Psychological Operations
in Afghanistan

By  Herbert A. Friedman


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Another leaflet shows five al-Qaida fighters in a cave about to eat a meal laid out on a rug. In the background a "smart bomb" is seen falling near the cave entrance. The text is:

Al-Qaida do you think you are safe...

The back of the leaflet shows three al-Qaida terrorists with their eyes wide open in fear, the cave entrance blocked with rubble. The text is: your tomb?

1,140,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

I love this leaflet showing the insurgents in a cave, but not for its message or image. I love it because it reminds me of a comment made by President Bush when a reporter, implying that the United States effort in Afghanistan was a failure because Osama bin Laden was still free, said:

This is a guy who, three months ago, was in command of a country. Now he’s maybe in command of a cave. He’s on the run.

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Leaflet AFD96

This is an interesting leaflet that also shows members of the Taliban hiding in underground caves. There is text but it is almost impossible to see. The front depicts three Taliban in deep caves under the ground as Coalition “smart bombs” head directly toward their hiding place. On the back of the leaflet, two of the entrances have been demolished and the Taliban is now trapped underground. In the third case, the bomb has yet to explode. The concept of dying a slow death trapped under tons of rubble must have been terrifying. The text on the front is:

Al-Qaida make sure you are sitting safely…

Al-Qaida, you’re in denial.

The text on the back is:

In your graves?


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Leaflet AFD109

The above leaflet depicts the Taliban being attacked in a cave. In leaflet AFD109 the Coalition explains how they will find those caves. This leaflet is entitled “Watching you.” The front depicts a Coalition satellite looking at the Earth from space and spotting a cave in the side of a mountain. The back of the leaflet depicts the same cave seen from a closer position by Coalition binoculars. 90,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs by 2 September 2002. The text in Dari and Pashto on the front is:

We know where you are hidden

The text on the back is:

Taliban and Al Qaida members! We have you under observation

90,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

A similar leaflet was used in Operation Iraqi Freedom coded IZD038 to warn that:

We can see everything. Do not use nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.

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Leaflet AFD108c

Curiously, the same cave appears in AFD108c. This leaflet depicts Coalition soldiers on a tank looking at the cave. On the back an air strike has been called in and cave has been destroyed. The Coalition leaflet title is: “Partnership of Nations on tank - cease resistance.” 500,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs by 9/02. Text on the front is:

The Coalition countries have you under observation

The text on the back is:

Cease resistance or you will be destroyed

500,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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The final threat leaflet shows an AC130U "Spectre" gunship above the clouds with guns firing downward. These gunships are armed with a 25mm GAU-12 Gatling gun, one 40mm Bofors cannon, and one 105mm M102 howitzer. The text is:

Taliban and Al Qaida Fighters - We know where you are hiding.

The back of the leaflet depicts three Taliban fighters with crosshairs over their faces and the text:

Taliban/Al Qaida fighters: you are our targets.

2,270,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

Previous gunship call signs were "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "Spooky." There are three versions of this leaflet that are almost identical. They are AFD-40, AFD-40e and AFD-40f.

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AFD40e depicts the AC130U “Spectre” gunship but in a quite different setting. It is now more distant, less visible and firing tracers downward through the night sky. The intention was certainly to warn the Taliban and al Qaida fighters that they were not safe even in the pitch-black of a starless night. The back of the leaflet has also been changed. The faces of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar have been added to the targeted terrorists, which now number five. There is a faint text which says:

Taliban and Al-Qaida - We know where you are hiding.

270,000 copies of this leaflet were prepared and disseminated by static line boxes in support of Task Force 11. Another 490,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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One of the new leaflets is a reward leaflet. Similar to the earlier bin Laden reward leaflet, an unnamed Taliban member is shown at the right in profile, and again at the left behind bars. U.S. $20 bills are pictured at the center of the leaflet. The text is:

Taliban and al Qaida leadership - Reward.

The back of the leaflet is all text:

Reward for information leading to the whereabouts or capture of Taliban and al Qaida leadership. 

2,240,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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Another handbill coded AFG06 depicts the same Afghan, but with the picture reversed. Although the individual portrayed is not named, he was thought to be Mullah Omar, the leader of the former Taliban government. Mullah Omar shunned having his photo taken, and this shrewdness on his part allegedly led to a photograph of the wrong man appearing on thousands of U. S. reward leaflets. The text is the same as the back of the leaflet above:

Reward for information leading to the whereabouts or capture of Taliban and al Qaida leadership.

Doubt was first raised in the 14 October 2002 issue of Newsweek. In an article entitled "Trouble: Mistaken for the Mullah" author Sami Yousafzai says:

Mulvi Hafizullah is hiding in the remote Afghan countryside in fear of his life. ... Mullah Omar was rarely photographed during his time in power, and in a case of mistaken identity, Hafizullah says it’s his picture - not Omar's - on the hundreds of thousands of leaflets that have been dropped all over Afghanistan offering $25 million for the capture of Omar and Osama bin Laden. Hafizullah fears that thousands of Afghan soldiers and villagers - not to mention U.S. troops - are looking for him. "I'm afraid to leave my house," he told Newsweek. ... His troubles began early this year when he fled to his village in Maidan province after the Taliban’s collapse. An elderly neighbor approached him, showed him the leaflet and asked if he was in fact Mullah Omar. "I looked at the photo and it was me," says Hafizullah. "Now we are even more proud to know you.

It must be noted that it is only the opinion of the Afghan peasant that his picture appears on the leaflet. CENTCOM has made no statement and the photograph could well be Mullah Omar. These leaflets were popular and dropped on numerous occasions. A Reuters report of September 6 stated that they had been scattered over Southern Afghanistan again, eight months after their first appearance.

The Consolidation Campaign

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240,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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

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What makes this story possibly true is that the U. S. Government then prepared and disseminated a new leaflet coded AFD130c. This leaflet is almost identical to the previous reward leaflets (AFD130 and AFD130b) in the series depicting Osama bin Laden and Aiman al-Zawahiri, except that a different pose was used, one that shows the "new" Mullah Omar looking upwards at the right, and behind bars at the left with an arrow pointing through $20 bills. The back depicts a heap of $1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100-dollar greenbacks. The individual appears to be different than the subject featured on the earlier leaflets. This would seem to verify the fact that the wrong individual was pictured on the earlier leaflets. The different pose would imply that this is the only Mullah Omar photograph the U. S. government has found.

