Psychological Operations in Afghanistan

By  Herbert A. Friedman

Note: Portions of this article were featured in "Perspectives," the Journal of the Psychological Operations Association, Volume 14, Number 4, 2002. Portions of this article were used in the report “USAF Psychological Operations, 1990-2003,” by Dr. Daniel L. Haulman, 23 May 2003. Many of the images in this article were depicted in the 2012 Rand Corporation National Defense Research Institute monograph “U.S. Military Information Operations in Afghanistan - Effectiveness of Psychological Operations 2001–2010”. Permission was granted for the 10th PSYOP Battalion, the U.S. Army Center for Lessons learned, and the ISAF Combined Joint Psychological Operations Task Force to use this article as a reference source for training the Afghan Army and embellishing the conventional Afghan Information Dissemination Operations with more graphic content. Images from this article were used in "Three Practical Lessons from the Science of Influence Operations Message Design" by M. Afzal Upal, Canadian Military Journal, Volume 14, No 2, 2014. Images from this article were used by Matthew Wallin of the American Security Project in his 2015 “white paper” on U.S. Military public diplomacy entitled “Military Public Diplomacy: How the Military Influences Foreign Audience.” Douglas Little requested an image from this article for the cover of his book published by the University of North Carolina on the U.S. and the Middle East since 1989 entitled “Us vs. Them.” Alicia Cunningham-Bryant requested several images from this article for Temple University's Intellectual Heritage program to illustrate the impact the imagery of War Rugs had on the Afghans and the art form. Author Debi Cornwall requested the use of some of images in this article for her book “Beyond Gitmo: On the Legacy of Guant√°namo Bay.” Images from this article were used by CGTN (China Global Television Network) a 24-hour English news channel, of China Central Television (CCTV), based in Beijing. Permission was granted to use images from this article to the German online satire encyclopedia “Stupidedia.” This article was heavily referenced in the book “Taliban Narratives, The use and Power of Stories in the Afghanistan Conflict,” by Thomas H. Johnson, with Matthew DuPee and Wali Shaaker, Oxford University Press, 2017. An Iranian University group of students in Tehran from the Persian-language “Scrooge Podcast” broadcast a story titled “History of Psychological Warfare” and used leaflets from this article as illustrations.

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This article is the history of psychological operations (PSYOP) in Afghanistan for the first seven months during the heavy combat phase of the invasion and occupation after the attack on the New York City World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Although almost all of these leaflets are in full color, in many cases they also exist in black and white and on various grades of paper. Poorly cut specimens are common. Much of the printing work uses digital presses; so printing plates are not required. Printed leaflets are forwarded to the regional battalion in the field for dropping. When higher headquarters requests samples of such leaflets, reprints are often printed based on what data can be determined from the regional battalion. As a result, official reference leaflets may appear slightly different from those that were dropped. Know also that excellent facsimiles exist and we have already seen fake color photocopies of a dozen leaflets offered in the marketplace. Let the buyer beware! 

I should also point out that we show only a very small percentage of the total number of leaflets and posters printed and disseminated in Afghanistan. In general, we attempt to add a translation to every leaflet we depict, and in cases like Operation Iraqi Freedom that is not difficult since there are many Arabic speakers who are willing to translate text. In the case of Operation Enduring Freedom, the number of Pashto and Dari speakers in the United States is rather small and it is extremely difficult to translate the text on the hundreds of leaflets and posters we have accumulated. We have attempted to depict a nice mix of themes, but the reader should understand that this is just a small number of the total pieces we could show.

We should mention a brief word about the terminology in this article. The attempt to win the hearts and minds of friends and enemies was first called “Propaganda” (from the Catholic Church - Congregatio de propaganda fide), and later changed to “psychological warfare” (PSYWAR) about 1920. The term was changed to “psychological operations” (PSYOP) about 1945, although it did not gain popularity until about 1960 when it became clear that many of the influence operations like asking the people to support a new national government took place during peacetime. The Army then experimented with the term “information operations” (IO) about 2003 which started to blur the lines between PSYOP, military deception, operational security, electronic warfare and computer networks operations. In 2010, the military decided on the term “military information support operations” (MISO). It is important to remember that no matter what we call the art of influencing the enemy, the methods used and the personnel involved really do not change. For the purposes of this article we will use the term PSYOP. In future articles I suspect we will be forced to use the term MISO, unless the military decides to make another change.

Note: I started writing this article in 2001 and finished it shortly afterwards. In July of 2006 I came across a very concise United States Army War College research paper entitled “Information Operations” by Peter L. Burnett Jr.   The “Psychological Operations” paragraph explained PSYOP in Afghanistan with such clarity that I add it here:

During the initial attack against Afghanistan, the Afghan people’s views of America were negative primarily due to a lack of knowledge the people possessed regarding the attack. The Taliban government and the leadership of al-Qaida tried to convince the people of Afghanistan that America was attacking the religious faith of the Afghan nation. The Taliban government and the al-Qaida network’s goal was to gain support of the Afghan population, the political will of the people, and to promote hatred toward any American effort in Afghanistan. Using PSYOP as a tool, America was able to reach the people through leaflets, food, broadcast coordination, use of coalition forces, and good deeds to prove America was not attacking their religious faith, but was attacking terrorist activities. The PSYOP efforts cast a brighter light regarding America’s efforts in Afghanistan regardless of America’s efforts or explanation. No country wants to be attacked, but the PSYOP efforts have paid off and proven to be an effective measure in America’s efforts against terrorism.

On 11 September, 2001, terrorists of the al-Qaida (the Base) group, some trained and financed by Saudi Arabian exile-in-hiding Osama bin Laden, attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC. Bin Laden was a long-time terrorist who was known under such alias as Osama bin Muhammad bin Laden, Usama bin Laden, the Prince, the Emir, Abu Abdallah, Mjhahid Shaykh, Hajj, the Director, the Contractor, and still more names. In response to the terrorist attacks, the United States launched the Global War on Terrorism. 

On 12 September, the day following the attack, Tactical PSYOP Detachment (TPD) 940 began target audience analysis of Afghanistan, including the Afghan populace, the Taliban, and al Qaida. On 4 October 2001 a 95-man Joint Psychological Operations Task Force (JPOTF) was activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and placed under the operational control of the Central Command (CENTCOM). The 3rd Psychological Operations battalion deployed to Kuwait that same month to support Operation Enduring Freedom. 

The primary PSYOP objectives were to shift the debate from Islam to terrorism and to counter adversarial propaganda; to discourage interference with humanitarian affairs activities; to support objectives against state and non-state supporters and sponsors of terrorism and to disrupt support for and relationships of terrorist organizations. Leaflets and radio scripts were prepared.

This is discussed in some depth in FM 3-05.301, Psychological Operations Process Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, August 2007:

During the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom, the United States Central Command helped attached PSYOP planners from the 4th PSYOP Group to grant the authorization to officially organize the 8th PSYOP Battalion to become the PSYOP Task Force in direct support of the Central Command commander…The POTF’s print assets were stationed initially at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. This necessitated printing the leaflets and recording the radio messages at Fort Bragg, then distributing these messages to forward locations. Roughly 70 days after 11 September 2001, the Central Command commander received authority to approve PSYOP products. This action resulted in a previous PSYOP product approval staffing process of several weeks being reduced to as little as 24 hours.

U.S. Army Special Forces and, later, other coalition forces were inserted in northern Afghanistan. There was great concern at this time that the U.S. and coalition forces not be viewed by the Afghan people as just another invading force like the Soviets in the 1980s. PSYOP planners crafted their first Psychological Operations objective to “Reduce the effectiveness of Taliban and al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan.” Supporting arguments were:

(1) The forces of al-Qaida are not Afghan—they are foreign invaders.

(2) al-Qaida has empowered the Taliban to oppress the people of Afghanistan into doing what al- Qaida wants the people of Afghanistan to do.

(3) Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders are merely puppets controlled by al-Qaida.

(4) Coalition forces are here to help the people of Afghanistan establish a government for Afghanistan run by the people of Afghanistan—not by foreign invaders.

(5) The United States and coalition forces have delivered thousands of tons of food and aid supplies to the people of Afghanistan. What have the Taliban and al-Qaida done to help the people of Afghanistan?

Just two days before the start of combat operations on 5 October 2001, EC–130 Commando Solo aircraft began to transmit radio broadcasts to Afghanistan. The first B-52 leaflets from Diego Garcia were dropped on 14 October 2001, almost a week after combat operations began.

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Leaflet AFD-184

This is an interesting leaflet because it shows a smiling and waving Afghan child on the front and three wanted terrorists on the back; The first I believe is Sirajuddin Haqqani, then Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and Osama Bin Laden, and what might be a bombed-out cave system. 160,000 AFD-184 leaflets were produce at Ft Bragg, forwarded to Afghanistan and disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war. The title of the leaflet was simply “This child deserves…”

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World Trade Center Leaflet AFD-189

Early in the war many Americans clamored for a leaflet showing the burning World Trade Center to explain to the Afghans why the United States had attacked the terrorist al-Qaida faction and Taliban forces ruling their nation. The Central Command stated that they would not produce a leaflet showing the burning building because the "third-world" Afghans would not understand the concept of the "skyscraper," and it might cause a loss in the believe of the honesty of all Coalition leaflets. Such a leaflet was eventually produced near the end of the war. It seems clear than any people, regardless of their situation, would understand the American desire for retribution after seeing this leaflet. The text on the front and the back of this leaflet is:

20th September, 1380. World Trade Center

The Coalition Forces came to arrest those responsible for the terrorism against America.  They also come to arrest anyone that protects them.

More than 3,000 people in the United States of America were murdered in these attacks.

[Note: the date is obviously using the Persian Calendar].

The Rand Corporation monograph U.S. Military Information Operations in Afghanistan - Effectiveness of Psychological Operations 2001-2012 agrees with the military assessment. It says that most Afghan viewers would not understand the images on the screen of airplanes exploding into tall, glittering buildings. Most Afghans had never seen a television set, and certainly has no knowledge of New York City. Rand implied that the leaflet was ineffective.

The International Council on Security and Development in 2010 indicated that 90% of men in Helmand and Kandahar provinces did not see a link between the 9/11 attacks and the American invasion of Afghanistan. While a slight majority of those questioned could recognize photos of the World Trade center being struck by aircraft, they could not connect it to the 9/11 attacks or the justification for the military entry into Afghanistan.

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World Trade Center Poster AFC025

An 11 x 17-inch poster was produced in Pastun and Dari that depicted a similar picture of the World Trade Center attack, perhaps a few seconds later than the leaflet image, with a greater fireball. The poster is coded AFC025.The text is:

On September 11, 2001…

2823 people were killed.

4300 children lost their family members [father or/and mothers].

The Al-Qaida terrorists hijacked local airplanes filled with passengers and struck the World Trade Center in New York City.

The coalition forces are searching for Al Qaida members to punish them for what they have done.

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World Trade Center Leaflet AFD-22b

Although there is no evidence that the leaflet was ever disseminated, a leaflet coded AFD22b depicted the burning World Trade Center at the left and Afghan ruins at the right. The text is:

Foreign Terrorists do not believe in any borders
New YorkU.S.A.      Harat -Afghanstan

The back depicted Afghan and Coalition friends together and two hands shaking, similar to the “Friendship” leaflet AFD030b below. Notice that the Afghanistan flag incorrectly has the stripes in horizontal rather than vertical format, and this could be the reason the leaflet was not disseminated.

We share food together. We regain our honor and dignity and maintain it.

Rand thought this leaflet was effective, mostly because the two hands clasping was the same symbol previously as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) symbol in the late 1960s and 1970s. The Afghans related this symbol with US aid and friendship.

