We’ve all heard a fair share of terrible ideas coming out of the Afghan war, but the extent of failed Information Operations (IO) — targeted military propaganda — is mind-boggling.
Tom Vanderbrooks of USA Today laid a few out in his recent report, titled plainly “Propaganda fails in Afghanistan,” based on a report he saw from the U.S. Army War College.
“Examples of failed efforts, according to the paper,” writes Vanderbrooks, “include a proposal to pay $US6,000 dowries to Afghan men to keep them off the battlefield — a scheme that could have cost $US4 billion.”
So the contractor who pitched this idea was hoping to play an expensive game of matchmaker with Afghanistan’s military-age males, erroneously concluding that their wives would keep them too busy to fight.
According to USA Today, the report concludes:
[These proposals] “represent merely the tip of the iceberg: over the years, huge amounts of money have been spent on IO programs that are largely anchored in advertising and marketing style communication with little concurrent investment, it would appear, in detailed understanding of audiences and environments.”
Ideas like these show the fundamental disconnect between Afghan tribal culture and Western culture when it comes to military planning. Afghanistan’s rural population, comprised of close-knit family and village units, are not likely to respond to “advertising and marketing style communication.”
Further, bribes shouldn’t be relied upon to sway extremist militant ideologues. (At least in Iraq, the USG was paying the “Sons of Iraq” to fight Al Qaeda on the battlefield, rather than to abstain from fighting altogether.)
Nowhere was that disconnect more present than when Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s “Government in a Box” idea flopped.
The premise was to sweep out the Taliban and show up with a western style government — governor, police, military — comprised of native Afghans ready to go in place.
“Honestly, I don’t even know what the (Afghan National Police) do in some of these areas,” one Marine embedded police trainer told me. “These people have never seen anything like a uniformed cop. They’re tribal, they rely on their elders to govern.”
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