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Pakistani child with Leaflet AFD130

We should mention that these leaflets continue to be printed and disseminated long after the shooting war is over and all through the consolidation and government-building period. For instance, a photograph was released to the press that depicts a Pakistani child holding leaflet AFD130 in the western border city of Chaman, Pakistan, 20 February 2005. This leaflet offers a multi-million dollar reward for information on Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders. U. S. government officials believe that elements of the al-Qiada terrorist network are hiding in Pakistan and that unless the flow of recruits into militant groups across the border in Afghanistan is stopped, the war on terror cannot be won.

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Handout AFG-12a

The reward leaflets appeared in many different guises. Handout AFG-12a depicts and American destroyer closing on two small Afghan boats. A portrait of bin Laden is at the right to depict the connection between the terrorist leader and those who help his al-Qaida network. The message is textbook carrot and stick:

Up to 25 million will be paid for information leading to the capture of al-Qaida terrorists or Osama bin Laden.

Your ship may be sunk if you support or assist al-Qaida terrorists or Osama bin Laden.


This leaflet depicts a ship at top, and below the ship is shown being attacked. The reader is told he can earn 25 million dollars, enough to buy his own ship. All he must do is inform on al-Qaida or Usama Bin Laden. The actual leaflet is much more crowded with all the text in Pastun, Dari and Arabic. I show an English-language version which is not so crowded.

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Handout AFG2011

This handout is a bit later than the leaflet directly above it but since they both show ships I thought we might put them together. The handout shows the flags of the various nations in the Coalition around the borders. A picture at the top shows ships from the Coalition on patrol and immediately below there is a burning ship; apparently one that helped terrorists. The text would normally be in Pashtu or Dari but since it is in English we can assume it was made as a file copy or to show American troops exactly what the leaflet said. The text is:

Coalition Forces are united against terrorism and have cast a wide net at sea.

Any individual caught supporting terrorists will be severely punished.

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Another leaflet that depicts Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida cohorts is AFD-103. This is a very handsome leaflet in full color. Bin Laden is depicted on both the front and the back with two terrorists, al-Qaida members on one side and Taliban members on the other. In both pictures the background is black smoke, implying that wherever he goes, the terrorist leader will bring death and destruction. The text is:

Terrorist are the people who do not care about your family or your life, they are traitors

Why do you let these people take your brothers away to fight when they do not know why they are fighting or what they are fighting for

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Leaflet AFD107

Another leaflet points out that Al-Qaida is the cause of all the problems of the Afghan people and asks why anyone would protect them. The same image is on both sides of the leaflet. Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, armed terrorists and a skull. The text is:

Why would you allow safe passage to those who have betrayed and abandoned you?

These terrorists are the same people who sent your brothers, sons, and loved ones to fight and die.

2,240,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

Leaflet AFD134

This is an interesting black and white leaflet featuring the theme of peace. On the front an Afghan stands among hundreds of white doves, a symbol of peace. On the back are the flags of the United States and Afghanistan.

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Leaflet AFD160

The same image of the skull between Bin Laden and Mullah Omar is used on leaflet AFD160. A crying woman is seen at the left, a man in a doorway at the right, and Coalition soldiers in the center. The text is:

Life with terrorists is a life of fear.

The back depicts happy Afghans, a map, white dove and clasped hands and the text:

Life without terrorists is a life of prosperity.

5,000 copies of leaflet AFD160 were delivered by static line boxes and another 40,000 copies were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs by 2 September 2002.

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Leaflet AFD165

The title of this leaflet is “These men are wanted.” The front of this leaflet depicts Osama bin Laden at left, Aiman Ay-Zawahiri in center, and Mullah Omar at right. The text is:

These men are wanted for terrorist activities.

The back of the leaflet depicts an Afghan father and two children. The text is:

Assisting these men puts your family at risk.

5,000 AFD165 leaflets were disseminated by static line boxes and 160,000 disseminated by M129 bombs during the first year of the war.

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Leaflet AFD166

This leaflet is entitled “For a brighter future.” The front depicts five smiling Afghan males within a map of Afghanistan. The text is:

For a brighter future…

The back depicts five photographs of armed Afghan terrorists, military vehicles, etc. The text is:

Report al-Qaida and illegal activities to Coalition forces

5,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by static line boxes by 2 September 2002.

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Leaflet AFD172

The front of this leaflet depicts two photos (similar to AFD10c) of Coalition or Afghan military personnel shaking hands with Afghan civilians. The leaflet exists in both full color and B&W. The text is:

Your cooperation and information is appreciated.

On the back many hands hold map of Afghanistan (similar to AFD 85). The text is:

Your information has led to many victories against the foreign terrorists. With continued support the Partnership of Nations will rid Afghanistan of its enemies.

30,000 copies of this leaflet were prepared at Ft. Bragg with the codename “Thanks for Cooperation” and disseminated in Afghanistan. 5000 were dropped by static line boxes in support of Task Force 11.

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Leaflet AFD-178

This leaflet depicts an armed Coalition soldier in full color on the front. The back depicts photographs of three wanted men: Mullah Omar, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and bin Laden. 5,000 copies of this leaflet were prepared and disseminated by static line boxes in support of Task Force 11; and another 40,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by PDU5B leaflet bombs. 120,000 copies of this leaflet were dropped by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war. The text on the front and back is:

For your own safety

Do not interfere with operations.

The invading countries are here to help you,

until you free your country from the terrorists.

Osama bin Laden / Ayman al-Zawahiri / Mullah Omar


Leaflet AFD-182

This leaflet depicts a happy Afghan family on the front. The back show military helicopters landing troops. 40,000 copies of this leaflet were prepared and disseminated by PDU5B leaflet bombs. The text on the front is:

The coalition forces have come here to re-establish peace and stability in Afghanistan

The text on the back is:

Do not interfere with military operations to protect your life.