The United States also explained the reason for the bombings and the American invasion over their propaganda radio. One of the messages was:

Dear Afghanistan,

A grave crime has been committed against the United States. Four of our planes have been hijacked, several building in our economic centers destroyed and more than 6,000 innocent people, hundreds of which were Muslim were murdered by the hand of Osama bin Laden, Al Qaida, his supporters, and the Taliban. We see these actions as acts of war. We will not sit idly by and do nothing in these times. However, we do not wish to spill the blood of innocent people, as did the cowardly terrorists. We do not blame the Muslims or Afghans for these attacks. We do not hold those who follow true Islam responsible. We will hunt down and punish these terrorists. They will pay with their blood. America is not against the beliefs of Islam, nor is it against Muslims. More than 6 million Muslims live and worship Allah in peace in the United States, a number equal to almost half the population of Afghanistan. In the United States people of all religions live side by side in peace. Muslims living in America have the same rights to worship as any other citizen of any other religion.

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Leaflet drop over Afghanistan

A 2005 Review of Psychological Operations Lessons learned from Recent Operational Experiences points out that there was much more supervision of leaflet themes in Afghanistan. For instance, during Operation Desert Storm there were a dozen different threatening leaflets depicting the B-52 bomber. Heavy bombers have always been a staple of American psychological warfare. It is surprising to see that no such leaflet depicting a B-52 bomber was produced for Afghanistan. Higher echelons decided that the Afghans might see it as an act of revenge for the 9/11 attack and a threat to decimate their population and misunderstand the fact that the Coalition’s war was only against terrorism. The national-level guidance that was approved and disseminated the day that operations began made clear that the U.S. response in Afghanistan would protect, not target, innocent people and that there was no cause that would justify purposeful targeting of the civilian population. In fact, at one time the Coalition had considered courting the Taliban as well as the general population, attempting to drive a wedge between the two parties by portraying al Qaida as foreign interlopers who manipulated the Taliban. However, when it became clear that the Taliban were dedicated fundamentalists that would not surrender in any number, they became a PSYOP target.

President Bush immediately demanded that the ruling fundamentalist Islamic Taliban movement of Afghanistan turn over Mr. bin Laden for trial. President Bush declared a war on terrorism and stated that they would be found and attacked regardless of where they were hiding. The operation was originally named "Infinite Justice," but was altered when it was discovered that Islam reserved infinite judgment for Allah. The name was immediately changed to "Enduring Freedom." Political correctness at its best. Iran, in its usual anti-American posture remarked that the operation should be called “Infinite Imperialism.”

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The Secretary of Defense implies that Saddam Hussein is a Foolish Man.

A week after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Bush said in an unscripted moment:

This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.

There was an immediate uproar from Muslims around the word who still thought of the Crusade as a Christian attack on their faith. President Bush then went to great pains to remove all traces of a religious crusade in his comments on the war on terror. However, in 2003 Biblical sayings were placed on the Department of Defense top secret Worldwide Intelligence Update military intelligence reports. The decision to put the biblical quotations on the cover pages was allegedly taken by Major General Glen Shaffer, a director for intelligence serving both Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Some of the comments with patriotic pictures of American soldiers at war or at prayer were:

Their arrows are sharp, all their bows are strung; their horses’ hoofs seem like flint, their chariot wheels are like a whirlwind.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

Pentagon officials were concerned that, if the cover sheets were ever leaked, they could be interpreted as a suggestion that the war was religiously driven, a battle against Islam. It did not help matters in 2005 when the Pentagon’s inspector general recommended “corrective action” against Lieutenant General William G. Boykin, the Deputy Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence who likened the war against Islamic militants to a battle against Satan.

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Is this a “Jesus” Gun-sight?

The story of Biblical quotations used by Americans was thought to be over but in February 2011, it was discovered that the same sort of quotations were being placed on some American weapons. US gun-sights were found with inscriptions with biblical references that might lead some to believe that Americans are using “Jesus weapons” against Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The inscriptions apparently do not break military rules on proselytizing because the equipment is not distributed beyond the troops who are actually using them. Trijicon makes the sights and their director of sales and marketing told Associated Press:

We don’t publicize this. It’s not something we make a big deal out of. But yes, it’s there.

According to an American Broadcasting Corporation report, one of the citations on the gun sights, “2COR4:6,” is an apparent reference to Second Corinthians 4:6 of the New Testament, which reads:

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Other references include citations from the books of Revelation, Matthew and John dealing with Jesus as “the light of the world.”

John 8:12, referred to on the gun sights as JN8:12, reads,

Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life

This need to place Biblical quotations on American military items is very disturbing and certainly does nothing to win trust among the Muslim nations of the world.

Perhaps we should stop for a moment to discuss the Taliban (sometimes spelled "Taleban"). The Taliban (“the Seekers”) was formed in September of 1994 in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar by a group of graduates of Pakistani Islamic colleges on the border with Afghanistan, run by the fundamentalist Jamiat-e-Ulema. The members were mostly Pashtuns from Kandahar in Southern Afghanistan and were led by the religious leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Their fighting ranks were mostly filled with former veterans of the war against the Soviets. They fought against the government of Afghanistan and on 27 September 1996 they captured Kabul. By June 1997, the Taliban effectively controlled two-thirds of the country.

The Taliban applied a strict interpretation of Sharia, enforcement of which was administered by the “Department for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice.” Individuals were beaten on the streets by Taliban militia for what were deemed infractions of Taliban rules concerning dress, hair length, and facial hair, as well as for restriction on women being in the company of men. For an example of how PSYOP tried to take advantage of these Taliban activities, see leaflet AFD24 below.

The bombing of Afghanistan began on October 7. Along with the bombing, the United States Air Force also dropped food packets for the Afghan refugees. Aerial propaganda leaflets were not dropped the first week due to high winds. The first leaflet drop took place on October 15, coordinated with Coalition radio broadcasts. EC-130-E Command Solo aircraft from the 193rd Special Operations Wing flying out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, broadcast to the Afghan people. The modified C-130 can broadcast radio or TV signals - AM, FM and HF. It broadcasts across the band from 45 kilohertz to 1000 megahertz.

On October 15, the United States government released illustrations of the first two leaflets dropped on Afghanistan. It reported that a single B-52 Stratofortress bomber had dropped 385,000 leaflets over the eastern town of Ghazni, the northwestern town of Sheberghan, and between Sheberghan and the western city of Herat.  

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The first leaflet depicts an American soldier shaking hands with an Afghan citizen. The photograph is in full color, the text in bright blue. The leaflet was written in Pashto (spoken by the Afghan ethnic majority Pashtun) and Dari (a Persian dialect spoken by the minority Tajiks). The leaflet states on the front:

The partnership of nations is here to help.

The back of the leaflet says:

The partnership of nations is here to assist the people of Afghanistan.

2,760,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

The Rand monograph found this leaflet to be effective because the Afghans were war-weary, disillusioned with the Taliban regime, and ready for change. They hoped that the U.S. intervention would bring peace, progress, and security to Afghanistan.

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The second leaflet depicts a radio tower and two radios. Text is identical on both sides in Pashto and Dari. The leaflet states:

Information radio.
0500-1000. 1700-2200 daily.
864, 1107, 8700 kilohertz.

The leaflet tells the Afghan finder what radio stations to dial in order to hear the latest news from the coalition forces. Part of the PSYOP plan was to tell the Afghan people why their country was being bombed. The radio broadcasts stress that this is simply a war against terrorism and not against the people of Afghanistan. The Taliban's main Kabul radio station, Voice of Sharia, ("Islamic Law"), was taken off the air by an American cruise missile several days earlier. AFD-06 is found in both color and black and white. There is a variation of this leaflet coded AFD-06c. 7,931,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war. These leaflets were also handed out by Tactical PSYOP teams on the ground. I am not going to list all of these operations because it would take another article. Suffice it to say that on one operation 32,036 copies of leaflet AFD06 were handed out in Herat.

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Navy specialist prepares leaflet AFD06 into
propaganda bomb rolls aboard USS Constellation.

P.W. Singer discusses the Taliban radio station in Analysis Paper No. 5, “American’s Response to Terrorism,” Winning the War of Words: Information Warfare in Afghanistan:

These Taliban broadcasts continually stressed that the one rallying point in Afghan history has been for the various tribes to join to throw out invaders, from the Persians and the British, to most recently the Soviets. The Taliban's broadcasts painted US demands on their country as falling in line with this long procession of outsiders attempting to interfere in their own local matters. The dominant message was that the US was yet another imperial power targeting Afghanistan.

There is a lot of published information about the production of these radio leaflets. Weapon of Choice, ARSOF in Afghanistan, Charles H. Briscoe, Richard L. Kiper, James A. Schroeder, and Kalev I Sepp, authors, Combat studies Institute Press, Fort Leavenworth, KS 2003 says:

Whether it was a leaflet offering a monetary reward, providing a radio listening frequency, extolling the new government, or warning about land mines, the 30 million leaflets 2nd Platoon, A Company, 3rd POB, printed were a significant contribution to the global war on terrorism

When radio broadcasts by the Air Force EC- 130 Commando Solo aircraft became possible, Donovan's [PSYOP squad leader] squad printed handbills that ground units could distribute to villages. The handbills depicted a radio tower and had various frequencies for music and news.

The New York Times stated that a leaflet with a similar message had been dropped to explain to the Afghan people why they were being bombed. The leaflet said, "On September 11th, the United States was the target of terrorist attacks, leaving no choice but to seek justice for these horrible crimes."

A Good Propaganda Theme is Universal

During the Vietnam War the United States dropped propaganda leaflets on the Viet Cong showing them happily farming or lying dead in the jungle. Some said, "Which will you choose," others said, "Two paths." The concept was peace or war, life, or death. We see the Soviets using the exact same propaganda in Afghanistan. An Afghan "Freedom fighter" thinks of being a peaceful member of the new Afghan state or being just another forgotten skull in a pile.

Before we leave the subject of U.S. radio messages to Afghanistan we should discuss the early history of the propaganda broadcasts. According to Richard H. Cummings, formerly of Radio Free Europe, after the Soviet Union attacked Afghanistan in 1979, Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL), the American financed stations in Munich, Germany, expanded its broadcasting from just Eastern Europe and the USSR. On 1 October 1985, the station began broadcasting to Afghanistan in Dari, one of the major languages in Afghanistan.  Radio Free Afghanistan broadcast 30-minute Dari-language programs twice weekly. In 1986, it expanded its broadcasting to one hour daily, five days a week.  A Pashto-language broadcast was added in September 1987. The Soviet Union retreated from Afghanistan on 15 February 1989, with an estimated loss of 15,000 troops. With the end of the Soviet invasion, Radio Free Afghanistan broadcast its last program on 19 October 1993.

Programs to Afghanistan were resumed in December 2001 as part of the post-September 11 “War on Terror.” On 30 January 2002, RFE/RL, now located in Prague, Czech Republic, began broadcasting to Afghanistan in the Dari and Pashto languages. Radio Free Afghanistan (“Radio Azadi”) broadcast 12 hours a day on FM radio from Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif, and Kandahar.   The broadcasts can be heard on short wave, medium wave, and satellite radio and also on demand via the Internet.

An Army psychological specialist and a Marine load master watch leaflets
fall off of a KC-130 Super Hercules over southern Afghanistan, Aug. 28, 2013.
(Sgt. Demetrius Munnerlyn/Marine Corps)

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Leaflet AFD03a

This is a very impressive leaflet and image. The front of the leaflet depicts Osama bin Laden at the left and an American B-52 dropping bombs at the right. The text is:

There is no possibility of escape and hiding.

The back shows an Afghan valley with a flight of B-52 bombers overhead at the right; the left shows the result of the bombing, the valley covered with smoke and destruction. The text is:

If you resist, you will also suffer the same fate.

The top line on each side is in Dari, the bottom line in Pashtu. These leaflets may not have been disseminated. One year after the American invasion I find no record of their being distributed.

