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“Administration to begin jamming Taliban frequencies” Richard Sale
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Why haven’t they jammed their frequencies back in 2001? Surely the technology is decades old?
Not just jamming but “the U.S. will also begin its own propaganda broadcasts.”
“The Obama administration plans to launch an information warfare program that will disrupt Taliban command and control, and counter Taliban propaganda broadcasts, according to U.S. officials.”
What could this be? Voice of America/Radio Marti or some jazzed up version of Megaphone software.
From Wikipedia: Megaphone: The tool delivers real-time alerts about key articles, videos, blogs, and surveys related to Israel or the Arab-Israeli conflict, especially those perceived by GIYUS to be highly critical of Israel, so that users can vote or add comments expressing their support of Israel. The tool was released in July during the 2006 Lebanon War. An RSS newsfeed is available so that non-Windows users may also receive the Megaphone “action alerts.”
A few key items: “During the Kosovo war… to insert false messages and targets…” and “Much of the effort will act to aid Special Forces and NATO troops, they said… In addition, the jamming operation will aim at suppressing Taliban chat rooms or other websites that broadcast propaganda” and “The United States will also begin its own propaganda broadcasts against the Taliban in Dari and Pashtu, Afghanistan’s major languages. Such broadcasts were used during the 2001 war, U.S. officials said.”
So it took 8 years to decide to do the first, and for the last eight we have not done the latter?
As a US citizen I can find scant news stories reporting the accuratcy of reports that the Afghan government can’t provide services outside, or perhaps even inside, Kabul, and we are going to control the information battlefield, yet I can find plenty on poor Miss California. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,519873,00.html
I must be in the wrong business. However, I’m sure we can look forward to a crushing defeat of the Taliban’s technological capabilities. At least we’ll be safe in knowing that none of the Dari or Pashtu speakers are gay! http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=7568742&page=1
While I certainly agree with some of this, like jamming/replacing pro Taliban FM radio signals with our own; this also sounds like an effort to control the information battlfield inside the beltway to secure funding for new electronics platforms.
13 May 2009
I must confess to being a complete novice at warfare, of any type (real or electronic) for I am at heart a lover, not a fighter. But I would like to make a few brief comments regarding the above referenced piece by Mr. Sales.
As impressive as this aircraft and personel are (working as part of a complex and sophisticated weapons/intelligence system), I am surprised that this equipment has not been used far more frequently in the past. Living in the modern age, such as it is, requires a certain amount of monies be spent on these sorts of things, and I have no doubt that their use can be helpful tactically.
But it would appear that many of the countermeasures the Taliban could employ would be cheap and effective. They could use messengers on motorcycles, for example, to communicate between commands. It would be cumbersome and time consuming, but it would be hard to stop. I imagine the Taliban could construct some kind of hardwired, reinforced telephone system, which might provide some degree of security, though my knowledge of this sort of thing, as I mentioned earlier, is nonexistent.
The ability to intercept and interfere with the enemy’s ability to securely communicate is an important and vital mission. But from what I have come to learn about Pakistan and Afghanistan from reading this blog obsessively every day for the past few years, it seems to me that to defeat the Taliban is going to require a lot more than several billion dollars of aircraft beaming in Dari versions of “American Idol.” They have lived their lives in a country that has been at war, in one shape or another, since 1979. Many of these same folks fought the Soviet Union, and we all know how that went down.
THey can jam neither pigeons nor runners nor the Internet.
This reminds me of a person that runs to the doc for antibiotics every time they feel a little off their game. Eventually all those trips to the doc materialize into a bacterium immune to treatment. I would imagine every would be revolutionary, terrorist, or crime syndicate is paying close attention to the open display of yet another expensive high tech weapon being deployed, while anxiously awaiting the inevitable cheap low tech counter to it. At some point you’d think that the degree of overkill in a given activity becomes proportional to the likely hood of failure in the activity.
And, as in this case of the “information battlefield” stuff mentioned above, you have to add – for what exactly? Or did someone discover a new rosetta stone that could be broadcast and change tens of thousands of years of culture and tradition into a sudden lust for modernity? Doubtful.
