Archive for September 2009
Last week, the Etemad-e-Mobin consortium purchased a 50 percent plus one share of the Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI). Etemad-e-Mobin is composed of three companies, two of which are reportedly owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
This telecoms purchase adds to the already robust economic and social power of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Seemingly, the purchase also increases the government’s power to control future twitter revolutions.
- Free donuts in the lobby
- My job is to learn
- The occasional lunch with General Petraeus
What’s not so great about graduate school: Tuition (and its close cousin, debt)
Apparently, the German elections sparked an al Qaeda propoganda campaign because last week numerous videos and messages came from the group in a concerted effort to sway German public opinion. First there was Osama bin Laden’s message to Germany, warning the government there to pull out from Afghanistan before “the dust of war clears” and America abandons NATO’s mission.
Reportedly bin Laden continued:
“You are aware that oppression topples those who commit it and injustice has unhealthy consequences for the unjust, and that one of the greatest forms of injustice is to kill people without right, yet this is exactly what your governments and soldiers are committing under the umbrella of the NATO alliance in Afghanistan.”
This message coincides with statements by fun-loving Taliban threatening to bomb Oktoberfest.
Additionally, an al Qaeda cell in Germany appealed to the government to form an implicit mutual security agreement, which would require German troops to leave Afghanistan in return for safety from attacks at home.
Speaking for the group, Bekkay Harrach said:
“Allah commands us in Quran — al Anfal Surah, Verse 60 — to prepare what is possible of power against our enemy. But, if the enemy is responsive and found a peaceful solution by which to protect human souls, then Allah commands us to be kind and forgiving.”
“If the Germans took the side of peace now, the mujahideen will also take peaceful means, and with the withdrawal of the last German soldier from Afghanistan, the mujahid in Germany will be pulled out. This is a promise from al-Qaeda.”
These statements follow recent Zawahiri messages to Pakistan, eulogizing Baitullah Mehsud and calling Pakistan’s army a bunch of “non-Muslim” “collaborators” plundering the country of its wealth. Then calling President Obama a “fraud” to the Muslim world.
The NATO – U.S. strategic communications process has adopted the mantra “first with the truth” implying that no message would be filtered and the ongoing operations will now be depicted to the public as they are. Here the basic rational is honesty is the best policy. Now, it is said that terrorists and rebel groups rely on “propoganda of the deed,” but these messages seem more like a bad adaption to NATO-U.S. principles, in what could be called “first with the threat.”
Reading from loose leaf paper, Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi calls for reform at the UN. His suggestion: make the UN Security Council subordinate to the UN General Assembly. His likelihood of success: zero.
Let’s recall Rupert Smith’s paradigmatic shift from traditional/industrial war to “war amongst the people” to General Stanley McChrystal’s just released initial assessment of the situation in Afghanistan. In his brief, Gen. McChrystal does not shy away from the role media plays in the conflict against Afghanistan’s insurgencies. (Likewise, Smith makes explicit his thoughts on planning for media before undertaking war, and then using the media to shape perceptions of the battlefield.)
Here is a brief summary of what McChrystal said about media:
Appendix D of the report covers the use of media and strategic communications (StratCom). According to McChrystal, “[t]he information domain is a battlespace, and it is one in which ISAF must take aggressive actions to win the important battle of perception.” This explicit media manipulation may dishearten some but is likely critical for any chance of success to occur within an operating environment like Afghanistan. With that being said, the disadvantages ISAF has regarding message delivery are still exceptionally high.
As the report notes, “[t]he use of traditional communications to disseminate messages must be better exploited using both modern technology and more orthodox methods such as word of mouth. These messages should be delivered by authoritative figures within the AFG [Afghan] community, both rural and urban, so that they are credible. This will include religious leaders, maliks, and tribal elders.” But this task may be more difficult then it seems, considering the lack of legitimacy afforded to the Afghan government and the strength of the insurgents message of defiance to foreign occupiers. Add to this, ISAF’s deficient ability to speak local languages and dialects.
McChrystal’s stated StratCom objectives include efforts to discredit and diminish insurgents’ capability to “influence attitudes and behaviour (sic)” of the Afghan population. Additionally, McChrystal would like to advance security and stability by developing a “sense of ownership” between the Afghan government and its populace. But before this occurs, McChrystal notes that the operational culture of ISAF must reflect “unity of command” and “unity of effort” from the international community. These are all tasks which are easier said than done.
In this increasingly controversial war, presumably General McChrystal is cognizant of the limitations that strategic media has on world opinion. While he states that “coherent and rapid messaging” are necessary to promote the “single ISAF ‘brand’ to multiple internal and external stakeholders,” he must also be weary of feigning opinion if operational difficulties are underplayed or misrepresented.
My opinion is that McChrystal’s use of StratCom suffers from increasingly diminishing returns if it is used to propogate a message that is losing traction amongst its intended audience. Although to his credit, McChrystal’s assessment is bluntly honest in its request for resources and statements about needing to revise “operational, tactical and strategic guidance.”
Significant portions of this blog post were re-posted at Fletcher Reflections (albiet with a different title).
Really, this is a great post over at Fletcher Reflections about the recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting on Afghanistan. It starts like this:
Last week, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations met to discuss the war in Afghanistan. Two hearings titled Exploring Three Strategies for Afghanistan and Countering the Threat of Failure in Afghanistan were intended to address how America should proceed in Afghanistan. Presiding over the hearings was Massachusetts Senator John Kerry who commented in his opening statements that the US lacked “realistic” goals in Afghanistan.
“I am concerned by where we are today in Afghanistan – about the rising number of casualties among our troops and those of our allies, about the deeply flawed presidential voting that took place, about the impunity with which drug traffickers operate, and about the rampant corruption undermining the faith of Afghans in their government and ours.”
Read more at Fletcher Reflections.
Comments made by Sen. John Kerry during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Afghanistan:
I am concerned because at the very moment when our troops and our allies’ troops are sacrificing more and more, our plan, our path, and our progress seem to be growing less and less clear. … no amount of money, no rise in troop levels, and no clever metrics will matter if the mission is ill conceived.
Now, if we can only get Congress to stop passing war supplemental appropriations.