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The United States produced a full color leaflet that told the people of Afghanistan that there were American Muslims, American mosques, and that true believers had the right to practice their religion and worship their God. The leaflet is coded AFD04. The front of the leaflet shows a mosque in the foreground with the Stars and Stripes within a map of the United States. Muslim men and women are depicted worshipping at the right. The text is:

Muslims in the United States worship freely.

The back of the leaflet depicts the inside of the Islamic Center of Long Island mosque at the left, and a crescent moon and text at the right. The text is:

There are more than 7 million Muslims and 1200 mosques in the US.

CENTCOM has issued no data on when and where this leaflet was distributed. There are an estimated seven million Muslims in America and some 1.2 billion worldwide.

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Leaflet AFD11

A similar leaflet coded AFD11a depicted American Muslims at prayer and a green crescent with the text:

Muslims live and practice in peace in America.

The back depicts a map of the United States filled with various mosques and a green crescent. There is no text. 900,000 copies of the AFD-11a leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

An October 17 report stated that leaflets had been dropped showing pictures of food parcels and explaining how the contents should be consumed. For instance, there is a drawing showing how a tube of peanut butter should be squeezed.

Meanwhile, the Taliban responded by telling the Afghan people that the U.S. meals airdropped to Afghans did not meet the dietary requirements of observing Muslims.

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Afghans listening to the Coalition broadcasts

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Kaito Radio

That same day, it was reported that small battery-powered portable radios were dropped to those without radios or electricity. Initially, several thousand KAITO brand portable radios were distributed by hand. The KAITO was a 220-volt AC radio that was battery, solar and crank (dynamo) powered. It was usable for people who lived in central Afghanistan with no electric power. AM and FM radio was only available in cities. In rural areas the people relied on SW radio. Cost was low for quantity purchased and the power source was the prime requirement. The sensitivity and selectivity were poor, and required a very strong signal to work. It was not successful in the mountainous countryside of Afghanistan.

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A local Afghan elder is excited to receive his new radio from an 8th PSYOP Battalion member attached to the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division in Malajat, Afghanistan. The purpose of the mission is to gather information from the local population and to distribute Psychological Operations products.

Under the Taliban, possession of a radio was a crime, and thus few were available. More than 7,500 small battery-powered transistor radios were distributed by airdrop and by tactical PSYOP teams operating with Special Forces detachments.

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The Freeplay Plus Radio

A military report entitled PSYOP Radio in Afghanistan adds in part:

The US military is air-dropping Freeplay wind-up radios among the Afghan people. Unlike the Freeplay Plus Radio we offer, which has the AM, FM and most of the short wave spectrum, these specially designed Freeplay radios are locked on a frequency that automatically tunes in US military broadcasts. With these radios, Afghans will know about aid facilities in their area as well as food drops. They'll also hear messages like the one below, assuring them of the US intentions in Afghanistan, and that we're there to help them.  

Curiously, the message seems to be the same one that we mention above dropped on a leaflet. Part of the radio message is:

On September 11th, the United States was the target of terrorist attacks, leaving no choice but to seek justice for these horrible crimes. We are here to take measures against the terrorists that have rooted themselves in your country. It is not you, the honorable people of Afghanistan, who are targeted, but those who would oppress you, seek to bend you to their own will, and make you their slaves.

It will take the combined efforts of the international community and you to remove these evil people from Afghanistan. Take the following action: Do not give food, shelter, or any type of aid to the Taliban or Osama bin Laden. This will be a great help in the effort. We have no wish to hurt you, the innocent people of Afghanistan. Stay away from military installations, government buildings, terrorist camps, roads, factories, or bridges. If you are near these places, then you must move away from them. Seek a safe place, and stay well away from anything that might be a target. We do not wish to harm you.

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A local Afghan citizen reads a flyer handed to him by soldiers assigned to the 10th Psychological Operations Battalion, during a mission to Kuchi village, Afghanistan, May 27, 2011. The purpose of the mission was to distribute radios and flyers to local villagers, and to evaluate the needs of the locals.

There was a recommendation to use the Grundig FR220 radio. It worked well in the mountainous terrain and was battery and dynamo powered. The 10th Mountain Division psychological operations officer headed the purchase of 100,000 FR200 Grundig Emergency Radios for Coalition Joint Task Force (CJTF) 180 to be delivered to Bagram, Afghanistan, between November 2003 and February 2004. Over 30,000 Grundig radios had been distributed by the time he left Afghanistan in April 2004.  In addition, before leaving Afghanistan he provided the Multi-National Corps - Iraq (MNC-I) Information Operations (IO) Cell with instructions for purchasing Grundig Radios for distribution in Iraq.  The CJTF-76 (formerly CJTF-180) IO Cell has been in talks with the Eton Corporation to purchase an additional 150,000 Grundig radios. 

For a while the Americans dropped the WR-004 "World Receiver" AM, FM and short wave radio produced by the STL Group in the Netherlands under the brand name "Super Tech." They were dropped with the batteries already in the radio. The inability of the Afghans to replace the batteries was a liability. The British apparently dropped crank-powered radios at the same time. Broadcasts that same day told the people where to find the yellow cartons containing food dropped by American aircraft.

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Passing out radios

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WorldSpace WSSR-11Digital Receiver

During a spring of 2004 visit to Fort Bragg I was able to confirm that the US Army did indeed distribute radios to the people of Afghanistan so that they could hear the latest news from the Coalition powers. I also learned that the radios now being disseminated are Worldspace model WSSR-11Digital receivers. They are battery-powered and allow the listener to access over 40 satellite radio services from around the world. Each radio comes with a directional line-of sight antenna. The service uses three satellites, AmeriStar, AfriStar, and Asia Star. These new radios were not without problems. They were given to Afghans selected as "key communicators." The problem was a lack of Pashto or Dari radio broadcasts on the satellites. The best broadcasts were still coming from the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Voice of America, or the local PSYOP radio stations. Many Afghans were happier with the cheaper Kaito radio because they could get all the local stations in their own language.

If I may jump ahead for a moment, NATO distributed more than 700,000 radios in the first half of 2006. The NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency announced that eligible firms were invited to provide bids on a Psychological Operations Radio Network for the International Security Assistance Force. Some members within the PSYOP community were shocked to see the system called a “PSYOP Radio Network.” That seems to defeat the purpose of using the radio for truthful and unbiased news. It is important to remember the availability of radio stations in Afghanistan. The US military broadcasts on short wave, the U.S. Embassy uses 23 host nation stations, and of course there is the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Voice of America. The announced goal of the PSYOPS network was to create a supporting atmosphere among the Afghan leadership and population in support of the objectives of the ISAF mission. The new radio network would receive a central program from Kabul and re-broadcast it locally to Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) regions. PSYOPS transmitters located at the PRT's would extend the PSYOPS radio network to the southern and eastern region of Afghanistan. Capability would be operational within the commercial FM band from 87.5 to 107.0 MHz.

The Department of Defense says about satellite radio in a May 2000 report: The Creation and Dissemination of All Forms of Information in Support of Psychological Operations (PSYOP) in Time of Military Conflict

The WorldSpace system is fully digital and transmits a number of stations simultaneously in the L-band. Since the WorldSpace system is fully digital, it will convey data in addition to the audio streams. Satellite TV and radio poses two distinct problems for U.S. PSYOP. A narrow, technical problem is that U.S. forces have no available means to disseminate their PSYOP content to households that rely upon satellite services. In particular, the Commando Solo aircraft cannot provide this function for the variety reasons. First, the media encodings are digital, and sometimes proprietary, and often encrypted. Thus, they cannot be serviced by Commando Solo's current transmission suite. Second, the receivers employ satellite dishes pointed to specific slots in geosynchronous orbits. It will not be easy for a platform such as Commando Solo to transmit in such a way that it can be received in these dishes. Third, the satellite systems operate on a variety of bands (L, C, Ku) not currently supported by Commando Solo. A much wider problem, however, is that the PSYOP message now needs to compete against a very rich entertainment menu. As a result, it will become increasingly difficult for the PSYOP community to acquire "mindshare" in its target audiences.

On the other hand, as satellite systems become highly subscribed in one or more regions of the world, they offer an appealing medium for PSYOP dissemination since a single system generally offers full continental coverage at relatively modest cost. The insertions of PSYOP "commercials" and "specials" into existing, branded channels could prove a highly effective, and cost-effective, means for disseminating PSYOP content. Here Department of Defense might wish to become an "anchor tenant" within new systems in order to ensure that such channels exist and are available for Department of Defense use.

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The Special Operations System B (SOMS B) ground-based PSYOP radio in Afghanistan.   The DRASH tents attached to the vehicles are the operational areas for the system set up in Bagram.

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Reachback, support near real time video, audio and data over the ethernet from Fort Bragg to a SOMS-B site at Bagram, Afghanistan provided through JITI and DVDS   transmission.

Elements of the 4th PSYOP Group were busy setting up radio stations in Afghanistan. One of the radio specialists from Ft. Bragg told me:

The Special Operations System B (SOMS B) was the first ground-based PSYOP asset in Afghanistan.   There was a SOMS B in Bagram and one in Kandahar .  Initially broadcasting was done on AM and FM.  Eventually, all broadcasting was migrated to shortwave (SW). The three short wave radio frequencies are 9325, 9345 and 9365 kHz.The stations broadcast from 0030 to 1830 with the heading in Pashto “Da Sola Radyo day,” and in Dari “Inja Solh-e Radyoe”, (“You are listening to Peace Radio.”).

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Soldiers erect the antenna of the Special Operations Media System-Broadcast (SOMS-B) capable of providing local radio and television support including editing of radio and audiovisual products

The antenna field was very crowded in the beginning because all three (AM, FM, and SW) antennas had been set up in the same small area.  The AM antenna was a discone antenna supported by four masts, which were only 50 feet off the ground at the highest point.

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The “Voice of Peace” Radio station building in Jabal os Saraj Afghanistan
The sign above the door reads “VOICE of PEACE.”

PSYOP soldiers had visited the Voice of Peace FM broadcast station in Jabal os Saraj a couple of times to try and improve the coverage of this station, which was supporting US efforts.  The station was housed in a donated building up on the side of a tall hill.  The transmitter was a 500 Watt Japanese made solid-state system that had some “repairs” done by the local welder.  The civilian tech advisors working with the soldiers were able to improve the “repairs” and determine that the existing omni-directional antenna was only rated for 200 Watts, limiting the system.  Replacement antennas were acquired which provided a directional coverage and increased effective radiated power to extend their coverage area.

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PSYOP Soldiers at Fort Bragg, NC use deployable video editing equipment to process raw footage taken by organic electronic news gathering kits in Afghanistan

The requirements of the operation are such that the SW broadcasting is now done from three locations in Afghanistan.  Each location has its own SW transmitter as the SOMS B systems have all returned to FT Bragg.  The audio products are edited using a Deployable Audio Production System (DAPS) designed for PSYOP use by the civilian technical support in the Media Production Center, FT Bragg.  Video products are edited using the Deployable Non-Linear Editor (DNLE) which was developed by the same resource.

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A SOMS-B media broadcast site operating at Kandahar, Afghanistan

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Inside the video production and editing tent of the SOMS-B complex at Kandahar, Afghanistan during a broadcast in support of Operation Enduring Freedom

The SOMS-B system is discussed in depth by Scott R. Gourley in a Special Operations Technology Online Archives article.

The SOMS-B system consists of two primary subsystems: the Mobile Radio Broadcast System (MRBS) and Mobile Television Broadcast System (MTBS). Each of these subsystems consists of a primary HMMWV, a cargo HMMWV, and a mission trailer carrying a 33 kW generator, environmental control unit, and Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelter (DRASH) tent system. The two subsystems can be deployed together or separately.

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Deployable editing equipment used in conjunction with the SOMS-B

The broad objectives of PSYOP are best served by modern sophisticated systems such as the deployable editing equipment being used in conjunction with the SOMS-B.

