War on Terrorism

The cowardly and unprovoked terrorist attack on American soil on September 11th, 2001, left thousands dead at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as well as hundreds on the 4 hijacked passenger planes which were turned into weapons of destruction . The United States was left with only one response... a declaration of war on terrorism, and specifically against Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization, Al- Qaeda.

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World Trade Center

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 The declaration of war on terrorism was not a rash act based on just the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  But rather a statement that enough is enough and that we will not stand idly by while terrorists around the world take innocent lives. As for Osama  bin Laden, the September 11 attacks were not his first acts of aggression against the United States of America.   He has been linked to the June 6, 1996 truck bomb at Khobar Towers, a US military barracks in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 American military personnel and injured 500 more,   the two bombings of August 7th, 1998, which exploded minutes apart at the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing more than 224 people and wounding an additional 4,500 and the October 12, 2000 bombing attack on the Navy's USS Cole, while it was refueling in port at Aden, Yemen.         

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Khobar Towers

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Dar es Salaam

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USS Cole

 Osama bin Laden has been living in Afghanistan where he supervises numerous terrorist training camps. The United States tried through diplomatic channels to have Osama bin Laden turned over for trial so that he is made to answer for his numerous crimes against humanity, only to be refused by the ruling Taliban government in Afghanistan. The United States then made it clear to the Taliban that if they continued to shelter Osama bin Laden and the terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda, that action would also be taken against them as the United States and the world will no longer stand idly by and let terrorist threaten the peace in the world.

A War of Information and Bombs

On October 7th, 2001, after negotiations failed, and after waiting nearly a month, the United States responded to the Taliban's sheltering of  Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network by bombing known terrorist and Taliban military positions. In addition to the air war, the United States is engaged in a psychological war to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and to persuade the members of the Taliban to change their position on sheltering Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network. 

ec130desert.jpg (20526 bytes)On October 8th, Commando Solo EC-130 aircraft of the 193rd Special Operations Wing (SOW) began radio broadcasts into Afghanistan. The scripts for these broadcasts were prepared by the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne)  to explain to the Afghan people that our grievance is neither with them nor the nation of Islam, but rather it is with those who would promote and support terrorism.

The role of psychological operations during this war on terrorism is going to be absolutely critical. It is at the same time going to be a difficult mission given these factors:

afghanradio.jpg (24648 bytes)Radios are widely available in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has suppressed television, the Internet and other modern sources of information. A survey two years ago found that 80 percent of Afghan males hear a VOA broadcast at least once a week and 67 percent listen daily; there also is a strong following for daily news broadcasts by the British Broadcasting Co

By knocking out the Taliban's radio capability and then broadcasting our own messages prepared by the 4th Psychological Operations Group, Fort Bragg, NC using the 193rd Special operations Wing's Commando Solo aircraft, The Unites States and the Coalition Forces now have a means to be heard by the Afghan people. Our struggle now will be establishing and maintain our credibility. We can accomplish this through leaflet drops and radio broadcasts telling the Afghan people the truth about Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, and let them judge for themselves.

The outcomes that PSYOP must achieve:

Make it  clear to the Taliban leaders and their supporters that harboring terrorists is unacceptable and carries a price.

Develop relationships with groups in Afghanistan that oppose the Taliban regime and the foreign terrorists that they support.

Make it increasingly difficult for the terrorists to use Afghanistan freely as a base of operation.

To do this we must:

Alter the military balance over time by denying to the Taliban the offensive systems that hamper the progress of the various opposition forces.

Encourage the population to stay clear of likely military targets through leaflets and radio broadcasts

Provide humanitarian relief to Afghans suffering truly oppressive living conditions under the Taliban regime.

Underscore that our grievance is with Osama, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban and not Afghanistan or Islam.

Now in order to conduct an effective psychological operations (PSYOP) Campaign, you must learn and understand everything there is to know about your target audience.  Given that principle, below is some background information on Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Understanding Islam

It  is important that we understand that many of the teachings and beliefs of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda are not the beliefs and principles taught in the Holy Quran (Koran) of Islam. For example:

Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda

osama.jpg (9151 bytes)During the 1980s, resistance fighters in Afghanistan developed a world-wide recruitment and support network with the aid of the USA, Saudi Arabia and other states. After the 1989 Soviet withdrawal, this network, which equipped, trained and funded thousands of Muslim fighters, came under the control of Osama bin Laden. This network was named Al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda ('The Base') is a conglomerate of groups spread throughout the world operating as a network. It has a global reach, with a presence in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Jordan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Xinjiang in China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Mindanao in the Philippines, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Dagestan, Kashmir, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Azerbaijan, Eritrea, Uganda, Ethiopia, and in the West Bank and Gaza.

Since its creation in 1988, Osama bin Laden has controlled Al-Qaeda. As such, he is both the backbone and the principal driving force behind the network.  Al-Qaeda is organized with Bin Laden, the emir-general, at the top, followed by other Al-Qaeda leaders and leaders of the constituent groups. Horizontally, it is integrated with 24 constituent groups. The vertical integration is formal, the horizontal integration, informal. Immediately below Bin Laden is the Shura majlis, a consultative council. Four committees - military, religion-legal, finance, and media - report to the majlis. Handpicked members of these committees - especially the military committee - conduct special assignments for Bin Laden and his operational commanders. To preserve operational effectiveness at all levels, compartmentalization and secrecy are paramount.