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Leaflet AFD-186

We do not know much about this leaflet except that the title said in part: Do not attack the Partnership of Nations… The front of the leaflet depicts a Taliban member with two rocket propelled grenades. We know that during the first year of the war, 40,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs and another 40,000 were disseminated by the more modern PDU5B leaflet bombs. The back depicts three Coalition soldiers looking over a berm for a target.

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Leaflet AFD113

This anti-Al Qaida leaflet depicts freezing Afghans on one side and an armed Al-Qaida warrior on the other. The text is:

The Taliban and Al-Qaida bring pain and suffering to Afghanistan.

Turn in Taliban and Al-Qaida forces to the Partnership of Nations Forces.

1,580,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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Leaflet AFD131C

Continuing to attack the actions of Al-Qaida, the Coalition depicts Destroyed buildings on one side of leaflet AFD131C and a happy Afghan family on the other. The text is:

Al-Qaida and the Taliban destroyed your cities.

The Coalition forces can provide a stable environment to allow Afghanistan to rebuild.

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After the fall of the Taliban government and the escape of the leaders of the old government and al-Qaida, a number of military units searched for bin Laden and Mohammed Omar through in western Afghanistan and Eastern Pakistan. The most notable might be Task Force 11, later renamed Task Force Sword. This task force consisted of American Special Forces, Delta Force, Navy Seals and British Special Forces. You will note that a large number of leaflets have a "TF11" preface. In all, over a dozen leaflets were prepared for the use of TF11 during the search for the enemy leaders.

Another reward leaflet released in February of 2002 showed a beautiful city at the left and an Afghan elder at the right. The text on the front is:

Get wealth and power beyond your dreams – help the anti-Taliban force to rid Afghanistan of murderers and terrorists.

Text on the back is:

You can receive millions of dollars for helping the anti-Taliban force catch al-Qaida and Taliban murderers. This is enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life – pay for livestock and doctors and school books and housing for all your people.

3,952,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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Leaflet EF2C11L1

Another TF 11 or TF Sword leaflet depicts three photographs of armed Coalition soldiers on the front and eight small photographs of four happy Afghans above and four terrorists below on the back. 250,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by static line boxes by 2 September 2002. Note that the American soldier in the center has a camera possibly attached to his rifle. The Pashto text is not what we might expect and perhaps the camera explains it. Does the leaflet imply that everything the Afghans do is photographed and studied by the Americans? It reminds me of George Orwell's book 1984 where the citizens know that "Big Brother is watching you," and any anti-Government action on their part, no matter how secret, will lead to immediate arrest and punishment. The text is:

The Americans photograph your responses

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The third category might be called a "morale" leaflet. It is aimed at destroying the confidence and morale of the Taliban and al Qaida troops. A serious Osama bin Laden is shown on the front with the text:

Osama bin Laden sends his murderers into the world to kill for his cause.

The back of the leaflet shows a smiling bin Laden and the text:

Osama bin Laden laughs at you because you don't know he has sent you to your death.

This leaflet is in regard to the captured bin Laden video tape where he jokes that many of the terrorists on the hijacked aircraft sent to destroy the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not aware that it was a suicide mission.

1,490,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

Handbill AFG021J

A similar leaflet but slightly larger in the handbill size had similar photographs of Osama bin Laden. In fact, the first picture in AFG021J is identical to the first picture in TF-11-RP05. The second photograph in the above leaflet is different. The text on the front of the handbill says:

The back of the handbill has a propaganda text in Pashto, Dari and Arabic which says:

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The final category consists of five "consolidation" leaflets. These might best be described as leaflets directed toward populations of either liberated or occupied areas to facilitate military operations and promote maximum cooperation with the liberating or occupying power. They are also used to build confidence and loyalty to the new government. All of these leaflets attempt to bring the various ethnic tribes and clans of Afghanistan together into one cohesive people.

The first leaflet show three Afghans building a house together with the text:

Brick by brick...

The back shows seven hands holding a map of Afghanistan with the text:

Together you can make one Afghanistan.

This leaflet exists in full color and in black and white.

1,680,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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The second leaflet shows eight spools of thread and a rug with text:

Many threads make one rug.

The back shows the same seven hands and map as the previous leaflet.

Together you can make one Afghanistan.

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

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The final three leaflets are very similar. They are all in black and white and of a more "cartoonish" nature. Each has the exact same illustration and text on front and back, with the only difference being the language, one side in Pashto, the other in Dari.

The first shows two Afghans, one with a white turban, one with a black turban shaking hands. The text is:

The time has come for all Afghans to make peace.

2,530,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war

Curiously, this consolidation leaflet was still in use long after the formal cessation of fighting. They were dropped once again in early February 2002 after a flare-up of tribal violence in Gardez, capital of Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan. United Nations and Afghan government envoys entered the city to negotiate a peace plan after Pastun tribal factions killed at least 61 people in a local power struggle.  

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The next leaflet shows bin Laden sitting cross-legged on a pile of dead Afghans. The same text and image appear on both sides of the leaflet.

Osama bin Laden sacrifices the Afghan people for his own pride. He used the Taliban to exterminate whole communities opposed to his fanaticism.

1,610,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

It should be noted that during Desert Storm Saddam Hussein sometimes was shown sitting on a throne of skulls. This leaflet is also known coded AFD93a. The text is changed:

Usama bin Laden sacrifices al Qaida fighters for his pride. He has abandoned the Taliban, now he has abandoned you.

1,570,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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The final leaflet shows three heavily armed Taliban fighters. The text is:

Osama bin Laden and his foreign henchmen do not want Afghans to live in peace with each other. Afghans need to rid themselves of these fanatics.

1,790,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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Another leaflet that is very similar to this group was released in February of 2002 and shows Mullah Omar feasting while bin Laden sits on the pile of dead Afghans. The text is:

Mullah Omar is a murderer and a coward and a traitor.

Text on the back is:

Mullah Omar is a murderer, a coward and a traitor to the freedom-loving Pashtun people - he let Osama bin Laden’s foreign murderers come to Afghanistan to hide – now Omar the coward and traitor to the Pashtun people hides in safety and comfort while his people suffer.

1,546,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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A fancier leaflet shows Mullah Omar feasting at the left, and two Afghans making a drug deal at the right. The text on the front is:

Mullah Omar is a murderer and a coward and a traitor.