The internet (or rather the subset of it being used by your opponents) is remarkably easy to jam.
Not to mention the fact that the physical infrastructure of the internet is often very vulnerable.
There can’t be too many cables in and out of Afghanistan.
As for couriers I understand a Jamming technique for motorcycle couriers has been developed involving a piece of wire at neck hight strung across a road. It may be possible to generalize that technique to other methods.
If your capabilities were so advanced how come we have never arrested the couriers who deposit the OBL tapes!
Some U.S. sources intimated that a top secret Air Force element, the Electronic Security Command, which reports directly to the NSA, would be involved in the new program. It will work with the over 30 NSA ground stations around the world.
Somebody’s way out of the loop here. ESC became Air Intelligence Command, and then Air Intelligence Agency, and now the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency. ESC was my command way back in the dark ages (1980s).
As others have noted, I’d be very, very surprised we haven’t already been doing this from day one. So why are we talking about it now?
No, this won’t stop carrier pigeons and runners. That job is for Col Lang’s crew. This is one tool among many.
To follow up about this tool not being the end-all, be-all.
What’s the alternative for a commander in the field? Not to use it? To let the Taliban do whatever they want since we can’t stop carrier pigeons with it?
This isn’t rocket science. The gear and its crew of operators are already paid for. It works against particular targets. It chips away at the Taliban’s ability to *easily* communicate. Once the Taliban is forced to less efficient methods, we pick up those techniques as well and shut them down.
We’re running a joint operation over there. The idea is to integrate as many tools as possible.
“As for couriers I understand a Jamming technique for motorcycle couriers has been developed involving a piece of wire at neck hight strung across a road. It may be possible to generalize that technique to other methods.”
Unfortunately it has a tendency to kill innocent motorcycle drivers, many of whom have relatives. There is no faster way to lose the heart and mind of people than to kill their relatives.
Why not monitor instead of jam? Monitor and then plan accordingly. Jam only in a limited sense during specific US military operations in particular locales. (like the IDF during the attack on the Liberty?)
If anything, why not send out word via the people and throughout the villages (meaning not some official announcement) that the USM is having a hard time breaking into Taliban frequencies.
Seems to me an argument can be made that reliance on technology is destroying a great source of information.
Cutting of Internet access cannot be selective – it will hit friends and foes alike.
This is terrible news. A guerilla war should be an intelligence war: if you know the frequencies they are using, you have a chance to listen in and gain a HUGE amount of information. For some reason, that must no longer be effective. If we jam the frequencies, they’ll just communicate by other means that we can’t block. So, in an Intelligence War, we are trading away a massive intelligence advantage for a small, tactic, battlefield advantage (lag time in their communication). This is a sign that things are going worse than expected.
This reads like a sales brochure from an e-warefare trade show. Who is the intended target of such a release and to what purpose?
This is terrible news. A guerilla war should be an intelligence war: if you know the frequencies they are using, you have a chance to listen in and gain a HUGE amount of information.
We can do both, and I can’t imagine we are not.
I have seen tons of SIGINT employment positions for Afghanistan over the last 4-5 years, and tinkered with the idea of going over there (SWMBO wasn’t real keen and shut down that idea in milliseconds!).
As an example:
RC-135s have maintained a constant presence in Southwest Asia since the early 1990s.
Integrated systems is what we’re talking about, not one aircraft out there doing one mission in a vacuum.
That’s simply not true. While just cutting the cable will take the internet down for everyone, if you have physical control of the routers you can be fairly selective about what you block or do not block.
Or if you don’t physically control the network, you can set up your own network that you do control and kill the other ones.
Censorship of the internet seems ineffective because most censoring bodies simply aren’t willing to put the resources in needed to fully lock things down.
Aha! Finally the AF-PAK version of the highly effective (joke) electronic fence between N. and S. Viet Nam. I love the post since it contains much of interest but do wonder why now and not before?