The SOMS-B provides an AM, FM, television and short wave radio broadcast capability. Except for the very long range short wave system, the other systems have rather short ranges. It’s normally deployed around populated centers where you want to target that audience. You can have all of those means broadcasting. The shortest range system is the television system and it goes up to long range for the short wave. You can position SOMS-B in a strategic location where you can target the local populace with the shorter-range systems—television, and FM—then go further out with AM and cover even larger parts of the countryside with short wave. You can broadcast different programs on each one of them or you can broadcast the same message on all the radios.

That capability goes hand in hand with the other systems. If you’re putting out the word with loudspeakers and with paper products you can also put the word out via the radio. Or you can put out information on which frequency to listen to on your own radio to get the message that’s coming from the SOMS-B broadcast system. And that is one of the things that we’ve done quite extensively in areas where there isn’t any infrastructure: the tactical units will go out with paper products and recorded messages that say, “Tune in to such and such on your dial for more information.” And that information will be the SOMS-B broadcast in that area.

Interim President Karzai had told the Americans very early that their broadcasts were found wanting. ARSOF in Afghanistan notes:

The Pashtun leader knew that radio broadcasts in various dialects would have a greater effect than leaflets. He had listened to the programs broadcast by the Air Force EC- 130 Commando Solo aircraft and told MAJ Barstow that the music was very effective, but the BBC and VOA had better-quality programs. Karzai urged Barstow [Major, C Company, 9th Psychological Operations Battalion] to make the messages more forceful. The people needed to be told what they should do about the Taliban and al-Qaida who were still in their midst.

The radio specialists among the American psychological operations teams kept working on the problem and trying to make their product better and more palatable to the Afghans. A number of articles in the Newspaper Stars and Stripes seem to indicate that their dedication to excellence has paid off. The issue of 10 April 2002 discusses the initial PSYOP radio station.

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EC-130 Commando Solo

Beginning in November 2001, a modified C-130 aircraft dubbed Commando Solo began blasting U.S. messages and local music on airwaves across Afghanistan.

U.S. planes also dropped tons of leaflets to market the informational radio programming to the Afghans. Tactical PSYOPS teams and nongovernmental organizations distributed nearly 5,000 radios to civilians across the country. But early in March, the military withdrew Commando Solo from the theater to refit for its next mission.

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Inside a PSYOP mobile radio studio

On March 8, PSYOPS soldiers in Bagram and Kandahar went on the air. They literally took over their mission on the same frequencies using the Special Operations Media System. The eight-man team now broadcasts round the clock. The Afghan programming, simultaneously broadcast on both AM and short wave is presented in the country’s predominant languages, Dari and Pashto.

Using hour long formats like commercial stations, news and information is broken up by blocks of Afghan music. And of course, the news is all good. Two current messages include the reopening of Kabul University and story of two bicyclists in Kandahar training for the 2004 Olympics. They also air public service announcements about things such as the need for identification cards and polio vaccinations. What locals really like is the music, and they tell the team how the Taliban kept most music on the forbidden list. From Bagram, PSYOPS radio extends about 30 miles, and begins breaking up at the outskirts of Kabul. The short wave broadcast can reach the entire country depending on weather conditions.

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U.S. soldier provides a new radio to a local youth

The issue of 27 June 2002 talks about Radio Peace and American support for the local station and says in part:

Tucked into a small stone compound about 50 miles north of Kabul, the fledgling station is billed as the only independent radio broadcast in Afghanistan. It first hit the airwaves on 8 October 2001 just a day after American air strikes began in the country. Radio is the most effective means of distributing information in a country such as Afghanistan, which has little infrastructure. Literacy is low, so radio rules. The equipment was smuggled into Northern Alliance-held territory through Tajikistan, donated by Droit de Parole, a French organization which also sponsored independent radio stations in Bosnia. The airwaves were shared with Commando Solo, a U.S. Air Force EC-130 that broadcasted music and information for 10 hours a day. The transmissions from Commando Solo ceased on March 8, but similar broadcasts still are being sent across the same frequencies from U.S. military stations based at Bagram and Kandahar.

By late 2004, Peace Radio, channel 9.365 on short wave radio, entertained and informed residents of Paktika province with themes that benefited both coalition forces and Afghan civilians. Transmitting from Forward Operating Base Orgun-E, Peace Radio was run by three Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve. The broadcasts have also been heard on 9345 kHz and 6700 kHz.

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A member of the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion,
shows some of the Afghan music CDs that
the battalion's radio station from Kandahar Airfield.

The Stars and Stripes issue of 31 July 2002 points out that the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion is broadcasting Afghan music from the battalion's radio station at Kandahar Airfield. They regularly broadcast the music of Naghma & Mangal, Khaliq Aziz and Ahmed Zahir, some of hottest pop artists and musicians in Afghanistan. Some of the article says:

When the Taliban ruled, radios were forbidden. However, some people hid them in their house and huddled around at night to listen to the BBC or Pakistan programming. Soldiers with the 8th Psychological Operation Battalion operate the mobile 5,000-watt radio station — which has a range of about 20 miles — from a small group of tents. Ninety-percent of the programming is pure Afghan music, including some dance, contemporary and folk music. None is American. Each hour, the Army broadcasts three informational spots. The messages tell listeners such things as what to do if they come across unexploded ordnance, news about the interim government and assurances that U.S. troops are not an occupying force.

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The Police give Radios to the People

Afghan National Police of Kandahar City prepare to pass out radios, leaflets, and stickers. The radios are for the people to listen to radio stations promoting the things that police officers are doing for the Afghans. The leaflets and stickers featured the police and were for the children.

A former PSYOP detachment sergeant in Kandahar and later team chief in Geresk mentioned the distribution of the radios. He said:

The radios were given to all returning Hajjis, people who went on the Hajj to Mecca.  This was a good way to get the radios out since each district was allotted a certain number of people to go on the Hajj. When they returned to their remote areas with the radio, it gave the radios a status symbol quality, since going on the Hajj is such a big thing. Then we would give radios to schools, key communicators and random people in our travels. We used them as an inducement to work with us.  It was a good benefit for the people and everyone wanted more than we could ever give out. People who gave us directions along the road would frequently be rewarded with a radio.

ARSOF in Afghanistan adds:

PSYOP units working in the field distributed small transistor radios countrywide because the Taliban had made it a crime to possess a radio and few were available.

Dawkins [an American PSYOP trooper] met an Afghan woman who had one of the airdropped American transistor radios. She told him that it was the first radio she had heard in seven years. Dawkins made it a point to request the delivery of more transistor radios.

Broadcast media proved very effective during the PSYOP campaign. More than 7,500 small battery-powered transistor radios were distributed both by airdrop and by TPTs with Special Forces ODAS. Simple leaflets told the Afghan people which numbered channels to tune to for American PSYOP-produced programs.

On October 18, the U.S. Government released several radio broadcast texts to the public. Some of the messages were as follows, "Attention Taliban! You are condemned. Did you know that? The instant the terrorists you support took over our planes, you sentenced yourselves to death…our helicopters will rain death down upon your camps before you detect them on your radar. Our bombs are so accurate we can drop them through your windows…you have only one choice, surrender now and we will give you a second chance. We will let you live." In order to entice the Afghans to listen to the radio, about three-quarters of all broadcasts consist of music. The Taliban had condemned music.

On the same day, the American Forces Information Service reported two leaflet drops over northeastern Afghanistan exhorting the people to abandon, or to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida forces. The leaflet is believed to read, "Do you enjoy being ruled by the Taliban? Are you proud to live a life of fear? Are you happy to see the place your family has owned for generations a terrorist training site?"

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Leaflet AFD15

This leaflet depicts an Afghan family walking on a highway while in the distance a Coalition convoy can be seen approaching. The picture is covered by a large red “X” which visually states that this is an unsafe practice. The title of the leaflet is “Beware of vehicles.” On the back of the leaflet the family stands safely by the side of the road as the convoy passes. I have no record of this leaflet being disseminated. A similar leaflet was dropped in Somalia where American troops warned the locals:

Our forces are here to defend the people helping you Do not get involved in any manner. Do not block the roads! Force will be used to protect the convoys.

On October 19, the U.S. Government broadcast warnings of an impending ground attack, "Attention! People of Afghanistan. United States forces will be moving through your area. We are here for Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, and those who protect them. Please, for your own safety, stay off bridges and roadways and do not interfere with our troops or military operations. If you do this you will not be harmed."

At the same time, it was reported that leaflets were also dropped over the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. The leaflets warned the people to avoid potential military targets and stay in their homes.  The leaflet text is:

We have no wish to hurt you, the innocent people of Afghanistan. Stay away from military installations, government buildings, terrorist camps, roads, factories or bridges. If you are near these places, then you must move away from them. Seek a safe place, and stay well away from anything that might be a target.

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Ranger Calling Card Leaflet "Freedom Endures"

At 1845 (Zulu Time) on 19 October, 199 elite American Rangers and four PSYOP soldiers night-assaulted Objective Rhino on Vengeance Drop Zone. This was a remote Desert Landing Strip approximately 105 miles Southwest of Kandahar. The site had already been hit with 2,000-pound bombs by a B-2 Stealth bomber and strafed by AC-130 Spectre gunships. This was the first Ranger combat drop since Operation Just Cause in Panama. The mission was to gain intelligence about the objective's airstrip and environs to determine its value as a future base. A week later, U.S. Marines established Camp Rhino at that site. Kandahar was the home of the Taliban spiritual leader, Mullah Omar.

Mullah Omar was known to use a PSYOP trick or two. One is mentioned in the Commander’s Handbook for Strategic Communication and Communication Strategy, Version 3.0, US Joint Forces Command Joint Warfighting Center, 24 June 2010:

Taliban leader Mullah Omar received widespread media coverage when, in 1996, he took Mohammed’s shroud out of storage in the shrine of Kharka Sharif in Kandahar, and wore it in a public rally, as a way to identify himself with the Prophet, and give himself legitimacy.

The raid was a warning that America could strike when and where it chose, even at the center of the Taliban spiritual strength. The American troops carried leaflets featuring a photograph of New York City firemen raising the American flag over the ruins of the World Trade Center, with the text "Freedom Endures" in English on one side and Pashto on the other.

During the successful raid the Rangers gathered intelligence and killed 25 enemy troops.

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Ranger Calling Card Leaflet on Rucksack

Although CENTCOM never released an image of the leaflet it did appear on a Discovery Channel TV documentary entitled "Commando Solo Afghan Skies" The leaflet was attached to a soldier’s rucksack and was identified as a "Calling Card" in the documentary. This image is explained by a comment from one of the Rangers who took part in the mission:

The Fireman leaflets were actually attached to the kit bags that we left behind on the drop zone for the locals to police up. To the best of my knowledge every Ranger that was on that jump had one. The size was approximately 5 x 8 inches. According to the battle damage assessment after the operation the locals did pick up the bags and clean up the area. No enemy forces got near us that night. We stuffed our chutes into kit bags so that follow-on aircraft could land without sucking up chutes into the engine intakes.

There is some question as to the legality of using the image on the leaflet. The original “Flag Raising at Ground Zero” photograph was taken by Thomas E. Franklin and published in The Record of Bergen County, New Jersey. I have a large "legal" print of this photograph on my living room wall. However, the Army never attributed the photographer on the PSYOP leaflet. I suspect that Tom Franklin was rather proud when he heard about this operation, but unless they requested permission in advance, this would seem to be a PSYOP mistake.

