PMESII Analysis Afghanistan June 2010 Information & Infrastructure Analysis
There is no consistent or dependable mass communication system in Afghanistan and much news travels by word of mouth. The credence given to the information is often based the relationship that people have with the speaker. The language barrier makes it more difficult for Americans to establish relationships with the civilian population while the Taliban don’t have this obstacle. They are also using multimedia platforms to send their message across borders and the internet to traverse the language barrier to reach English speakers.
Perceptions vary drastically depending on who’s looking at what. The Taliban have seen the removal of McChrystal as evidence that they are winning and ruled out any negotiations with the US and NATO or even to President Karzai until the foreigners withdraw from Afghanistan. Historically psychological and information operations have been very significant to people without a solid nationwide mass communication infrastructure. The key to the Taliban's remarkable success in capturing Kabul from the more moderate Mujihadeen leadership in 1996 was their ability to convince dozens of uncommitted warlords that they were bound to win.
Many of these warlords were not Pashtun, and often were not extreme Muslims. They joined the Taliban simply to be on the winning side. The Taliban learned from this and if they can convince people that they are beating the British and Americans, more and more local warlords will join their cause. The attack on NATO’s Jalalabad airbase exhibits well coordinated planning and preparation on the Taliban’s part while ISAF views it as a success for CF since the perimeter wasn’t breached and only insurgents died while only two CF troops sustained minor injuries. To ISAF, this demonstrates that they are better able to protect their own area. With an unclear definition of victory, when America decides to pull out, it may be perceived as a retreat and played up as a Taliban victory whereas in Iraq, the Americans leaving was perceived as the conclusion of a mission accomplished. Petraeus has stated that the current situation is a “contest of wills.” Recognizing the challenges that we face, he went on to say, "…we must demonstrate to the people and to the Taliban that Afghan and international forces are here to safeguard the Afghan people, and that we are in this to win…That is our clear objective."
Due to the lack of mass communication infrastructure and, the Taliban are able to conduct strong propaganda campaigns uncontested by even by radio or television broadcasts due to lack of a stable electrical infrastructure combined with poverty levels low enough that if there were electricity, people outside of major population centers would not be able to afford TV or radios. One such example of Taliban propaganda occurred in Nuristan and Kunar. The US outposts in these provinces provided the Taliban with ammunition for their own Psychological Operations targeting the Afghan people—it should be noted that much Taliban propaganda has made its way to such websites as YouTube.com with English translation, contributing to PsyOps targeting Americans who in turn exert pressure on politicians and government officials to leave Afghanistan. Taliban showed video of their assault on the bases followed by footage of them occupying the same bases and brandishing American weapons and ammunition that had been abandoned. These outposts had been created in 2006 with the intention of providing better control of the border. These propaganda videos have the added benefit of not only presenting the impression that the US can be beaten, but also that they are unable to control the border and keep the Taliban out of Afghanistan. The US forces were diverted to Kandahar when the Taliban started conducting more complex attacks.
Perception management will be key. Convincing the locals that coalition forces really can win and that it will be in their best interest for that to happen will go a long way towards having them recognize Karzai’s government as legitimate and effective. The Afghans need to be convinced that they won’t be left helpless when America withdraws. They know that historically no one has ever held Afghanistan and that eventually the coalition will leave. It is imperative that they believe the government left in place will become and remain effective and maintain stability.
General Petraeus will have to match his words with deeds in order to send a clear message that America is committed to preventing Afghanistan from again becoming a haven for Al Qaeda and its terrorist allies. He will also have to convey the message (whether it’s true or not) that regardless of the deadline, US forces will not withdraw until victory is achieved.
Funding is being cut to Afghanistan in response to concerns of corruption and the concern is that Afghanistan will not be able to fully establish a solid infrastructure before the troop surge ends, making Karzai’s regime susceptible to being toppled when it has to stand on its own.
US lawmakers have recently decided to cut almost $4 billion in aid to the Afghan government in the wake of corruption allegations. However, critics are concerned that cutting funds would hinder establishing a solid infrastructure before the US plans to withdraw. Republican Lawmaker cited the example of the electrical system in Kandahar which would help win over the residents. With corruption, it’s likely that only a portion of the funds dedicated to infrastructure development would actually be used for its intended purpose.
If the Karzai is not firmly in power and the afghan government standing on its own feet when the America pulls out, it will leave a power vacuum that can be readily filled by the Taliban completely undoing any progress that has been achieved since 9/11. While the infrastructure is important, the area must first be secured, in the case of Kandahar, if an electrical plant were built now, it would likely be attacked and destroyed by the Taliban as they have established a pattern of attacking anything that supports the government or NATO. There is an offensive operation that has been postponed until September. Once the insurgents are routed out and the area is stabilized, things can move forward.
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