Text on the back reads:

Mullah Omar is a murderer, a coward and a traitor to the freedom-loving Pashtun people - he made millions of dollars selling evil drugs to Muslims – he did not use his fortune to help the Pashtun people – he used his fortune to help Osama bin Laden murder innocent civilians – now Omar the coward and traitor hides in safety and comfort while Pashtuns suffer.

1,276,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

An anti-Drug Leaflet

I cannot quite make out the code number of this Coalition Leaflet. The image is clear. At the right is life with drugs and the text:

Opium kills Afghans and wastes valuable farmland.

At the left is a food stall and a field full of fruit and vegetables. The text is:

Help feed Afghanistan and secure its future.

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The single poster shows al-Qaida terrorist Mohammed Atta, and offers rewards to people who report suspicious activities to the U.S. State Department.  The title text is:

He was spotted in Hamburg, Prague, Florida and Maine. And if someone had called us, his picture wouldn't be spotted in this ad.

The poster offers rewards of up to $25 million. The poster contains numerous errors and some details were actually borrowed from other terrorist acts. An unidentified State Department spokesman said that the poster's creators "took some liberties with some of the content".

On January 8 the Pakistan-based Islamic Press Agency reported that U.S. planes had dropped leaflets in Eastern Afghanistan urging civilians not to give fleeing al-Qaida fugitives refuge, warning that they could be the victims of aerial bombing.

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On February 9 the United States Centcom site showed two new leaflets regarding the occupation of Kandahar Airport. United States Marines from the 15th and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) secured the airport December 15, 2001 during Operation Swift Freedom. Two leaflet-posters are known. The first pictures a Marine in silhouette with jet fighters in the background. The text is:


The Partnership of Nations has secured the Kandahar Airport to insure that humanitarian aid will reach the people of this area. For your own safety please stay away.


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The second leaflet poster depicts a number of helicopters and a C17 Globemaster aircraft. The text is:



The Partnership of Nations has secured the Kandahar Airport to insure that humanitarian aid will reach the people of this area. For your own safety please stay away.


Centcom released over a dozen leaflets to the public on February 18, 2002. Many of these were obviously from previous series that we have already mentioned. Most were consolidation and nation-building types, but there were some variations of the morale and reward leaflets we have seen in the past.

In February a number of armed skirmishes took place among the various ethnic and religious factions of Afghanistan. It became clear that interim leader Hamid Kamil did not have the full support of his people. Local warlords were consolidating their power and dividing Afghanistan into private fiefdoms. The United States had no interest in sending a large occupying force to that nation, so every effort was made to bring the people under control of the new government through the use of propaganda and the occasional implied threat of bombing.

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A series of bright green and black leaflets supporting the government were prepared and dropped. The first shows a white dove of peace over a map of Afghanistan and clasped hands with the text:

A United Afghanistan offers peace and prosperity..

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A second similar leaflet shows a map of Afghanistan at the left, clasped hands in the center, and the planet Earth at the right. The text is:

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

This same leaflet also exists with the code AF5c11L1.

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A fourth leaflet shows the exact same illustration and text as leaflet AF-8-B-11-HB1 on the front; a map of Afghanistan, clasped hands and a white dove of peace. The text is:

A united Afghanistan offers peace and prosperity.

The back shows Afghan musicians at the left and a young girl at the right. The text is:

A new government offers new freedoms. The future of Afghanistan depends on your support of the new government.

1,945,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

The Rand Corporation seems ambivalent about this leaflet. They like the crescent moon symbol that suggests that this new regime would be Islamic and point out that the musicians at top left indicate that the Taliban’s extremist fundamentalist restrictions on traditional music would be eliminated. They wonder about the smiling girl on the leaflet that suggests a better life for women, but raises the question of who the leaflet was aimed at, Afghan men or women. They like the use of the white dove since the raising of white doves is a traditional Afghan custom, which apparently was banned by the Taliban.


There is also a similar leaflet coded AFD105b that has added a red color to the map of Afghanistan on the front. The back depicts happy Afghan men and children. 300,000 copies of AFD-105b were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war. The text on front and back In Farsi and Pashto is:

A united Afghanistan brings peace and prosperity.


The future of Afghanistan depends on your support of the government.

The new government will bring new freedom.

A PSYOP officer told me an interesting anecdote about the white dove of peace depicted on the above leaflet.

There is a funny story in regard to the Peace Dove depicted on some of our leaflets. Many of the Afghans  believed the symbol to be some type of chicken and they assumed that the leaflet could be used as a coupon that entitled them to a free bird or meal provided by the Partnership of Nations.

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A second series of four similar leaflets were coded AFG7-AFG10. The first shows a young girl at the left, a group on smiling children below, and two boys at the right. One of the boys has some cash showing prominently from his pocket. The text is:

Help bring back happiness to Afghanistan. Supporting your new government offers a brighter future for you and your children.

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The next leaflet shows a photograph of a young female, an older male in turban, an Afghan family, and a group of musicians. The text is:

A united Afghanistan = peace prosperity. The future of Afghanistan depends on your support of the new government. A new government offers new freedoms.

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Leaflet AFG09 has the exact same text as the previous leaflet, but just two photographs, that of the Afghan musicians and the young female.

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The final leaflet of this series shows the four photographs of the young female, the older male in turban, the Afghan family, and the group of musicians over a map of Afghanistan with the text:

A new government working for all Afghans. The future of Afghanistan depends on your support.

In February, U.S. aircraft dropped envelopes adorned with an image of President George W. Bush and containing two $100 bills. It is assumed that there was a message included in the envelope, but it is unknown at present.

Although the major fighting portion of the war was thought to be over, a vicious battle erupted once again on March 2. A group of from 400 to 2000 Taliban and al-Qaida fighters was found to be regrouping near Gardez in the Paktia Province of eastern Afghanistan. Over 1000 American troops were deployed along with other Special Forces members of the coalition and Afghan government forces in "Operation Anaconda." The fight took place at altitudes between 10,000 and 12,000 feet. During the first ten days of this battle the Coalition forces dropped 4,200,000 leaflets.

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One of the leaflets dropped during the operation shows seven Taliban or al-Qaida troops sitting in the back of a Toyota pick-up truck. The text is:

Report Taliban and al-Qaida to Partnership of Nations forces.

