamics of crime, including kidnapping and extortion." Social media has provided criminals and terrorists with a whole new pool of victims and sources of exploitable information. Read more in "Use of Social Media in Kidnapping and Extortion", KR Magazine, October 2, 2015.

ISIS Recruiting Online? How does ISIS acquire new recruits online and convince them to take action? See "How Terrorists recruit online (and how to stop it)",, November 9, 2015.

Pentagon Tightening Up on Email Utility. Everyone who ever had an Army Knowledge Online (AKO) account can understand the pain of the Army's bureaucracy. Just when you thought the government couldn't make itself less efficient and less user-friendly we get the news that links will no longer be tolerated in emails. Read "Pentagon purges HTML from .mil emails", FCW, November 12, 2015.

Social Media Specialist wanted for Resolute Support HQs. Want to be a troll? Can you spin the truth? Do you enjoy following Twitter (follow me on @AfghanWarBlog). Feel like living on a postage stamp sized post in the middle of Kabul with thousands of other Europeans? Can you do better than these guys - Apply at the link below:

The Life of a Troll Magnet. The story of a Finnish investigative journalist who brought the wrath of the Russian social media troll army upon herself. "My Year as a Pro-Russia Troll Magnet", Kioski,  November 9, 2015.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Information Operations (IO)

To Tweet or Not to Tweet. In the war of online influence, the United States is gaining ground but is still hopelessly outmanned. One report says that the U.S. State Department doesn't have enough people to conduct tweeting operations against ISIS. State's social media propaganda machine consists of just 20 people working in the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC). Well, . . . I am doing my part @AfghanWarBlog . Read more in "Pentagon: State Doesn't Have Enough People Tweeting at ISIS", Defense One, October 22, 2015.

Russia and IO. The Russian regime is heavy into the manipulation of information and use of social media on the Internet to influence audiences. Read more in "The Trolls Who Came In From the Cold", Radio Free Europe, November 5, 2015.

Russia's Troll Army. To learn more about Russia's dominance on the digital battlefield read Everything you wanted to know about trolls but were afraid to ask, ShareAmerica, November 4, 2015.

Marginalizing the Islamic State Online. Jared Cohen explains how future insurgent groups will not only control physical terrain but also dominate pockets of the Internet. Many recruits, followers, and supporters make their first contact with IS and its ideology via the Internet. Read more in "Digital Counterinsurgency", Foreign Affairs, November / December 2015.

U.S. Army - a Band of Tweeters. The digital age may be interfering with the bonding of unit members in combat. Skype, email, social media is consuming the downtime of Soldiers in FOBs - where in the past Soldiers entertained themselves by interacting together as a group telling stories, joking, and engaging in sports during their time off. Read "From Army of One to Band of Tweeters", by John Spencer, The New York Times, November 5, 2015.

Air Force-Wide Facebook Outage Causes Panic and Confusion. A temporary outage of Facebook has put the United States Air Force into a state of crisis. The cause of the FB service is unknown but several theories have surfaced. Read more in "Panic, Chaos During Air Force-Wide Facebook Outage", Duffel Blog, November 6, 2015.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Information Operations

Damage Control on Hospital Airstrike. The U.S. is still doing damage control on the AC-130 airstrike on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz City. DWB is continuing its IO offensive (Twitter, press releases, & website postings) against the U.S. calling the incident a war crime while the U.S. maintains it was an accident. Recent info saying that U.S. SOF personnel knew the facility was a hospital is not helping. The Pakistan government is denying reports floated by the U.S. that a Pakistani intelligence operative was conducting business on the grounds of the hospital.

Taliban and the Media. The Taliban have declared Afghanistan's Tolo News and 1TVNewsAF as legitimate targets; saying they are US propaganda tools. Naturally the media in Afghanistan is upset. The government is also taking action on the international front (Tolo News, Oct 17, 2015).

Troop Withdrawal. The U.S. administration is trying to shore up support among Democrats for the revised troop withdrawal plan while some Republicans are saying it still isn't enough. Still plenty of party politics left in the Afghan War for it to grab some headlines.

U.S. Strategy Working . . . Or Just Spin? The Obama administration claims leaving 5,500 US troops in Afghanistan is a sign that the US strategy is working. Hmmmm. Josh Earnest - Obama's spokesman - said that with a straight face. How does he sleep at night? Read "Is the US mission in Afghanistan 'working'? Or is that just spin?", The Christian Science Monitor, October 17, 2015.

ALP. The U.S. will have a major fight on its hands if it tries to win support for the increased funding of the Afghan Local Police - let's see if DVIDS, CENTCOM, or RS HQs floats out some "positive" news stories on the ALP!