I was surprised to find the leaflet mentioned in the 2005 book One Bullet Away – the Making of a Marine Officer, by Nathaniel Fick, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA. Young Second Lieutenant Fick tells of landing at Camp Rhino well after the battle. His weapons platoon was part of the perimeter defense. As he walked up a small hill to get a better look at the camp he notices a small piece of paper stuck against a desert bush. He picks up the paper and says that it was note paper, about the size of a “thank you” card. It depicted the three firemen raising the flag at the World Trade center and had the words, “Freedom Endures” in both English and Pashto. It was a calling card left by Task Force Sword. Later, as his platoon leaves the site on foot carrying all their weapons and ammo he passes a truck that was destroyed in an ambush. He leaves the leaflet on the truck as a warning to the Taliban.

The mission is explored in greater detail in the book Weapon of Choice - ARSOF in Afghanistan. It tells of Tactical PSYOP Detachment (TPD) 940, B Company, 9th Psychological Operations Battalion (POB) training and rehearsing with the Rangers for five days prior to the operation against the objective they called "Rhino." Four of the Psywarriors jumped from MC-130 Combat Talon aircraft into combat with the Rangers. Some of the text is:

On 12 September 2001, TPD 940 began target analysis for Afghanistan. Especially the Taliban, the Afghan populace, and the al-Qaida network. They were then sent to the 75th Ranger Regiment on 18 September carrying loudspeaker scripts, that included introduction of Coalition forces, surrender appeals, and civilian noninterference warnings. Eventually, the loudspeaker messages were narrowed down to just four.

TPD 940 conducted final planning, underwent several inspections, and participated in detailed rehearsals of actions at the objective. Inspections included personnel, weapons, ammunition, and combat equipment as well as PSYOP product scripts and mini-disk copies of the scripts in Urdu, Pashto, and Arabic that would be used during the operation. The 6th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne) Product Development Detachment had also prepared leaflets that were to be left on the objective. They were to communicate America's resolve to stop terrorism and let the enemy know that it had been there.

The four PSYOP specialists split up into two Tactical PSYOP Teams, TPT 941 and TPT 943. One team began broadcasting from a loudspeaker:

It told anyone in the area that U.S. forces were present and that they needed to exit the buildings, stay away from the airfield, drop any weapons, and get down on the ground if they wanted to survive. We played the message for about 5 minutes. The broadcast resounded across the valley floor into the compound. There was no doubt that, anyone in the area had fair warning. This done, we bounded forward to join the rest of the Ranger element at building #1, secured a room, and awaited orders.

We were told to assist in searching the building for any intelligence and weapons, and to be watchful for booby traps. We found a Soviet RPK machine gun with a belt of ammo in the feed tray, expended shell casings, belt links on the ground, a [rocket-propelled grenade] (RPG) launcher with 10 to 12 rounds nearby, and two AK-47 assault rifles. The rooms had articles of clothing strewn about, mattresses and bedding, and other personal effects. After collecting the weapons, we distributed about 400 leaflets in and around the building.

Since we mention TPTs above, perhaps I should take a moment to discuss the U.S. Army PSYOP Organization. The reader should understand that the organization changes over time as new doctrine and equipment is authorized and fielded. At the time this article was written the system was the following:

The 4th PSYOP Group consists of six active Duty PSYOP battalions:

1st PSYOP Battalion – Southern Command
3rd PSYOP Battalion – Dissemination
5th PSYOP Battalion – Pacific Command
6th PSYOP Battalion – European Command
8th PSYOP Battalion – Central Command
9th PSYOP Battalion – Tactical

There were two Army Reserve PSYOP Groups in 2001. The 2nd PSYOP Group consists of four PSYOP battalions and 15 PSYOP companies. The 7th PSYOP Group consists of four PSYOP battalions and 13 PSYOP companies.

In 2021, the Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., published a two-book set on the war in Afghanistan titled Modern War in an Ancient Land: The United States Army in Afghanistan. It mentioned very little about PSYOP, but did mention the strain the war put on Reserve PSYOP units:

The reserve component was able to fill the ranks with volunteers in the short term, but by 2004 the lack of available personnel made many units nondeployable. This was most pronounced in the psychological operations and civil affairs forces that were slated to deploy. At the end of 2004, close to 50 percent of Army Reserve personnel (almost 100,000) had been mobilized since 11 September 2001, including 15,000 who had been mobilized twice and 2,000 mobilized three or more times. Within a few months, only 31,000 of 205,000 Army Reserve soldiers were eligible for mobilization under the policy of twenty-four-month cumulative mobilization without a volunteer statement.

Each PSYOP Battalion can support a corps. Within the PSYOP battalions are Tactical PSYOP Companies (TPC), each of which can support a division. The Companies are made up of Tactical PSYOP Detachments (TPD), each of which can support a brigade. The team is idyllically made up of a Detachment Commander (CPT), Detachment NCOIC (SSG) and two PSYOP specialists (SPC) equipped with two M1025 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) and both an AEM450/900 (1000-1800 meters range) vehicle loudspeaker and LSB-40B (700-1000 meters range) dismounted loudspeaker. The family of loudspeaker systems incorporates the latest advances in portable audio technology. Along with controls for audio source and adjustable output levels, the system contains a digital voice recorder function to provide three minutes of audio recording capabilities. The system can broadcast live or prerecorded messages from a cassette player, minidisk, internal digital voice recorder or wireless microphone. It also can support new commercial devices, like MP3 players. The highest power version, with even greater range, is mounted on the Black Hawk helicopter. The maritime version of the loudspeaker system is mounted on the special operations Mark V patrol craft where it can be used for detaining or instructing suspicious watercraft.

The detachments can be broken up into Tactical PSYOP Teams (TPT), each of which can support a battalion. The team is idyllically made up of a team leader (SSG), Assistant team leader (SGT) and a PSYOP specialist (SPC) equipped with two HMMWVs and both a vehicle and dismounted loudspeaker.

In a Special Operations Technology Online Archives article written by Scott R. Gourley, print capabilities are discussed. He says that the Deployable Print Production Center (DPPC) is configured inside an S-250 shelter carried on a HMMWV. The rapidly deployable system allows for local production of leaflets, flyers, newsletters and other information products in forward areas. One graphics artist/illustrator and one printer operate a hardware suite featuring dual Pentium Pro 200 MHz processors, 128 MB of RAM, a scanner, a 600 dpi color laser printer, a Risograph high speed digital duplicator, and an electronic paper cutter. The system is capable of producing up to 93,000 single-color leaflets in 24 hours.

The Modular Print System (MPS) represents the “next step up” in print products. It has heavier Heidelburg presses in it that can produce larger quantity print products at much higher quality. It is used for leaflets that need to be fancier with multiple colors.

The MPS contains three modules: A, B, and C. Module A contains printing equipment that is no longer used. Module B consists of two expandable shelters, each containing Heidelberg offset presses that can print two colors at one time or one color, front and back. Module C is an expandable shelter that contains a large paper cutter. These shelters also contain a press plate maker and a small light table. Modules B and C both contain limited paper storage space when expanded. The MPS requires a 26-Soldier team for 24-hour operations. Setup of the MPS with 26 Soldiers requires 6 hours.

The Sunday Times of October 21 stated that what appeared to be genuine 100-afghanis banknotes had been overprinted and airdropped with the message "Our goals will be achieved, if not willingly, then by overwhelming force."  

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On October 23, the Taliban showed that the leaflets and radio messages were having a result. A senior militia official announced from Kabul that the Afghan people in the eastern city of Jalalabad were burning the propaganda leaflets and radios being dropped by U.S. planes to turn the population against the Taliban. The leaflets were also reportedly dropped on the western neighborhoods of Kabul. Some Afghans said that they were afraid to pick up the leaflets and risk punishment by the Taliban.

The leaflet dropped on Jalalabad shows al-Qaida terrorists at the left and right targeted by a sniper's crosshairs in red. Text at the center in Pashto and Dari read:

Drive out the foreign terrorists.

The Taliban is made up of non-Afghans, particularly Pakistanis. It is believed that the Afghans fear and dislike them, and thus the leaflet tries to drive a wedge between the two groups.

The back of the leaflet shows a member of the Taliban religious police whipping a woman in a burqa at the left. Text at the right reads:

Is this the future you want for your women and children?

The Religious Police will whip women on the street that they feel are not dressing in accordance with a strict interpretation of the Koran. It may be that this leaflet was not effective because many Afghans questioned about the image on the leaflet believed that the female had probably broken some religious law to deserve a beating. It seems to be a case of the United States believing that what was important in its culture would also be important in Afghan culture. This leaflet is also found coded AFD024b. 5,380,000 copies of the AFD-024b leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

The American propaganda radio reinforced the “divide and conquer” message to separate the Taliban from the Afghan people:

Do you enjoy being ruled by the Taliban? Are you proud to live a life of fear? Are you happy to see the place your family has owned for generations a terrorist training site? Are you proud to live under a government that harbors terrorists? Are you proud to live in a nation ruled by extreme fundamentalists?

The Taliban have robbed your country of your heritage. They have destroyed your national monuments, and cultural artifacts. They rule by force, violence, and fear. They insist that their form of Islam is the one and only form, the true form, the divine form. They see themselves as religious experts. They seek to rob you and your nation of its past. That which has brought you together as a nation over the past thousands of years is being slowly torn apart. They destroy your national treasures. They also harbor terrorists.

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Leaflet AFD16

This leaflet has two drawings on the front and two on the back showing Afghans how to approach the food rations dropped on them by Coalition helicopters. The two pictures on the front depict the crate of rations (marked “C”) falling by parachute and landing on the ground. The two pictures on the back depict an Afghan father and son seeing the crate on the ground, and the father opening it to display the various foodstuffs. There is no text on this leaflet and I have no record that it was disseminated. Notice that in Leaflet 16g below the lesson is presented in a better way and the packets are in their official yellow color with the printed title “HDR.” In Somalia starving people rushed under the parachuted food and some were crushed. As a result, a similar leaflet was dropped by American aircraft in Bosnia which warned:

Danger! For everyone's safety, let humanitarian aid land before approaching.

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On October 29, the U.S. Government released another leaflet image. This leaflet had four cartoons in full color. The first shows an American aircraft dropping humanitarian daily rations (HDR) food packets. The second shows an Afghan picking up one of the packets. When turned over, the leaflet shows the Afghan tearing open the packet. The word "Halal" is at the upper right. This term shows that the food was prepared in accordance with the Koran. The final illustration shows the Afghan sitting with his entire family and enjoying the feast sent by the Americans. The leaflet is clearly designed for illiterate Afghans and shows them what to do with the yellow packets found on the ground. This leaflet is found with and without the code AFD16g.

1,070,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

There seems to be a number of variations of this same leaflet with slight changes. In one I noticed that the leaflet depicts the entire food crate dropping in the first cartoon box.

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A New Color for the Food Packet

There was a problem when the United States realized that the color of the food packets and the cluster bomblets were both yellow and children might pick up the explosive. In order to preserve lives, the humanitarian daily ration (HDR) color was changed. In the picture above, we show an exhibit from the JFK Special Warfare Museum at Ft. Bragg where the new orange-colored packet was displayed, along with a poster, leaflets and the PSYOP radio given to the Afghans.

Another problem with food is mentioned Dr. Daniel L. Haulman in an article titled “USAF Psychological Operations, 1990-2003.”

During Operation Enduring Freedom, USAF C-17s dropped thousands of food packages over Afghanistan with printed messages stating, “This is a food gift from the people of the United States of America.” Unfortunately, they were printed in English, Spanish, and French, none of which the average Afghan could understand. The packages had been prepared without reference to where they would be delivered.