The russians and Iranian are so perking up at this very moment.
This size of electronic operation so close near their border won’t go unanswered.
I got the feeling, the reason the Russian force Kyrgistan to drop the air base deal is because the Russian notice something that is threatening them. (most probably electronic signature related to missile defense. Or the fact that all US air base are equipped with MD.)
– Why is this obvious steps didn’t happen earlier on? (8 years?)
– Why not use cheaper ground base jammer plus erect simple local radio station instead of flying C-130? Is not like the taliban has huge high tech radios.
my point: what happen if the funding for flying the C130 is over? (that’s right. taliban simply switch their radio back on. Contrast to simple ground jammer against urban area broadcast that the afghanis can operate themselves.)
Rolex solution when Timex is good enough.
even simpler question:
1. how come Karzai ro pentagon does not create “pseudo religious mass organization”? (youth of Afghanistan, student movement, Women of afghanistan… or whatever?)
2. How come there is no cheap publishing house that afghanistan government can start circulating reading material? (newspaper, books, manual, etc) This is the cheapest form of media control.
(lemme guess, they gonna fly the books from Japan or Kansas using military contract that will cost 10000000000 times more)
If we jam the frequencies, they’ll just communicate by other means that we can’t block. So, in an Intelligence War, we are trading away a massive intelligence advantage for a small, tactic, battlefield advantage (lag time in their communication). This is a sign that things are going worse than expected.
Posted by: Bill | 14 May 2009 at 10:20 AM
There is no other means in afghanistan except radio. Afghanistan has no infrastructure. That taliban will have to use smoke signal to communicate with each other across the mountain. (unless they want to lay fiber optic between their camp.)
Using steganographic techniques one can hides one’s message.
How could you determine what you need to block?
I can’t vouch for the accuracy, and there are a lot if systems missing from the list, but have fun reading:
Systems and Systems and More Systems
2. How come there is no cheap publishing house that afghanistan government can start circulating reading material? (newspaper, books, manual, etc) This is the cheapest form of media control.
I may be wrong here, but I believe 20+ years of civil war have left Afghanistan with one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world (according to USAID, 11 million Afghans over the age of 15 are illiterate), so I don’t think that is going t o be very effective.
Thanks for increasing the font size on your posts.
“The United States will also begin its own propaganda broadcasts…”
Another civilian question.
When has propaganda ever worked, particularly in Afghanistan and especially when it is disseminated from the top down and, apparently, through high tech means from 20 thousand feet?
Seems to me that simply respecting another culture offers another approach, which suggests working from the ground up, e.g. sitting with tribal leaders, drinking tea and listening.
Imo, respect another culture and sooner or later some of its members will communicate certain messages, both consciously and unconsciously. In other words, work through the culture and allow it to change organically, if at all, instead of attempting to impose foreign values which, in all likelihood, will come across as unnatural to those who are a part of that land.
I once saw a WWII British dispatch rider’s motorcycle (BSA) with a simple but effective anti-wire countermeasure in the form of a stout metal fin attached to the front fender extending over head height. The fin had saw-like teeth to prevent the wire from riding up and over the top and to assist in cutting the wire. Wires are out.
Cool bike. I wish I’d bought it.
A couple of comments. I apologize for not correctly naming the Air Force Intelliigence, Surveillance Agency involved in the current operation. An up to date list of such agencies is available to Globalsecurity. org. Sheer hurry caused the error.
As to jamming, we of course jammed the Taliban and Al Queda communications during the war in 2001, and we also broadcast airborne messages to the population at that time. Everyone remembers the exploits of “Commander Solo,” I’m sure. When U.S. assets were switched to Iraq in 2003, information warfare in Afghanistan ran aground.
In Afghanistan, the population is so poor that low wattage radios are the main means of media. Also, because of Islam, the public and the jihadi leaders are loath to use visuals, seeinig in them a form of impiety.