IO in the Movies. The Information Operations battle is fought in many forms and arenas. One is in the movies. Sometimes it is blatant as in when Hollywood puts out an anti-war, anti-military film. And then sometimes it is a little more disguised. See "Graffiti artists slip criticism of 'Homeland' onto set", The Boston Globe, October 15, 2015.

Spinning the OBL Killing Story. Mark Bowden (book author) and Seymour Hersh (NYTs) provide two different accounts on the raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden. I going with the Bowden account. See "There's Just One Problem with Those Bin Laden Conspiracy Theories", Vanity Fair, October 16, 2105.

Patches Tell a Story. Over the years servicemen tend to collect patches that they are authorized to wear and then some more as well. The latest patch for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) for 'that other war' is causing some controversy. Some folks read too much into the graphics and images of combat patches. Read why some people are upset about the Army's newest combat patch (The Havok Journal, October 17, 2015).

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Information Operations

 Info War with ISIS. It appears that the Islamic State is eating the State Department's lunch when it comes to the information operations arena. However the DoS is looking for some help with HBO, Snapchat, and others. Read more in "U.S. Turns to 'Zero Dark Thirty' Writer for Anti-ISIS Propaganda", The Daily Beast, September 28, 2015.

U.S. Losing in Battle of Perception. The U.S. must revamp its approach to the 'Battlefield of Perception". At least according to Steven Metz. Read his report in World Politics Review (Oct 2, 2015).

Interview with Taliban Leader. It seems that the new Taliban leader that replaced Mullah Omar is not shy about interacting with the media. According to the Associated Press (AP) Mullah Akhtar Mansoor provided a telephone interview to the AP. Mansoor stated that the three-day occupation of Kunduz was a historic event. read more in "AP Exclusive: Taliban leader says Afghan insurgency strong", AP, October 2, 2015.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Information Operations

War on the Web. There is growing concern about the radicalization of the world's youth via social media. The Islamic State is proven very adept at the use of social media sites such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and others. The West will ignore the growth of social media as a weapon by terrorist and insurgent groups at its peril. Read more in "War on the Web", U.S. News & World Report, July 23, 2015.

Policing Terror Talk. A bill in Congress would have Facebook, Twitter, and others report terrorist content. Read more in "Social-Media Firms Resist Role of Policing Terror Talk", The Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2015.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

U.S. and Information Operations

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and VOA. The United States has done a less than stellar job in the Information Operations (IO) arena. This is true at the strategic level and at the tactical level as well. A close examination of the IO efforts of the U.S. around the world from countering Russia's information machine, to the Middle East (can you say ISIS?), and on to Afghanistan will find that the adversaries IO machines have ate our lunch in print, the airwaves and on social media. Some critics believe that the U.S. IO organizations lack an over-arching plan at the strategic level and would like to see a consolidation of efforts.

Currently Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has an Afghan service that complements the Voice of America's (VOA) Afghan services. RFE/RL reaches (according to its website) more than 60 percent of the Afghan population across the country with its radio, SMS, and Internet programs. RFE/RL's Radio Azadi is broadcast in Dari and Pashto. It's website for Afghanistan and Pakistan - Gandhara - is published in English.

How VOA and RFE/RL ties in its reporting with the Resolute Support (RS) STRATCOM folks is important. Read more in "From VOA to Radio Free Europe, the US Needs a Single News Voice Abroad", Defense One, July 16, 2015.

IO and Training to Fight. There are very few armies in the world that can fight a conventional fight on the battlefield against the United States. The Persian Gulf War and early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) demonstrated that beyond a doubt. The conflicts of the future may be a hybrid war where insurgent organizations, terrorist groups, and non-state actors (some state-sponsored) will confront the U.S. assymetrically. The U.S. military needs to be able to respond appropriately and this includes activities within the information operations arena (such as social media). Unfortunately, our U.S. Army battalion and brigade commanders have trouble thinking outside of the box while 'in the box' at our national training centers (JRTC, NTC, etc.). Read more in "How the Pentagon Places SOF Soldier's Minds in Boxes"SOFREP, July 2015.