The back of the leaflet shows seven armed Taliban or al-Qaida in a cave. The text is:

Taliban and al-Qaida use innocent women and children as shields for protection.

60,000 copies of this leaflet were prepared and disseminated by static line boxes in support of Task Force 11. Another 1,070,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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At about the same time leaflet AFD149 was prepared. It almost seems to be designed to dare the Taliban to come out and fight. Four armed insurgents are depicted on the front. The text is:

Baradar and Taliban supporters, if you want to fight…

The back of the leaflet depicts three helicopters and a C-130 Hercules aircraft. The Hercules seems to be releasing all of its flares as it would do if being attacked by enemy anti-aircraft. The message indicates that the reader is expected to believe that all of those defensive flares are actually offensive weapons. It is:

We will bring unlimited firepower against you.

30,000 copies of this leaflet were prepared and disseminated by static line boxes in support of Task Force 11. Another 120,000 copies of AFD149 were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

[Note] Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was a top Taliban leader second only to Mullah Omar. When Omar disappeared from sight, Baradar took command the Taliban. In this early leaflet he is warned. Years later, on 16 February 2010, Barader was captured in the Pakistan city of Karachi.

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The first propaganda leaflet in the form of a banknote was used during this battle. Members of the Paktia Province Intelligence Unit distributed them. Because of their large size (about 264 x 114 mm), they probably were not airdropped. On March 6 local Afghans were given what appeared to be an enlarged copy of a 10,000 Afghanis banknote. On the front the figure "150,000,000" was emblazoned. The reward, about $4,285, would be paid to any citizen who aided in the capture of Taliban or al-Qaida fighters. The notes were circulated around the Shah-i-Kot Valley and Gardez in Paktia Province.

Text on the back of the imitation banknote is:

Dear countrymen: The al-Qaida terrorists are our enemy. They are the enemy of your independence and freedom. Come on. Let us find their most secret hiding places. Search them out and inform the intelligence service of the province and get the big prize.

The same propaganda banknote in a smaller more standard size (75 x 175 mm) was also prepared and disseminated (see below). Apparently these were dropped over a long period of time because in one case I was told they were still being used in 2008.

By mid-March another dozen Coalition leaflets had surfaced. Several depicted Hamid Karzai, interim leader of Afghanistan and a Pashtun tribal leader from Kandahar. These leaflets pictured Karzai either alone or with other government officials and a map of Afghanistan.

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Leaflet AFD-101c

Black and white leaflet AFD-101c depicts Hamid Karzai with three politicians around a map of Afghanistan. Other similar leaflets are full-color versions and coded AFD-117 (Karzai alone) and AFD-118 (Karzai with the same three politicians). Leaflet AFD-119 depicts Karzai to the left of a flag of Afghanistan. The text on leaflet AFD-101c is:

Many Tribes, but one Afghanistan

On the left:  Dr. Sima Samar, Hamid Karzai

On the right:  Sayed Hussein Onery, Abdullah Abdullah

Dr. Seema Samar is the Deputy Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister. The leaflet points out that the woman at upper left is Hazara, while Karzai is Pashtun; the upper right person is Uzbek, and the lower right person is a Tajik.

580,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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Leaflet AFD117

The text on leaflet AFD117 that depicts a portrait of President Karzai is:

Hamid Karzai

Chairman of the Interim Government of Afghanistan.

Leading Afghanistan to a better future

470,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

The same image of the four politicians appeared in full color on leaflet AFD118. The text on this leaflet is:

Support the interim government of the new Afghanistan.

The back of the leaflet showed a peaceful city scene and the text:

Help restore Afghanistan to its former glory.

700,000 copies of leaflet AFD-118 were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

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Leaflet AFD119

Leaflet AFD119 depicts Karzai and several of his fellow leaders on the front with the text:

Support the Interim Government of Afghanistan

The back of the leaflet showed rolling hills in Afghanistan and the text:

Restore prosperity to Afghanistan

40,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

Coalition helicopters flew overhead dropping leaflets celebrating the Afghan New Year, at the Khartesahki Shrine in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 21, 2002.

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Poster AFC1058

This is a full-sized poster measuring 11 x 17-inches with text in Dari and Pashto. It depicts President Karzai at the left and the Afghan flag at right. The text is:

The major success of Afghanistan is this; that Afghan people despite different political ideas, tribes and personalities consider their country secure and they have returned to rebuild their future.

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Reward Leaflet - No Code

U.S. military aircraft scattered leaflets over southern Afghanistan on March 23 offering rewards for help in arresting Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. The leaflets urged people to help U.S.-led coalition forces arrest the Muslim militants blamed by Washington for the September 11 attacks on the United States. The leaflet, dropped over the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar province and the Spinboldak area bordering Pakistan read in part:

You can earn millions of dollars by helping the allied forces in arresting Taliban and al-Qaida killers. The reward is so huge that it will be enough for your family, village and area for your entire life. With this money, you can buy school books, cows, sheep and pay the doctor's fee and reconstruct houses in the entire village.

The front of the leaflet featured the Afghan banknote and the back was a long propaganda message. There are six cartoon panels on the front of this colorful leaflet. In the center two Al Qaida members are hiding in a cave. A local Afghan tells the authorities and brings them to where the terrorists were last seen. An Al Qaida member is arrested and in the 5th panel the Afghan informer is rewarded with a handful of cash. The final panel depicts the banknote and reminds the public that they too can receive such rewards by informing on terrorist movement.

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150,000,000 Reward Banknote leaflet – standard size front

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150,000,000 Reward Banknote leaflet – standard size back

On April 22 it was reported that U.S. aircraft dropped Afghan currency over parts of southern Afghanistan. C-130 transport aircraft dropped the 10,000-Afghani bills over areas near the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak and the nearby Pakistani town of Chaman.  One local resident claimed to have found eight 10,000-Afghani notes. Another claimed to have found a complete bundle of 800,000 Afghanis. The value of the Afghani varies, but was about 40,000 to the dollar at the time of the airdrop. It is unknown if these banknotes were genuine, or propaganda parodies nearly identical to the oversized notes mentioned above. Parodies of the 10,000 Afghanis banknote with the figure "150,000,000" added at the lower right and propaganda text on the front and back are known to exist.