During bin Laden’s latest media extravaganza, broadcast by the Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite television station on 7 October, he reviewed the list of his enemies, all designated as “the heretics and the infidels.” They are, naturally, the enemies of God himself, bin Laden’s God; and bin Laden is speaking and acting on his God’s behalf.

Bin Laden, like some of his psychopathic predecessors in history, justified his responsibility for cold-blooded murder. The slaughter of men, women, and children in Kenya, Tanzania, and the United States, along with the atrocities committed by his associates in Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan, and India were merely acts of retaliation for the actions of the U.S.A. and its proxy, Israel. “Millions of children [are] being murdered as I speak to you now in Iraq,” he claims, while “Israeli tanks are doing bad things in Palestinian cities.”

Bin Laden typically selects a few historical incidents, takes them out of their context and twists their significance, and uses them as a rational and moral pretext for his terrorist crimes. Like many culprits before him, bin Laden loves to use the supposed suffering and death of children as a trigger for moral outrage – an unholy misuse of a symbol of innocence for goals that are anything but innocent. Clearly, children – much less women – do not truly interest bin Laden or his associates. When asked about the innocent victims, women and children alike, who were killed as a result of their terror attacks, bin Laden and his cohorts explicitly stated that “Allah will take care of them” and that “there are no innocents in this battle.” Bin Laden has shown this same indifference to his own victims’ innocence even when they were Muslin women and children.

As to his enemies, the first and the most hated among them is America, the epitome of “heresy and hypocrisy.” The second is “The Sultanates” – that is, the Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, et al. The next are the “Corrupted Islamic States” like Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia. Syria, Iraq, and even Libya – states with regimes that are not at all Islamic in their orientation – are spared for the time being because of their anti-Western political stance.

Bin Laden’s ideology as expressed in this video is consistent with his former writings and declarations, and is based on his perception of a simple and massive struggle between good and evil. Bin Laden describes the attacks on the U.S. as part of an inevitable clash between two parts of mankind: “the part of Belief without Hypocrisy versus “the part of the heresy.” He openly exposes the superficiality of his moral viewpoint – his side of the conflict is entirely righteous, and his adversaries are entirely corrupt.

In the video, bin Laden spells out his primary goal in initiating the outrageous September attack on the United States. The attack was meant to trigger a chain of events which would inevitably escalate to an all-out confrontation between “Islam of the true believers” and “the camp of the heretics”. Bin Laden hopes to force all Muslims in every corner of the world to choose sides; he believes that most Muslims will ultimately come to support his struggle.

But the great majority of the Muslims seem to know better. They may have reservations about Western culture, and occasionally they overtly reject its norms; but they do not believe that Islam justifies mass killings and indiscriminate terrorism. Therefore, in spite of the mass pro-bin-Laden demonstrations in Arab and Asian countries – demonstrations that represent a small minority among populations of many millions in countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia – the silent majority understands that nothing the West has done justifies bin Laden’s crimes.

The Taliban  

Name Means: Students

Founded: 1994

Rose to power: 1996

Leadership: Mullah Mohammed Omar, the reclusive leader, is supported by a circle of eight to 10 colleagues. Veterans of the war against the Soviets fill their fighting ranks. Rules are enforced by the Ministry of Virtue and Vice, a religious police force.

Agenda: The Taliban seeks to establish a radical Sunni Islamic regime throughout Afghanistan.

History: The group was formed in 1994, promising peace to the war-ravaged land of 21 million and rebelling against Islamic factions whose conflicts had killed 50,000 people. Many Taliban followers attended conservative Muslim schools in Pakistan as refugees during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. On Sept. 27, 1996, the Taliban movement displaced the ruling members of the Afghan government. Taliban now controls 95 percent of the country. Although Taliban is the self-proclaimed government of Afghanistan, neither the United Nations nor the Organization of the Islamic Conference has recognized them as such. Only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have granted it full diplomatic recognition.

Ideologies:  The Taliban rules are meticulously enforced by religious police patrols from the omnipresent Ministry of Virtue and Vice. The "virtue" squads coordinate Islamic education, while "vice" squads stamp out forbidden evils and enforce the movement's conception of "pure" Islam. In January 2001, Omar decreed that anyone who converts from Islam to another religion will be killed. The next month, he ordered demolition of two monumental mountain carvings of the Buddha on grounds that they violated Islam's ban on idol worship. The only allowable music for Muslims is religious song, unaccompanied by instruments. Television, movies and videos are banned. So is kite-flying, seen as a distraction from a life of prayer. The Taliban espouse a harsh brand of Islam that bars women from working, girls from attending school, forces women to wear the all-encompassing burqa, which covers them from head to toe, and requires them to travel with a male relative. Men are forced to grow beards, pray at mosques and cannot wear short pants. Hindus must wear identification patches so that the religious police will not force them to follow Islamic rules. But so far, the Taliban are not enforcing the order. Eight western aid workers have been imprisoned for allegedly preaching their Christian faith. Other Taliban rules follow fundamentalist Islamic or Pashtun traditions that most believers do not see as faith requirements. The Muslim world has largely spurned the Taliban.