This leaves the radio. As early as 2002, the militants were beamiing FM broadcasts operated from mosques or madrases at the Afghan tribes to spread the appeal of their ideology, to raise funds, to recruit new nembers, and to vilify the culture, the aims, and strategy of the Unikted States and its allies. This means that the Taliban and al Queda had grasped with real brilliance that manipulation of the population was a key war aim where we had not. In 2002, there was a total of 30 or more illegal FM stations in operation and the number is growing.
The United States had no counter programming, no developed message that could be used to impose the will of the allies on the people. First of all, U.S. efforts lacked the funds, next it lacked enough linquists or cultural specialists who know the Aftghan tribal culture and how to appeal to it effectively. During the Cold War, the Voice of America, Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Europe, performed an essential function in stirring up the resolve, the inidignation and ideals of political dissidents in the Soviet system.
We will now, by means of jamming, try to disrupt their programminig, but to do that we need U.S. experts who can talk to the tribal people in terms they can grasp and in a manner with which they can sympathize. This means sending a message based on a meticulous grasp of the Afghan population. At the moment we entirely lack that capability, and since the allegience of the local population to the Karzai government is the most vital objective of the struggle, the inactivity in information warfare on the allied side seems to me to be incomprehensible. The rallying of opposition and the use of propganda to influence a poorly educated population has been mostly neglected, and to our own growing peril.
Regarding the Internet, the jihadies have used it effectively as a reruitment tool, a spreader of ideology, and a way to escape detection thanks to chat rooms, web sites, blogs and e-mails. Again, any effort on the part of the U.S. to uise this form of soft power has been extremely limited. Yet counterinsurgency involves political, economic, military and psychological aspects. We need to excel at all four.
Lastly, a target for U.S. broadcasts should be aimed that the Islamic world at large because that world is not radical, gross or brutal, nor does it want to be in the forefront of every backward movement as does the Taliban. There doesn’t need to be spin but simple candor — people, even simple people, know the truth when they hear it.
But the task is daunting. There are seven to eight major tribal leadques in Afghanistan and over 100 tribes which Gary Sick, President Carter’s former Middle East advisor, toldl me was equivalent to trying to government 100 different countries. There has been such an emphasis on killing terrorists rather than attempting to convince them. In my view, this must change.
iWith greetings to all,
Thanks for the update. Now it makes sense why the information warfare ops are news again.
BTW – Good to hear the ESC reference was just a slipup – I thought your government sources mentioned ESC, resulting in the dreaded “credibility gap!”
Grimgrim, if you have physical control of the router, and you know enough to be able to decide what to selectively jam, then I would argue that it is already in your best interests to not jam it. You already know enough to be able to trace the message, and you might soon know enough to be able to modify it.
I must confess, though, that until I read the last message from Richard Sale to the Colonel, I was very confused by what this was all about; from the earlier discussion, it was rather like saying that our troops were now being issued guns, which is both factually true, and meaningless.
I also don’t think the real issue is that we speak in a manner that the tribes can understand and sympathize with. The barrier is one step back. The real problem is going to be talking to them in a manner that they consider to be credible. Once we can convince them of our honesty, we can try to convince them to be sympathetic.
When has propaganda ever worked…when it is disseminated from the top down…Seems to me that simply respecting another culture offers another approach, which suggests working from the ground up, e.g. sitting with tribal leaders, drinking tea and listening.
Let’s do both, from every angle. Field teams drink tea during the day to lay the groundwork for the broadcasts at night.
US cannot win the information war – it was lost 7 years ago.
She could at least try to avoid things like this:
Yes, I’m slow on the uptake. A tiny thought finally popped into my little brain.
Special operations airborne jamming while Pakistan is fighting the Taliban not too far from the Afghanistan border?
Gee, if I were a US commander in Afghanistan, and the Taliban was trying to make a stand a few miles over the Afghanistan border in the Swat valley, and Pakistan was hitting them from the far side, I might want to assist Pakistan without having to cross any borders.
Loitering just over the border with EW aircraft and maybe even an AC-130, plus setting up some ground forces along the border, might be a good idea.
Maybe we’re the anvil and Pakistan is the hammer?