The text on the back of the propaganda banknote above in Dari and Pashto is:

Dear compatriots!

Islam is against terrorism. Let’s identify and arrest members of al-Qaida and receive honor and a cash award.

We should mention that years earlier in 2000, long before al Qaida’s attack on New York’s World Trade Center, someone mysteriously distributed overprinted 100 rupee Pakistani banknotes in Peshawar. The notes bear stamped messages in Pashto and Dari, the two main languages of Afghanistan, promising a substantial reward for the capture of Osama bin Laden. The mysterious appearance of the notes allegedly had U.S. officials baffled. The American consulate in Peshawar said that it is not responsible for making or distributing these notes.

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The Overprinted Pakistani Banknote Offering a Reward for Osama bin Laden

The International Bank Note Society Journal mentioned these Osama bin Laden overprinted Pakistani banknotes in Volume 51, Issue 3 of 2012. The Dr. Malik Maqbool Joiya article, entitled “The Special Notes of Pakistan Since 1947 – Overprints Both Official and Private” says in part:

Sometimes banknotes, leaflets and other items of daily use are used as a propaganda tool to convey some message or information to a wider population. In February 2000, matchboxes and 100 rupee notes of Pakistan were found in Peshawar, a northwestern frontier city on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, bearing an overprinted hand stamp message offering a reward for the capturing or providing information which might help lead to the arrest of Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. This overprinted hand stamp message was found in two major national languages of Afghanistan, Dari and Pashto.

BBC News, on 16 February 2999, reported that the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar distributed hundreds of match boxes offering a reward for Osama bin Laden. The release of the match boxes coincided with the appearance of a limited number of Pakistani 100 rupee notes with an overprinted message on the front and back, in Pashto and Dari. They offered a reward of five million dollars for Osama bin Laden’s arrest. The U.S. Consulate however, denied responsibility for making or distributing the overprinted notes. Some notes have the two languages on both the front and back, other notes have the same language on the front and back and a third variety has one language on one side of the banknote.

Although a military victory was quickly won in Afghanistan by a conventional American Army, the guerrilla war continued for years. Well into 2008 Taliban troops continued to enter the country from Pakistan and fight along the border areas.

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An Afghan national army Captain passes out pro-Islamic Republic of Afghanistan pamphlets to children in an Andar District village in Ghazni Province, June 25, 2007.

Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl discusses the inadequacies of the United States Army tactics in Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare, Daniel Marston and Carter Malkasian, Osprey Publishing, UK, 2008. He blames the American experience in Vietnam for many of the current problems:

The United States entered the Vietnam War with a military trained and equipped to fight a conventional war in Europe, and totally unprepared for the counterinsurgency campaign it was about to wage…The failed American counterinsurgency efforts in Vietnam are important…The Vietnam hangover resulted in an American unwillingness to think about and prepare for future counterinsurgency campaigns - a failure that led to a 40-year gap in comprehensive American counterinsurgency doctrine and contributed to the American military’s lack of preparedness for fighting insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Note:This article originally covered just the first six months of the war against terrorism in Afghanistan. We ended the story at that time. The Coalition dropped over 84 million leaflets in the first year of the war in Afghanistan and well over 100 different leaflets exist. Although our intention was to end the story in April of 2002, recent activity causes us to add additional information.

Close to one year after the WTC attack, on 7 September 2002, the Coalition Commanders discussed the PSYOP status of the war. The report stated that the printing presses, generators, cutters and Risographs (high speed photocopiers) were running at close to maximum in Ft. Bragg, Kuwait and Diego Garcia. The methods of dissemination and the total number of leaflets dropped that first year are: 1301 M129 leaflet bombs carried 80,000,000 leaflets; Two PDU5B containers carried 120,000 leaflets; and there were 19 MC-130 Hercules drops. 1,878,000 leaflets were dropped by leaflet box, 1,449 came from the sea, and another 1,873,211 were disseminated in other ways. The total number of leaflets distributed that first 330+ days of the war was 83,872,660.

In addition, 138 PSYOP radio programs were broadcast and 523 different scripts were written. Over 6,000 hours of radio was broadcast by PSYOP forces and close to 4,000 hours by the Voice of America. To insure that the broadcasts were heard, Coalition forces handed out 7,670 radios.

In a second similar briefing on 2 October 2002 the following PSYOP objectives were disclosed: influence regional state sponsors to cease harboring terrorists; isolate al-Qaida; Isolate the Taliban; the Taliban has no legitimacy to rule; counter anti-American propaganda; the United States supports an independent and viable Afghanistan; the Legitimacy of the Coalition actions and the end of civilian interference. The number of leaflets dropped had risen slightly in the month that passed since the earlier meeting and now stood at 84,195,268. The PSYOP radio hours had reached 6,622 with 162 radio programs and 538 different scripts.

Radio Scripts

We have mentioned so many scripts above that I suspect the reader might be wondering what was said in those scripts. Here is an early broadcast, explaining why the United States has come to Afghanistan (Edited for brevity):

Theme: The Partnership of Nations is here to help:

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.

These terrorists and oppressors are currently in your country, undermining your economy, your rights as citizens, and your place within the international community. It does not have to stay that way. But the battle against these fanatics that feed off the blood of the Afghan people cannot be won without your help.

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 Usama 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.

With your help, this conflict can be over soon. And once again, Afghanistan will belong to you, and not to tyrants or outsiders. Then, you will reclaim your place among the nations of the world and return to the honored place your country once held. Remember, we are here to help you to be free from this terrorism, despotism, and the fear and pain they bring with them. This is the best way to restore honor and dignity and make your country a free nation once again.

Since the time of the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan has been a country in conflict. War and strife have been a constant part of the daily life of its citizens. Yet time and again, it has not been the people of Afghanistan, but outsiders who have been the real cause of this pain and destruction.

Latest in the line of those who would aid in the destruction of this once great country is Usama bin Laden and the despots called the Taliban who now rule. These people have continually aided in the destruction and deterioration of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s economy is nearly non-existent, and because of the Taliban’s support for terrorists such as Usama bin Laden, Afghanistan has been shunned by the international community. Even now the Taliban undermines the lives and rights of the people of Afghanistan, treating women as little more than slaves, and treating the rest of the population little better. The so-called leaders of the Taliban are disrespectful of Afghan cultural and Islamic tradition and its proud past.

