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13 May 2009


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I once saw a WWII British dispatch rider's motorcycle (BSA) with a simple but effective anti-wire countermeasure in the form of a stout metal fin attached to the front fender extending over head height. The fin had saw-like teeth to prevent the wire from riding up and over the top and to assist in cutting the wire. Wires are out.

Cool bike. I wish I'd bought it.


Patrick Lang

"Dear Pat:

A couple of comments. I apologize for not correctly naming the Air Force Intelliigence, Surveillance Agency involved in the current operation. An up to date list of such agencies is available to Globalsecurity. org. Sheer hurry caused the error.

As to jamming, we of course jammed the Taliban and Al Queda communications during the war in 2001, and we also broadcast airborne messages to the population at that time. Everyone remembers the exploits of "Commander Solo," I'm sure. When U.S. assets were switched to Iraq in 2003, information warfare in Afghanistan ran aground.

In Afghanistan, the population is so poor that low wattage radios are the main means of media. Also, because of Islam, the public and the jihadi leaders are loath to use visuals, seeinig in them a form of impiety.

This leaves the radio. As early as 2002, the militants were beamiing FM broadcasts operated from mosques or madrases at the Afghan tribes to spread the appeal of their ideology, to raise funds, to recruit new nembers, and to vilify the culture, the aims, and strategy of the Unikted States and its allies. This means that the Taliban and al Queda had grasped with real brilliance that manipulation of the population was a key war aim where we had not. In 2002, there was a total of 30 or more illegal FM stations in operation and the number is growing.

The United States had no counter programming, no developed message that could be used to impose the will of the allies on the people. First of all, U.S. efforts lacked the funds, next it lacked enough linquists or cultural specialists who know the Aftghan tribal culture and how to appeal to it effectively. During the Cold War, the Voice of America, Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Europe, performed an essential function in stirring up the resolve, the inidignation and ideals of political dissidents in the Soviet system.

We will now, by means of jamming, try to disrupt their programminig, but to do that we need U.S. experts who can talk to the tribal people in terms they can grasp and in a manner with which they can sympathize. This means sending a message based on a meticulous grasp of the Afghan population. At the moment we entirely lack that capability, and since the allegience of the local population to the Karzai government is the most vital objective of the struggle, the inactivity in information warfare on the allied side seems to me to be incomprehensible. The rallying of opposition and the use of propganda to influence a poorly educated population has been mostly neglected, and to our own growing peril.

Regarding the Internet, the jihadies have used it effectively as a reruitment tool, a spreader of ideology, and a way to escape detection thanks to chat rooms, web sites, blogs and e-mails. Again, any effort on the part of the U.S. to uise this form of soft power has been extremely limited. Yet counterinsurgency involves political, economic, military and psychological aspects. We need to excel at all four.

Lastly, a target for U.S. broadcasts should be aimed that the Islamic world at large because that world is not radical, gross or brutal, nor does it want to be in the forefront of every backward movement as does the Taliban. There doesn't need to be spin but simple candor -- people, even simple people, know the truth when they hear it.

But the task is daunting. There are seven to eight major tribal leadques in Afghanistan and over 100 tribes which Gary Sick, President Carter's former Middle East advisor, toldl me was equivalent to trying to government 100 different countries. There has been such an emphasis on killing terrorists rather than attempting to convince them. In my view, this must change.

iWith greetings to all,

Richard Sale"

Cold War Zoomie


Thanks for the update. Now it makes sense why the information warfare ops are news again.

BTW - Good to hear the ESC reference was just a slipup - I thought your government sources mentioned ESC, resulting in the dreaded "credibility gap!"

Byron Raum

Grimgrim, if you have physical control of the router, and you know enough to be able to decide what to selectively jam, then I would argue that it is already in your best interests to not jam it. You already know enough to be able to trace the message, and you might soon know enough to be able to modify it.

I must confess, though, that until I read the last message from Richard Sale to the Colonel, I was very confused by what this was all about; from the earlier discussion, it was rather like saying that our troops were now being issued guns, which is both factually true, and meaningless.

I also don't think the real issue is that we speak in a manner that the tribes can understand and sympathize with. The barrier is one step back. The real problem is going to be talking to them in a manner that they consider to be credible. Once we can convince them of our honesty, we can try to convince them to be sympathetic.


Cold War Zoomie

When has propaganda ever worked...when it is disseminated from the top down...Seems to me that simply respecting another culture offers another approach, which suggests working from the ground up, e.g. sitting with tribal leaders, drinking tea and listening.

Let's do both, from every angle. Field teams drink tea during the day to lay the groundwork for the broadcasts at night.

Babak Makkinejad

US cannot win the information war - it was lost 7 years ago.

She could at least try to avoid things like this:


Cold War Zoomie

Yes, I'm slow on the uptake. A tiny thought finally popped into my little brain.

Special operations airborne jamming while Pakistan is fighting the Taliban not too far from the Afghanistan border?

Gee, if I were a US commander in Afghanistan, and the Taliban was trying to make a stand a few miles over the Afghanistan border in the Swat valley, and Pakistan was hitting them from the far side, I might want to assist Pakistan without having to cross any borders.

Loitering just over the border with EW aircraft and maybe even an AC-130, plus setting up some ground forces along the border, might be a good idea.

Maybe we're the anvil and Pakistan is the hammer?

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