In Bosnia there were deaths when hungry people rushed into the drop zones and were crushed by the falling food crates. The United States warned the people of Somalia when they dropped food there, and again in Afghanistan. The American radio told the Afghans:

Attention, people of Afghanistan! Aid is being dropped by plane at a very high altitude using large parachutes. These parachutes slow their descent. Despite the parachutes, the bundles will still fall very fast. These bundles will drift and shift directions due to wind. These bundles may appear small, but they are in fact very large and heavy. Do not stand directly below them. Let the bundles land and settle before you approach them. If you follow these instructions you will not be injured. The bundles are filled with food, water, and medical supplies. The bundles will not contain any military related supplies or equipment. These have been given to you by the United States in an effort to show our support for the fair people of Afghanistan. The United States does not want you, the innocent people of Afghanistan, to suffer for the deeds of Al Qaida and its leader Osama bin laden. That is why the United States has prepared and delivered these aid bundles.

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On November 2, the Pentagon announced that they had dropped a new aerial propaganda leaflet. The oversized leaflet depicted three photographs of the face of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar targeted by the crosshairs of a gun scope at the far right. The Mullah had earlier forbidden any photographs of himself. To the left of the photographs were three photographs of the license plate of one of Omar's vehicles, again covered by the crosshairs. This second photo was probably taken during an earlier operation when an American Predator unmanned surveillance aircraft fitted with two "Hellfire" anti-tank missiles had targeted the car but allegedly was not allowed to fire due to a rules of engagement dispute. General Tommy Franks later stated that he had full authority to fire but was unable to get the car in a clear field of fire where there would be no collateral damage. To the left of the leaflet are three pairs of eyes alternated with the text "We are watching!" The leaflet is identical on both sides except for the text, which is in Pashto or Dari. The Pentagon announced that 16 million leaflets have been produced and would be dropped in batches at intervals.

This permission to fire at enemy leaders was discussed in an 18 November 2001 Washington Post article by Thomas E. Ricks titled "Target Approval Delays Cost Air Force Key Hits." Ricks claimed that:

As many as 10 times over the last six weeks, the Air Force believed it had top Taliban and al Qaida members in its cross hairs in Afghanistan but was unable to receive clearance to fire in time to hit them, according to senior Air Force officials - Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles F. Wald, who until earlier this month commanded the air campaign, has complained about the clearance problems directly to Franks more than a dozen times since the war began on 7 October, officials said. They said he never received a response. "CENTCOM was a black hole on this," one officer said, referring to the Central Command...Adding to these problems has been recurring friction between the military's operations and what amounts to a parallel war being waged by the CIA, which has played a significant combat role in Afghanistan, carrying out its own airstrikes with unmanned aircraft and deploying covert operatives on the ground, officials said - the CIA is not only gathering intelligence but also conducting airstrikes using an unmanned aircraft that carries missiles. Officials disclosed that over the last month, the agency's drones, called Predators, have fired about 40 Hellfire antitank missiles, a first in warfare - U.S. Special Forces troops are now being forced to go into Afghanistan on the ground to pursue members of the al Qaida terrorist network and Taliban leaders who could have been killed from the air earlier in the campaign.

Matthew Wallin of the American Security Project suspects that leaflets depicting the Taliban leaders were not effective. He says:

The premise of using printed material like leaflets in a country with low literacy rates presents an immediate challenge. For a leaflet to be effective in Afghanistan, it has to convey a simple message without assuming that the viewer can read, and convince that viewer to take a specific course of action. Beyond just the fundamental issue of low literacy, the target audience must have familiarity and understanding of the images used—and images that are familiar to American producers of these materials might not be familiar to an Afghan audience.

As Afghanistan also has little television or print media, images that may seem commonplace to westerners may cause the target audience to draw a blank. For instance, images of Osama bin Laden or Taliban leaders in leaflet materials resonated little with rural Afghans who had no knowledge of what these figures looked like. Subsequently, leaflets of these individuals depicted with crosshairs superimposed over their faces may not have conveyed the same message to Afghans as it did to Westerners.

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Leaflet EF3C14L1

The same general image was used in another leaflet except that there was one set of eyes and one photograph of the alleged Omar. This might have given the Taliban leader a laugh because as you will discover later in this article, the photograph may not have been of Omar. It is possible that the Coalition had the wrong man on the leaflet.

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Photos of Omar used in News Reports of his Death

Note: The Coalition searched for Mullah Omar for 14 years without success. In 2015, Afghan officials reported that he had actually died in Karachi, Pakistan in 2013. The Afghan spy agency had pronounced him dead in 2011, only to back off those claims later. There is still debate about whether he is really dead or this report is further Taliban disinformation. On 30 July 2015, the Taliban announced that a new leader had been appointed, Mullah Akhtar Mansour. He called for unity, saying that the group will continue fighting. On 21 May 2016, the Coalition reported that it had attacked and likely killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour by a drone strike in a remote region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. A week after the death of Mansour had been verified, the Taliban named a senior religious cleric, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada as its new leader, a decision the Afghan militant group hopes will avoid succession disputes.

300,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by Task Force Sword. Also known as TF 11, it was first inserted into Afghanistan in October 2001. On 19 December 2001, after it had been concluded that any remaining al-Qaida and Taliban elements believed to be in Tora Bora had melted into the local population or fled into Pakistan, TF Sword was inactivated.

We should also mention that the Coalition loved this symbol of watching eyes. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, three different leaflets were prepared that depicted a pair of eyes ominously watching the viewer. Besides the implied threat “We know where you are,” some believe that there was also an implication of the “evil eye.”

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Leaflet AF-3-D-5-L2

On the subject of watching the enemy, this leaflet depicts what appears to be an eagle keeping careful watch over the countryside. This appears to be an early leaflet because it does not use the term “Coalition.”

The Joint nations are watching you
Cease resistance, otherwise you will be killed

On the same day, the Pentagon stated that leaflets had been dropped warning the Afghans not to pick up the yellow cluster bombs that were similar in color to the HDR food packets. Human rights groups had criticized the use of the cluster bombs because it was thought that children might be attracted to the bright yellow color. The Pentagon reported that the color of the humanitarian Daily Rations would be blue in the future.

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Humanitarian Aid Packet and BLU 97 Cluster Bomb

On the same day, the Pentagon stated that leaflets had been dropped warning the Afghans not to pick up the yellow cluster bombs that were similar in color to the HDR food packets. Human rights groups had criticized the use of the cluster bombs because it was thought that children might be attracted to the bright yellow color. The Pentagon reported that the color of the humanitarian Daily Rations would be blue in the future.

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The warning leaflet is AFD39. The leaflet depicts a hand reaching toward a food packet on one side and a short message explaining that this is safe. The back of the leaflet depicts a hand reaching for a bomblet, and shows bomblets in several forms on the ground. There is a skull and crossed bones at the center of the leaflet warning finders of the danger. The text is short and sweet:

Clean and safe food / Halal


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There is an entire series of leaflets coded AFD29 with an added letter. The last I have seen is AFD29u. Most have the same general message. On the front they usually depict Aiman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin-Laden. On the back the two terrorist leaders are pictured again with a text:

$25,000,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts and capture of these two men. Contact Coalition authorities.

2,310,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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Handout AFG021j

This is a handbill, which means it is larger than the standard leaflet and meant to be handed to the target audience, not dropped on them. The front has two photographs of Osama bin Laden and the back is all text in Pashto, Dari and Arabic. The text is:

Osama bin Laden

Fugitive Felon

Osama Bin Laden is responsible for the torture, death and suffering of Afghans. Give us information regarding his hiding place so we can capture him. We are working with the fighters for his arrest and you can help us.

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Leaflet rolls being packed at Fort Bragg, NC for loading on to a PDU-5/B leaflet bombs that will be dropped in support of Operation Enduring Freedom

On November 8, the Pentagon announced that 16 million propaganda leaflets had been dropped on Afghanistan. The previous day the 4th PSYOP Group at Ft. Bragg had printed 800,000 new leaflets and packed them inside 15 propaganda bombs to be shipped to Afghanistan. The PSYOP troops were placed on a war footing at the start of the operation and regularly worked 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day.

Curiously, we know that after 16 million leaflets had been dropped, on the very same day, 8 November, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had a sudden revelation and asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a short memorandum on PSYOP that he called a “snowflake”:

Who in the government is in charge of psychological warfare, public relations and the influence campaign?

This is an interesting question because not only is it rather late in the game to be determining who is in charge, it also implies that someone should be in charge. These are quite different areas of expertise. PSYWAR is the planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objectives. It is aimed at the enemy. Public Relations are much more difficult to define and there are literally hundreds of definitions. It is used in so many different ways that it is difficult to generalize, but we might say something like “communications often in the form of news distributed in a form which may include newspaper, magazine, radio, television, Internet or other forms of media in an attempt to influence a favorable image of a government.” The fact is, public relations really have more to do with business and the public than government operations. I have not found a good definition for influence operations although we all know what they entail. Perhaps the latest PSYOP manuals define it. I did find one disparaging comment about the US operation in Afghanistan in The Princeton Project on National Security report Non-Military Strategies for Countering Islamist Terrorism that says:

The most comprehensive assessment of the current U.S. strategic influence campaign found that initial efforts after 9/11 to win the “battle of ideas” lacked a clear organizational structure, an agreed national strategy, and adequate financial and especially human resources. To improve interagency coordination among the multiple executive branch bodies involved in U.S. strategic influence campaigns, it created the new position of deputy national security adviser for strategic communication and outreach

So, perhaps Rumsfeld had a point. Who was in charge of all these operations? And, should any one person or organization be in charge of operations that are so different?

And yet, with all the controversy, Christopher J. Lamb says in Review of Psychological Operations Lessons Learned from Recent Operational Experience, National Defense University Press Washington, D.C. September 2005, that the PSYOP campaign was effective:

In several instances, a strong correlation between PSYOP objectives and activities on the one hand, and observable enemy behavior on the other, was apparent. Typically this occurred when tactical PSYOP products asked for a specific behavior, which was then observed, and for which no other explanations seem as plausible. During OEF, PSYOP leaflets and broadcasts directed at enemy forces in Konduz appeared to result in the surrender of 1,000 Taliban fighters. Unlike surrender and desertion of enemy forces in OIF, the Taliban forces were not facing a sizable U.S. ground force, and therefore the correlation between the value of the PSYOP effort per se and enemy behavior seems stronger.

The Taliban showed signs of collapse on November 14. They had threatened to fight to the death, but they surprised everyone by fleeing the Afghan capital of Kabul in the dark of the night. The war now entered a new phase as American Special Forces hunted bin Laden and his terrorist group in the mountains and caves of southeastern Afghanistan. They set up roadblocks along the refugee-filled roads. That same day the United States broadcast radio messages and dropped 1.5 million leaflets offering 25 million dollars to anyone willing to betray bin Laden.

The front of the leaflet pictured Aiman al-Zawahiri at the left and Osama bin Laden at the right. Al-Zawahiri is an Egyptian doctor turned militant, leader of Jamaat-ul-Jihad, and suspect in the bombing of two U.S. Embassies in East Africa that killed over 220 people. He is considered a top aide to bin Laden. The text "Up to $25,000,000 reward" is at the center of the leaflet between the photographs. The back of the leaflets has the same text in Pashto and Dari at left and right that reads, "Up to $25,000,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts or capture of these two men." Osama bin laden is shown at the top center, and Aiman al-Zawahiri at bottom center. 

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On November 19, the Army Times reported a new leaflet dropped in Afghanistan. This leaflet displays an American family on the left and an Afghan family on the right. Beneath the American family, a map of the United States is in the form of a flag in red, white and blue. Beneath the Afghan family, a map of Afghanistan is in the black, red and green colors of their national flag. Light-skinned and dark-skinned hands are clasped together at the center of the leaflet beneath the word "Friendship." The back of the leaflet has the following text:

No one should tell you how to live. The Partnership of Nations will help rescue the Afghan people from the Taliban criminals and foreign terrorists.