Now they have brought the anger of the United States and the international community upon themselves through their terrorist actions. Now, forces are coming into Afghanistan from outside places to bring justice because of the atrocities committed by Usama bin Laden and the Taliban.

With the help of the nations of the world, and the people of Afghanistan, the United States will now remove these tyrants from Afghanistan. It will take a combined effort to do this, and every bit of help is needed. Try to find ways to ignore the Taliban and Usama bin Laden’s requests for help, and do not give them food or shelter.

The United States does not want to injure or kill innocent civilians, destroy homes, hospitals, mosques, or other public places. This is most easily avoided if people stay away from military installations, Taliban government buildings, the camps of Usama bin Laden, and other places where terrorists gather.

Afghanistan can once again become the proud member of the international community that it once was. The people of Afghanistan can once again take control of their own land and set it free from the foreign invaders and local tyrants who have inserted themselves into its power structure. Help free yourselves from despotism and rejoin the nations of the world…

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An Afghan reads a U.S. leaflet

44% of Afghans surveyed had seen U.S. leaflets and all claimed to understand the message. 51% of Afghans surveyed listened to the “Information Radio” on a regular basis. 57% of those approved of the broadcasts and 30% regularly complied with the instructions. Some examples of Coalition radio messages are:

Noble people of Afghanistan. Kabul University, once one of Asia’s finest institutions, has re-opened. Workers have cleared away the rubble and prepared for the new academic year...The partnership of Nations has donated window glass for several buildings. Machinery and vehicles have been repaired and donated to insure the university’s physical plant is operational…Peace and prosperity in Afghanistan grows closer by the day. Many of Afghanistan’s regional commanders have vowed to put aside ethnic and tribal disputes. They have sworn allegiance to the Afghan national army….

On March 2, 2003,  September 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, perhaps the most senior al-Qaida member after bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, was arrested by Pakistani intelligence and CIA agents. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is the alleged organizer of the Sept. 11 terror attacks,  a 1995 plot to bomb trans-Pacific airliners and a plan to crash a plane into CIA headquarters. He also planned the bombing of a synagogue in Tunisia, which killed 19 people.

Mohammed apparently gave Coalition interrogators information on the hiding place of Osama bin Laden. Immediately after his capture, during the first weeks of March, the task force renewed the hunt with vigor and dropped a number of PSYOP leaflets over the areas where bin Laden might be hiding. In all of these leaflets, the 25-million dollar reward for the fugitive al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is the main theme.

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U.S. and Pakistani forces searched for al-Qaida members on March 7 in a mountainous area near the borders with Afghanistan and Iran. They distributed a leaflet that showed bin Laden speaking at the right, and behind bars at the left. Similar leaflets appeared the same day in Islamabad, and in Eastern Afghanistan and portions of Pakistan. The leaflets offered rewards for the capture of bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders. The leaflet appears to be a black and white version of the "bin Laden behind bars," (AFD-29n).

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A second full-color leaflet had the same general appearance on the front, except that the pictures of bin Laden are smaller and there is added text at the bottom. The front is identical to AFD-130. However, instead of the banknotes pictured on AFD-130, the back of this new leaflet depicts bin Laden speaking at the top, in jail at the bottom, while in the center an Afghan greets a Coalition soldier. The Coalition dropped this leaflet about March 8 near the Pakistani border city of Chaman. The leaflet code is unknown.

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Coalition forces disseminated two black and white leaflets on Spin Boldak, an Afghan border town, during the first week of March. The first is identical to the leaflet mentioned above, but without color. The second leaflet is brand new. The flags of the United States and Afghanistan appear on the front with a white dove of peace. The back shows bin Laden and some other leaders to the right of what appears to be the cloud from an explosion. This leaflet urges Afghans to join the hunt for bin Laden.

On March 7, The Associated Press reported regular leaflet drops over vast stretches of eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan. The target areas are Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province and in the border regions of the North West Frontier Province, a suspected haven for terrorists.

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PSYOP Soldiers drop leaflets over Afghanistan

The article mentions a bright pink leaflet with two pictures of bin Laden, one free and one behind bars, and a stack of US $20 bills in the center. The text is:

There is US $25 million for anyone providing information to the arrest of Osama bin Laden.

A second leaflet in Pashto urges ordinary Afghans to surrender terrorists. It shows an Afghan family with the inscription:

This good life is there for Afghans without the Taliban, al-Qaida and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Help us give you a better life.

Hekmatyar is a local warlord known as "the vampire" and famous for his cruelty to captives. One of his alleged favorite pastimes is lighting gunpowder on the eyes of his prisoners.

A third leaflet shows destroyed homes and al-Qaida in training. Some of the text is:

Help us bring them to justice. Only you can help us. Don't be deceived by them.

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On March 9, a blue poster was distributed around Chaman, Pakistan. The poster depicted the Osama bin Laden leaflet speaking and behind bars vignette at the top, and a second such vignette with Mullah Omar speaking and behind bars below. Some of the text of this leaflet is "chase murderers."

We should stop for a moment and point out that it was not uncommon for the Partnership of nations to personally attack Osama bin Laden. He has been depicted as a skull face (AFD56b), playing chess,  walking the dog (AFD51c), and even clean shaven and in a European suit (TF11RP03).

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It was done again in leaflet AFD52b. This leaflet pictures bin Laden as a spider, his web over a map of Afghanistan, with the heads of four Taliban members enmeshed in his trap. The text is:

Save yourself from the fire of Manjaneeq.

200,000 copies of this leaflet were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs in the first year of the war.

The meaning requires a knowledge of the Holy Koran. The manjaneeq is a 13th century catapult used to throw boulders and fire balls into enemy emplacements and strongholds, and sometimes to catapult humans into fire. In the Koran, Ibrahim nabi was placed in the manjaneeq. The Lord God (Allah) sent Jibraeel to ask Ibrahim if he needed anything. He replied that he did not. Jibraeel could not understand why Ibrahim would reply that he needed nothing from Allah. Not unlike Daniel in the Lion's den, the answer was:

If it is Allah's will that I be martyred then how can I ask that He save me? If he wishes to save me then I have no need to ask.

