U.S. Military's Efforts to Influence Afghan Population Have Grown Less Effective Over Time
Apr 30, 2012
The U.S. Marine Corps, which has long recognized the importance of influencing the civilian population in a counterinsurgency environment, requested an evaluation of the effectiveness of the psychological operations element of U.S. military information operations in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2010 based on how well messages and themes were tailored to target audiences. This monograph responds to that request.
Effectiveness of Psychological Operations 2001-2010
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The U.S. Marine Corps, which has long recognized the importance of influencing the civilian population in a counterinsurgency environment, requested an evaluation of the effectiveness of the psychological operations (PSYOP) element of U.S. military information operations in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2010 based on how well messages and themes were tailored to target audiences. This monograph responds to that request. It summarizes the diverse PSYOP initiatives undertaken, evaluates their effectiveness, identifies strengths and weaknesses, and describes the way forward, including making certain specific recommendations for improvements. Special attention is paid to how well PSYOP initiatives were tailored to target audiences, primarily the Pashtuns who are the dominant population in the conflictive areas and the main support of the Taliban insurgency. It contains reports of specific operations that were successful in achieving objectives, as well as examples of operations that did not resonate with target audiences and even some that had counterproductive effects. The biggest PSYOP successes were in face-to-face communication and the emphasis on meetings with jirgas (local councils of elders), key-leader engagements, and establishing individual relationships with members of the Afghan media. In addition, the concept of every infantryman as a PSYOP officer proved very effective. The most notable shortcoming was the inability to sufficiently counter the Taliban propaganda campaign against U.S. and coalition forces on the theme of civilian casualties, both domestically and internationally.
Introduction: Definition and Objectives of Psychological Operations in Afghanistan
Methodology for Assessing the Effectiveness of U.S. Military Psychological Operations
Main Themes and Messages and Their Effectiveness
A Review of the Means of Dissemination in Psychological Operations
Effectiveness in Countering Taliban Propaganda
Organizational Problems Affecting Information Operations and Psychological Operations
New Initiatives Being Implemented to Improve Psychological Operations
Recommendations for Improving the Effectiveness of Psychological Operations
Plan for Campaign Against Improvised Explosive Devices
Campaign Plan to Support the 2004 Afghan Presidential Elections
The research described in this report was prepared for the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity. The research was conducted within the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.
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