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Leaflet Friendship II? ­ AFD030b

There is no code on the "Friendship" leaflet, but we know from Army documentation that a leaflet AFD30a exists. 480,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war. That first "Friendship" leaflet may have a significant error. Notice that the map of Afghanistan is covered by a three-color flag in a horizontal format. The actual Afghan flag has the three colors in a vertical format. A second almost identical leaflet with the same text was printed and coded AFD30b. This leaflet depicts the flag of Afghanistan over the map in the proper vertical format. A third variety coded AFD030c exists and is identical to AFD30b except that the frame around the vignette on the front and the back is a thick black line.

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On November 20, The United States Central Command (Centcom) released another leaflet to the public. This leaflet showed the strength of the Partnership forces and threatened the Taliban with death if they did not flee. The leaflet has four drawn illustrations, two on each side. On the front, an armed Taliban truck is shown. The second picture shows a large bomb under a parachute dropping on three of the vehicles. This is the BLU-82, the Volkswagen-sized 15,000-pound bomb that is dropped from the back of a C-130 Combat Talon aircraft. The blast radius of this super bomb is about 600 yards. Text at the bottom states:

Taliban: we know where you are.

The pictures on the back show two Taliban soldiers, identified by their black turbans, throwing down their weapons and fleeing the scene. The final picture shows a large burning crater. Text at the bottom says:

Stop fighting for the Taliban and live.

There is a second variety of this leaflet. The vignettes are identical, although the color is slightly different by a few shades. The second version has text at the top and bottom of the leaflet and the font is slightly smaller in size. The Coalition codes this leaflet AFD62a. 520,000 copies of leaflet 62a were dropped on Afghanistan.

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Leaflet AFD 62b

There is also a leaflet coded AFD 62b. The images and text are identical to AFD 62. The difference is the text which is in Arabic.  Why would the Coalition drop an Arabic leaflet on the Taliban? Perhaps they wanted to address those foreign fighters that came to Afghanistan to take part in Jihad, but did not speak the local languages. A PSYOP soldier told me that they were designed to target al Qaida members. Only 60,000 copies of 62b were printed and dropped over Afghanistan. The text is:

Taliban: we know where you are

Stop fighting for the Taliban and live

60,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

We should mention  that the Blu-82 might have been used in another PSYOP campaign. I first heard of this when a reporter embedded in Kandahar Province told me a story of a discussion about PSYOP with a Canadian Army captain:

One of the Canadian officers cited the example in Mazar-i-Sharif in late 2001 where the US Rangers were preparing to storm a Taliban stronghold and expected to take heavy casualties. Someone from PSYOP managed to get a postponement and arranged to have leaflets saying "Look West tomorrow." The next day a huge bomb was dropped west of the position, then more leaflets saying "Tomorrow that is you". The next day the Taliban had fled and the position was taken without a shot.

I asked some friends in Special Operations if they had heard of such an operation. There answer was:

Three BLU-82s have been dropped in Afghanistan. Two were enough to break the defenses of Mazar-I-Sharif and the third broke the back of Taliban resistance at Kandahar.

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BLU-82 dropped in Vietnam to make a landing zone

In Vietnam the BLU-82 bomb was called “Command Vault.” The picture above might be the first BLU-82 dropped in Vietnam to make a landing zone. An article by the St. Petersburg Times of 28 December 1971 says in part:

Americans are blasting Indochina with a bomb that kills most living things within a square mile in order to create an instant helicopter landing pad.

So, it appears that the very sight of the American super-bomb is still enough to cause some enemy to withdraw from the field of combat. 

No further leaflets were released to the public until December 8. That day three leaflets were partially illustrated in an article published in the London Daily Telegraph. The article was entitled "Hippy who Waged War with Music and Posters," and was written by Toby Harnden.

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The first leaflet shows four members of al-Qaida or the Taliban. The individual at the far left is identified as "Muttawakil," and is believed to represent the Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Abdul Wakil Muttawakil. The next figure is Osama bin Laden. The third figure is identified as "Haggani," and would appear to be Jalaluddin Haggani, a senior Taliban commander who was quoted as saying "We are eagerly awaiting the American troops to land on our soil, where we will deal with them in our own way." The fourth individual wears the black Taliban turban, but is otherwise unidentified. Three Afghans are seen hanging from a gallows in the background. The text on the leaflet is:

The Taliban reign of fear...

At the left and right of the leaflet, we can just make out the fearful face of snarling Jinn. The Koran identifies the jinn as creatures created from a smokeless fire. They lie and practice deceit to fulfill their own desire for evil. Showing them with the Taliban implies that the leaders have been deceived and turned toward evil by the supernatural creatures.

2,010,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

Lennea Mueller mentions the Jinn in her 2012 Institute of World Politics paper: “Integrating Cultural Geography with Psychological Operations: Islamic Superstitions.”

The most exploitable belief to use would be the paralyzing fear of jinn and/or Satan. The name jinn comes from itjinan, meaning “concealed.” The Qur’an says, “Surely he sees you, he and his tribe, from where you see them not. Although the human eye is too weak to see them, some believe jinn can actually take the form of humans, even able to marry and have children. Muslims are very mindful about where they pray, since jinn can be found anywhere thought to be impure: abandoned settlements, bathrooms, sewage, garbage, open deserts, and fields. Jinn also can possess whatever and whomever they wish. In addition to possessing animals and trees, they can take over the human mind.

When turned over, the back of the leaflet shows the four faces altered slightly to resemble skulls, an American bit of trickery that was practiced during WWII when Adolf Hitler's face was changed to a skull-like countenance in an attempt to say that he represented death. In place of the gallows, an explosion is shown with debris thrown into the air. The text goes on to say: about to end!

The Rand monograph implies that this leaflet is ineffective since although some Americans might recognize one or two of the Afghan leaders from television and newspapers, it is doubtful that any Afghan peasants would recognize them. If the finders of the leaflets believed that the four men were just average Afghans, then depicting them as skulls on the back could imply that the U.S. intended to kill all Afghans. In addition, since Osama bin Laden was not a Taliban leader, his presence as an Arab foreigner would not be understood by the local Pashtuns. Americans understood exactly what this leaflet meant, but to Afghans it was probably quite confusing.

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The second leaflet is in a vertical format and shows bin Laden playing chess and moving Taliban figures around the board. It should be noted that the Taliban had banned chess in Afghanistan. The text on this leaflet is:

Expel the foreign rulers and live in peace.

The back of this same leaflet shows a figure identified as bin Laden holding a chain to the collar of a "kuchi," a dog of nomads. The dog has the head of Mullah Omar. The text asks:

Who really runs the Taliban?

It had been reported earlier that this leaflet was dropped over Kandahar. 2,630,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

David Champagne, civilian analyst for the 4th PSYOP Group at Fort Bragg, NC. Said about this leaflet in a 2001 WNYC Radio interview:

In Afghanistan, Kuchi dogs guard all the camps, sort of like the American “yellow dog.” You know the one, the Southern “yellow dog?” They keep them outside because dogs are not allowed inside people’s homes. And of course, Osama bin Laden is dressed in an Arab outfit. He is not dressed in native Afghan clothes, and what we are saying is that Mullah Omar is his dog.

I was told an interesting anecdote about this leaflet by U. S. Army Specialist Four Marshall D., 8th PSYOP Battalion, Product Development Center, Fort Bragg, NC. According to the Specialist, the designers of the vignette did not know what kind of dog to depict on the leaflet. One of the Fort Bragg PSYOP officers had a dog, so the staff took a photograph of the animal and placed Mullah Omar’s head on it using a Corel program. The dog's name was Duke. Later, when CNN discovered the leaflet they went into great detail analyzing the meaning of the beast with human head. The PSYOP team found it humorous because it was just a propaganda image and not so great an amount of thought and philosophy had gone into the selection.

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The controversial white dog running from the lion leaflet

Many years later, in September 2017, the Coalition prepared a leaflet depicting a white dog running from a lion. On the side of the dog was a statement from the Koran (the Shuhada) that appears on the white flag of the Taliban. The leaflet also provides phone numbers for people to contact the coalition with information. It is possible that the people preparing the leaflet did not know the meaning of the Arabic statement on the flag:

There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his Messenger.

The image seems very clear. The Taliban is cowardly and runs from the Afghan Lion. Above the image, the text text in the Pashto language urged people to report insurgents to the authorities:

Take back your own freedom from the terrorist dogs. Help coalition forces until the enemies are killed or wiped out.

Take back your own freedom. Live freely in your own home. Call this number.

Yet, when it was realized that the dog is considered unclean by some Muslims, not from anything said the Koran but from some religious commentaries, and they might object to the leaflet, all hell broke loose. Major General James Linder said in a statement from the Headquarters, Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan, 6 September 2017:

On September 5, U.S. Forces conducted a leaflet drop in Parwan Province. The design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam. I sincerely apologize. We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide. There is no excuse for this mistake. I am reviewing our procedures to determine the cause of the incidence and to hold the responsible party accountable. Furthermore I will make appropriate changes so this never happens again. Resolute Support remains committed to Afghanistan’s future, and I offer my sincerest apologies.

The Taliban responded to the leaflet, saying it proves America's “hatred” of Islam and makes clear that the war in Afghanistan “is a war between Islam and unbelief.”

The governor of Parwan province, Mohammad Hasem, also condemned the leaflet as “unforgivable,” adding that an investigation would be held:

Those who have committed this unforgivable mistake in the publicity, propaganda or media section of the coalition forces will be tried and punished.

Apparently, political correctness still rules in psychological operations.

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The right side of the third leaflet shows Osama bin Laden giving a speech. There is an arrow drawn across a heap of United States $20 bills pointing to a vignette at the left. On the left side of the leaflet a saddened bin Laden is shown in prison dress behind bars. Text on the front says:

Osama bin Laden / $25,000,000 reward.

The back of the leaflet is all text and says:

$25,000,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts or capture of Osama bin Laden. Contact Coalition authorities.

1,100,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

The Rand Monograph says that a weakness of this leaflet was the depiction of U.S. currency. It thinks that using a foreign currency was a good idea; however, U.S. dollars were relatively unknown in Afghan mountain communities at that time; the most-used currency was the Pakistani rupee. Rand thinks it might have made more sense to offer the reward in a currency with which the target audience was more familiar.

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Dates being prepared for distribution

A final item is mentioned but not shown. The article states that Ft. Bragg had printed a "greeting card" type leaflet depicting a date palm and a bowl of dates - a traditional food for celebrating the end of Eid al-Fitr, the month-long fasting period of Ramadan. The text is:

People of Afghanistan - Eid Mabaruk - We wish that God will accept your prayers and fast. People of America.

It is worth noting that the American translation misspells one Arabic word, which should be "Mubarak." The translation of "Eid Mubarak" is "Have a blessed holiday." The Pentagon finally released the leaflet illustration to the public in February of 2002. At that time it was also reported that California dates had been dropped along with the leaflets. Dates are a fruit that the Muslims traditionally use to break the fast of Ramadan. By including dates in the air drop bundles, the United States showed respect for this significant Muslim holiday. 2,000,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

The use of the religious holiday Eid as part of a psychological campaign is discussed by M. E. Roberts in Villages of the Moon, Psychological Operations in Southern Afghanistan, Publish America, Baltimore, 2005. The author says:

Tonight we did one of the best psychological operations since arriving. About dark, we drove out with a Special Forces “A” team on a roadblock mission. We had not gone out at dark like this before, and we stopped at, and went places we had never gone before. We passed out “Happy Eid” cards on the road to provide cover…then we drove back through town handing out cards to people…we did a few more check points then went home. This sent messages all over town on many levels. The Happy Eid cards showed a sensibility to Islam which undercuts enemy propaganda.

Richard Leiby, reporting in the Washington Post of December 10 updated the PSYOP leaflet count when he stated that "In Afghanistan, with a population of 26 million, some 18 million leaflets have been distributed - often via fiberglass M129 leaflet bombs that explode in midair."  

