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The Real Psychological Operation for Afghanistan



We must understand and undermine the real mechanisms that empower the enemy and take “aggressive actions to win the important battle of perception,” as General Stanley McChrystal wrote in his August assessment. US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke called it an information war. “We are losing that war… We can’t succeed, however you define success, if we cede to people who present themselves as false messengers of a prophet, which is what they do. We need to combat it.” Besides the challenges on the ground, the Taliban’s global propaganda campaign clearly works: according to the CIA the Taliban pulled in $100 million this year in outside donations.

A successful strategy in Afghanistan, and elsewhere, requires assistance directed “against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos” to “permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist” without which “there can be no political stability and no assured peace.” Success is not derived on the dollars spent or the contracts let but how whether locals feel self-empowered, hopeful, and secure. The true value of such a plan is “not so much in its direct economic effects, which are difficult to calculate with any degree of accuracy, as in its psychological political by-products.” Written sixty years ago by Secretary of State (and 5-star General of the US Army and later recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize) George C. Marshall and his policy advisor George Kennan, these statements are just as applicable to Afghanistan today.

The Marshall Plan was based on development requested by and owned by the people. There are signs such a bottom up approach would succeed in Afghanistan. The National Solidarity Program, a community driven development effort where Afghans contribute capital, labor, and materials, is not targeted by the Taliban because they know it would incur an unmanageable backlash. Instead of envisioning Afghanistan like post-war Germany, as many have, we should think of it more like post-war Europe considering Afghanistan is perhaps the most decentralized “country” on the planet.

by teru kuwayama at 2010-01-02 20:22:48 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

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teru kuwayama, I/O teru kuwayama
New York , United States


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