Revising the Narrative. John DeRosa, a member of the U.S. Department of Defense and Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, has penned and essay on the importance of the narrative in resolving conflict. Read "Revising the Battle of the Narrative", Small Wars Journal, July 16, 2015.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Assessing DoD Efforts to Inform, Influence, & Persuade

If you are in the Strategic Communications field in a conflict area then the below listed three references from the RAND Corporation may be useful to your line of work. These could be useful to the Resolute Support advisors working in Essential Function 8 - STRATCOM.
"DoD has struggled with assessing the progress and effectiveness of its IIP efforts and in presenting the results of these assessments to stakeholders and decisionmakers. To address these challenges, a RAND study compiled examples of strong assessment practices across sectors, including defense, marketing, public relations, and academia, distilling and synthesizing insights and advice for the assessment of DoD IIP efforts and programs. These insights and attendant best practices will be useful to personnel who plan and assess DoD IPP efforts and those who make decisions based on assessments, particularly those in DoD and Congress who are responsible for setting national defense priorities and allocating the necessary resources."
Assessing and Evaluating Department of Defense Efforts to Inform, Influence, and Persuade
RAND Corporation, April 17, 2015

Desk Reference 

Annotated Reading List

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Social Media and Afghanistan

"Social media is another component of unconventional strategies, and the security environment in general, that is playing a central role in recruiting individuals to causes. We must therefore develop our ability to interact with key influencers through this medium, or else risk blinding ourselves to this important conduit of information and influence in unfolding crises. We all must view this space as routine operational area; it is redefining how humans interact. Our success in leveraging these tools will be determined by how well we cultivate the networks in which we participate; it is important to note that these are not 'our' networks - the very nature of these relationship tools is decentralized and participatory, rather than centrally controlled. We require new thinking on this subject". Statement of General Joseph Votel, USSOCOM Commander, before the House Armed Services Committee, March 18, 2015.
By now everyone who studies or works within the conflict area in today's world should be aware of the growth of importance of social media. Some of our opponents have proved very adept at the use of social media to recruit fighters and supporters for their cause and to influence the conversation about their movement. One obvious example is the Islamic State.

Unknown to many Americans is the fact that there are a few U.S. organizations that are actively engaged in a 'Twitter' fight with the Islamic State. The effectiveness of this fight is still to be determined. It is ". . . like most governmental campaigns, long on bureaucracy and short on details". Adam Weinstein has several recommendations for the U.S. government social media organizations. You can read them in "Here's How the US Should Fight ISIS with Social Media" (, March 12, 2015). Some of these recommendations could be of use in Afghanistan.

The U.S. Department of State's Center Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) is America's combatant in the social media area. The website for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications is Read a news report on the CSCC by Hayes Brown (Think Progress, September 18, 2014) - "Meet the State Department Team Trying to Troll ISIS into Oblivion".

Social media is also important in a counterinsurgency fight - like the one taking place in Afghanistan. Many observers see the Afghan counterinsurgency effort focused on three areas; security, governance, and development. Some COIN adherents would add a fourth - information operations, inform and influence activities, or social media - pick your favorite phrase.

In the past ISAF has had a dismal record in the information operations field and ISAF was clearly outclassed by the Taliban. The Taliban could post a video of a roadside IED attack against a Coalition convoy on social media within an hour of the incident. ISAF would comment on it one or two days later. For the most part the Taliban smoked ISAF in the IO fight; although ISAF did have some bright moments and effective practices (use of the RIAB for instance). ISAF would tell you there are an abundance of TVs, radio stations, and print media where the Afghan government's message is being carried. But the reach of those media outlets is limited mostly to urban areas; where households have radios, TVs, and are sometimes literate. In the rural areas, the contested areas where the COIN fight takes place, a 'night letter' tacked on a villagers front door by insurgents has much greater effect.

Resolute Support HQs (replacing ISAF) is continuing the IO effort; with some success stories. They are doing a much better job at informing the public through its use of Facebook, Twitter and their website. At the same time RS HQs has reduced the frequency of 'cheerleader' news releases that discredited their message - something which plagued ISAF in the past with reduced credibility.

While the Coalition continues its efforts in this area of the conflict (IO and the use of social media) it is also working to improve the Afghan capability to conduct Strategic Communications through its advisors working in Essential Function 8 - STRATCOM. One good example of the Afghans conducting work in this field is the Afghan RMIC located in Mazar-e-Sharif (TAAC North's AO - the Europeans can take some credit for this). The RMIC has their own website (Bayanshamal) up and running supporting the Afghan governments message. The RMIC is something the other TAACs should check out. It is worth the visit to Camp Marmal to see what right looks like when it comes to Afghan IO. And you can always sneak into one of the many discreet pubs for a beer or two! The Rose Garden (all allowed except U.S.) or GPPT pub (invitation only) comes to mind.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Paper - "IO and Human Domain"

The Center for Irregular Warfare and Armed Groups of the United States Naval War College in Newport, Rhodes Island has published a new paper on "Influence Operations and the Human Domain" by Thomas M. Scanzillo and Edward M. Lopaceinski. The authors use the example of the Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines (JSOTF-P) as a way of showing how Influence Operations can be used in an irregular warfare situation.

Influence Operations and the Human Domain

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.