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On December 13 Centcom released several more leaflets to the public. A second variety of the reward leaflet similar to one mentioned earlier was shown. This leaflet depicts Ayman al-Zawahiri at the left and Osama bin Laden at the right. The text is:

$25,000,000 reward.

The back has al-Zawahiri above bin Laden in the center, and text at right and left that says:

Any information leading to the whereabouts of these men contact Coalition authorities.

2,970,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

The leaflet also exists in a black and white version coded AFD29o.

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Another leaflet shows hungry children at the left and Afghan men unloading sacks of food labeled "USA" at the center. The text at right is:

America has provided over $170 million in aid to Afghanistan.

The back shows images of destroyed buildings, wounded Afghans, and an execution. The text is:

This is what the Taliban has done?

1,290,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

There was no news on the propaganda front for almost a month as the shooting war slowed and the military priority became the search for the fleeing Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. Then, on January 4, the Pentagon released 11 new leaflets and one poster being distributed in Afghanistan.


Task Force 11 - SWORD

Task Force 11, also known as Task Force Sword, was a combined joint special operations task force deployed to Afghanistan in late 2001 to conduct direct action missions against several high value al-Qaida and Taliban targets in southern Afghanistan. More succinctly, based at Bagram Airport, TF 11 was intended to kill or capture high-value targets. The Task Force consisted of special operations forces from the United States and the United Kingdom. In addition, TF 11 was tasked with coordinating the effort in Afghanistan to include organizations like the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency. TF 11 was largely separate from other special operations forces and other chains of command in the area of operations. However, TF 11 did coordinate with other special operations and conventional military elements in Afghanistan during its deployment and also sourced support from conventional elements like the US Marine Corps' Task Force 58. The direct action teams under it were TF GREEN from Delta Force and TF BLUE from SEAL Team 6.

TF 11 was first inserted into Afghanistan in October 2001 to take control of Objective Rhino, the code-name for a dirt strip capable of handling special operations aircraft in Afghanistan's remote south-central desert region. TF 11 also participated in the fighting in the Tora Bora region during December 2001. We can assume that the main purpose of the Task Force was the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and high-ranking officers of the Taliban and al Qaida. On 19 December 2001, Task Force 11 was inactivated.

The leaflets used by the task force are varied and just as the units came from numerous services and specialties the leaflets bear various code numbers. We do not know how many additional leaflets were added as the war went on. Those we mention here are all from the first year of the war. We should probably mention the RP task force leaflets first. In the first year of the war there were 15 different RP leaflets printed. The ones I have seen are: RP03 (1,100,000); RPO5 (1,490,000); RP07a (1,546,000); RP07b (1,276,000); RP09 (3,952,000); RP13a (70,000); RP15 (30,000); and RP15a (30,000). We depict RP03 below:

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Leaflet TF11-RP03

The front of the leaflet shows a dead al-Qaida soldier. The text is:

Osama bin Laden the murderer and coward has abandoned al-Qaida. He has abandoned you and run away. Give yourself up and do not die needlessly. You mean nothing to him. Save your families the grief and pain of your death.

These illustrations of dead or mangled fighters were dropped in great numbers in Vietnam. During Desert Storm the Arab states in the Coalition warned against using them against Iraq, as it was believed that they were counter-productive. There are no Saudi Arabian officials making recommendations to the United States in Afghanistan, and apparently the American propagandists fell back into their old ways.

The back of the leaflet shows a young bin Laden, shaved except for his mustache, in a western style suit and tie. It was hoped that this altered image would offend the fundamentalist Muslims. The text is:

Osama bin Laden the murderer and coward has abandoned you.

This leaflet implies that bin Laden has abandoned his fundamentalist ways and is hiding in the west. This leaflet was apparently popular among Coalition forces because it was dropped again in November of 2002.

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Leaflet TF11-RP15

The left side of this leaflet depicts al-Qaida fighters in a cave about to eat a meal much like leaflet AFD69b above. The right side depicts bin Laden sitting cross-legged on a pile of dead Afghans as in leaflet AFD93. The back is all text. We do not have any data on the actual use of this leaflet except to say that 30,000 copies were in preparation at Ft. Bragg as of 7 September 2002.

A leaflet coded RP15a was also produced and 30,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

There were a number of leaflets coded AF disseminated by the task force. Some of those known to have been used are: AF1A11P3 (30,000); AF1B11HB1 (30,000); AF5C11HB1 (30,000); AF8B11HB1 (30,000); and AF8B11HP1 (30,000).

Another group of leaflets were coded EF. Some of those known to be used by Task Force 11 are: EF1A7L1 (155,000); EF2A22L1 (30,000); EF2A7L1 (250,000); EF2A22L1 (120,000); EF2A22L2 (170,000); EF2C11L1 (280,000); EF2C11L2 (280,000) and EFC314L1 (300,000). We depict EF2A7L1 below:

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Leaflet EF2A7L1

Leaflet EF2A7L1 depicts three Taliban fighters surrendering on the front. The back depicts two Taliban fighters surrendering. We know that 250,000 of these leaflets were disseminated by static line boxes and 540,000 leaflets were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs by 2 September 2002. The Pashto text is:

Attention Taliban

The National military forces have come to end your bandit operations

A number of the regular leaflets used in Afghanistan were also used by the Task Force. We do not know all the leaflets but we do know that the following AFD and AFD leaflets were used by the task force at some point: AFC005 (10,000); AFC06 (5,000); AFC020 (8,000); AFD40e (270,000); AFD114 (60,000); AFD149 (30,000); AFD160 (5,000); AFD165 (5,000); AFD166 (5,000); AFD171 (5,000); AFD172 (5,000); and AFD178 (5,000).

This concludes our brief look at the leaflets used by TF11. We return to the standard leaflets now.

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AFD 138

The images on leaflet TF11RP03 were also printed on standard leaflet AFD 138, but with the message slightly changed and in Arabic rather than Pashto and Dari. Because the average Afghan could not read this leaflet, it was probably aimed at the foreign fighters with the Taliban and al Qaida. I can find no record of this leaflet being dropped after the first year of war so it is possible that only the TF11RP03 version was disseminated. The text on this leaflet is:

The murderer Osama bin Laden has abandoned you and ran far away

Don't die for nothing. Save your families

Osama bin Laden the Coward

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Leaflet AFD142

A basic policy of American PSYOP is that you do not show dead bodies. It is considered anti-productive and tends to insult and enrage the enemy rather than bring him over to your side. Yet, it is impossible to resist. In every war we find American leaflets depicting dead enemy bodies. The above leaflet shows a dead Taliban on the ground, the same individual depicted on AFD138 and TF11RP03. The text is in Arabic, not Pashto or Dari so this leaflet targets Arab fighters aligned with the Taliban. The text on the front and back is:

Osama bin Laden is a coward who has abandoned al Qaida. Surrender now and do not die needlessly. Don’t let your families suffer from your death for the coward bin Laden.

Notice that this translation is very similar to the two above. It is possible that all three of the messages are the same but that each translator wrote the words just a bit differently.

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The United States military has been tasked with locating and destroying buried mines in the many nations that it aids. Since 1993, the U.S. has sent forces into dozens of countries to help identify and safely dismantle mines. In 1997 the President of the United States supported a plan to eliminate all land mines that endanger civilians by the year 2010.

During the recent wars in Somalia, Kuwait, Bosnia, and Kosovo millions of leaflets, coloring books, and comic books were distributed to warn civilians of the danger of approaching and handling mines and other explosives. The mine awareness leaflet is a standard PSYOP product of American Special Operations. One of the first American soldiers severely wounded in Afghanistan lost a foot to a hidden landmine. The United States searches out and destroys mines and other explosives to protect the civilian population.

One dropped leaflet pictures seven types of dangerous mines and grenades with a skull and crossed bones in the background. The leaflet also appears as a small poster. The text is:


Partnership of Nations forces are destroying unexploded ordinance and weapons to keep the citizens of this region safe. There is no reason to be alarmed. For your own safety, stay away! STAY AWAY.

A similar leaflet poster is coded AFD-DG2. It shows the seven explosives and the skull and crossed bones. The leaflet text is:

Danger! Unexploded ordanance (sic) can kill! Do not touch! Help us keep you safe.

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Another mine leaflet that was found more recently is in bright red to attract attention and shows a skull and crossed bones at the left and six mines at the right. The text is:

Stop and turn away. Stay out! Mines. Help us keep you safe!

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The second leaflet shows a group of mines in the desert. The text is:

Al Qaida, your escape routes are mined.

The back shows two burning trucks with the text:

You are trapped.

570,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

There were a number of different mine awareness leaflets used during the consolidation period of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. One series was in the form of posters and coded "AFG." The AFG products are larger than leaflets, too big to be dropped from aircraft and usually disseminated as handouts. Some examples of the series are:

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AFG15 is a full color poster that depicts an Afghan Father and son and various explosive devices. The back has been checkered to make it harder for an enemy to place his own propaganda there. 20,400 copies of AFG15 were disseminated by Tactical PSYOP Teams in Kabul, Herat and Kunduz. The text is:



Do not touch mines!

Report mine locations to your local authorities.

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AFG16 is also a full color handout that depicts an Afghan father and son. Eight types of explosives are "X"ed at bottom. The back has been checkered to make it harder for an enemy to place his own propaganda there. We know that 30,000 of these handbills were originally printed and 20,400 were disseminated by Tactical PSYOP Teams in Kabul, Herat and Kunduz. The message is short and sweet:

Do not touch the mines

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AFG17 is a full color handout that depicts a skull and crossed bones at top and ten types of explosives below. The back has been checkered to make it harder for an enemy to place his own propaganda there. 800 of these handbills were disseminated in Kabul, Herat and Kunduz. The text is:



Report the location of mines to the local authorities.



AFC007 is a full-sized poster 11 x 17-inches in size. It has all the ominous signs, the red color of danger, the skull and crossed bones, six explosives, one covered with the “prohibited symbol,” and warning text in both Dari and Pashto. The text is:

Do Not Touch!>


Report the locations of mines to the responsible officials.

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AFC007 is a full-sized poster 11 x 17-inches in size. It has all the ominous signs, the red color of danger, the skull and crossed bones, six explosives, one covered with the “prohibited symbol,” and warning text in both Dari and Pashto. The text is:

Do Not Touch!


Report the locations of mines to the responsible officials.

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Handout AFG019

The AFG products are larger than leaflets, too big to be dropped from aircraft and usually disseminated as handouts. The above mine handout depicts five injured Afghan children surrounded by 13 explosives. The short text in Pashtu and Dari is:

The main cause of death

Stay back! Be Safe!

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Poster AFC-A1- 3019P

This is a full-sized poster measuring 11 x 17-inches with the text in Pashto. It is a bit different than the usual poster that gives a general warning. This one implies there are explosives in a specific place. It has three pictures of injured Afghans at center, the skull and crossbones below and images of five explosives. The text is:


This is a dangerous area!

Mines and explosives are in this place!

Do not enter!

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Handout AFG-A1-3026 D

The above mine handout depicts an injured Afghan being treated by Coalition medics. The text is:

The Afghan Islamic Transitional Government and Coalition forces want you to be safe.

The back of the handbill shows an injured arm, four explosives and the text:

If you see any of these, do not touch them.

Other mine leaflets were distributed to Afghan refugees who were returning home from Pakistan. One such item showed 10 different types of explosives in full color on a standard leaflet (about 3 x 6 inches) in a vertical format.

A mine clearing conference was held at MacDill Air Force Base on February 13, 2002. At that time it was estimated that a minimum of 2-million mines were still buried in Afghanistan. That number is probably low.

ARSOF in Afghanistan adds:

Particularly gratifying… was the work the PSYOP soldiers did to make the people aware of mines. Identified minefield boundaries were marked by rocks painted red on the side facing the minefield and white on the "safe" side… focused their efforts on more prominently identifying minefields and distributing leaflets to warn the Afghan people about their presence.