This is an example of qalbe saleem (the peaceful, submissive, accepting heart). Perhaps the true meaning of the text is lost on the western mind. A Muslim friend says about the leaflet text, "It tells the people to save themselves and not find themselves in the fire of manjaneeq by listening to bin Laden and his followers and their evil thoughts." Curiously, when the U.S. translated the text for the public to avoid confusion they said the text was:

Free yourself from the web of destruction.

The back of the leaflet depicts Afghans that the Taliban have executed by hanging. The text is:

For some it is already too late.

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Staff Sergeant Dean Penrod releases leaflets 

Warrant Officer 4 Roger M. Gordon flew CH-47 Chinook helicopters for D Company of the 113th Aviation Regiment attached to Task Force Storm during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He was stationed at Kandahar Airbase just south of the city of Kandahar. In the spring 2005 photograph above, Staff Sergeant Dean Penrod releases leaflets over a village just north of the city of Kandahar along the Argandab River valley. WO4 Gordon told me:

The purpose of the leaflet drop was to encourage the locals not to support the Taliban and warn of the consequences for those that did.  The next day, elements of the 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade (Sky Soldiers) air assaulted into the same village as a show of force. The purpose of the demonstration was to deny the Taliban sanctuary anywhere in the Brigade's sector and to help build confidence in the locals that we were there to protect them.

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AFD-C4-3678 Pashtu

This is one of the leaflets that Gordon dropped over the Argandab River valley. On the front we see a Taliban member thinking about his plight, then handing his AK-47 to a Coalition soldier. The text is:

Stop the war

On the back he pledges loyalty to the Afghan nation and in the last panel he returns home to a loving wife and children. The message is clear. Act correctly and in peace and live happily ever afterwards. The text is:

This is the United Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and it does not belong to foreigners.

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AFD-C4-3838 Pashtu

In this leaflet a group of Taliban is depicted holding rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. They are in the sights of a Coalition attack helicopter. The text is:

Wherever you hide, they will find you

On the back four have been killed and are depicted as skulls, dead and burning in Hell. The message is clear. Remain in the Taliban and die. The text is:

Any attack on Afghanistan means certain death

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AFD-F4-171e PashtuDari

A third leaflet dropped by Gordon is more crowded and "busy." One side shows a map of Afghanistan and three photographs of happy children. The text is:

The future of Afghanistan is in your hands.

The other side depicts four photographs; a larger one showing a Taliban and Coalition soldier shaking hands, and three smaller ones of armed Taliban and weapons systems crossed out with as red “X.”

To Report on the terrorists and help the national army is your national responsibility.

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Poster AFC1074

This full-sized poster measures 11 x 17-inches in size and is printed in full color in Dari and Pashto. At the top it depicts a terrorist with a rifle-propelled grenade. Below, it depicts a young Afghan and military doctor working on an injured patient. The text is:

Attacks on Coalition Forces prevent the delivery of all humanitarian help to your area.

For the continuation of humanitarian services, give the Coalition Forces all of the information you have about the Taliban, Al Qaida and Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin.

The Hezb-e-Islami Party was founded in 1977 by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who was later named the head of HIG. During the Soviet War in Afghanistan, Hekmatyar and his party operated near the Pakistani border against Soviet Communists. The bombardment of the capital by HIG in 1994 is reported to have resulted in the deaths of more than 25,000 civilians. HIG is believed to have local alliances with the Taliban, al-Qaida. Its main area of operation is northeastern Afghanistan, such as the provinces of Kunar, Laghman and Paktia

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This leaflet is similar to the one above in that it shows three photographs of the enemy Taliban on one side along with an Afghan shaking hands with an American soldier, while on the other side it depicts the Afghan flag and three photographs of happy children. The text is:

Reporting to the Afghanistan National Army and its Coalition partners about the insurgents is your national duty.

Afghanistan’s future needs your support.

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The Peace Newspaper

The PSYOP units printed more than just leaflets and posters. They also published newspapers such as “Peace.” This newspaper was distributed about monthly and carried news about Afghanistan and various PSYOP themes in Dari, Pashto, and English. PSYOP teams gave it out to schools as a teaching aid since many schools had no reading material. If they had no books, at least they would have the American newspaper to read and discuss. Of course, the stories were nation-building consolidation articles so this played into the peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan. The newspapers were also distributed to crowds, and sometimes within restaurants and shops. The main problem was the high rate of illiteracy, so we tried to target places where there was a good chance that someone could read.

Staff Sergeant Jesse Wison send me this photo. He said:

The boy is holding an issue of the Peace Newspaper. We published the newspaper once a week. All articles in the paper were crafted/written by the PSYOP Specialists in the Product Development Detachment. We used stories from the Associate Press or other sources and tailored them to highlight the good going on, either by the Afghanistan National Army, the Afghanistan National Police, or coalition forces, and also to highlight the bad that the Taliban or other forces were doing.

Some Problems with the Newspapers in Afghanistan

There were some minor problems with the printing and distribution of newspapers in Afghanistan. Retired Army Colonel Bill Gormley who deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 mentions some of these in an article titled “The failed promise: Reflections on America’s Afghanistan experience,” printed in the Small Wars Journal, 3 April 2022. Some of his comments are:

When I was the Senior PSYOP Officer, I put my development detachment leader in charge of the radio broadcast and newspaper staff. My intent was to get more synergy between all the different types of media we were using. For example, the newspaper listed the radio station’s frequencies and program schedule, and some of the newspaper’s articles were modified and read on radio broadcasts. Some of the artwork from leaflets and handbills were also reprinted in the newspaper. For my perspective, it did not make sense to have a detachment led by an experienced mid-grade PSYOP officer making leaflets, posters, and handbills while the radio detachment was led by a new second lieutenant and the newspaper section was led by a young sergeant, each largely doing their own thing. Together, the active-duty soldiers who developed radio scripts and newspaper articles, and my Reserve PSYOP development detachment made a formidable team and developed some what I thought were good materials. My PSYOP soldiers provided the newspaper and radio updated target audience analysis, and my illustrators did artwork for the newspaper.

In 2003, I tried to cut the number of copies of our newspapers we had printed by a local contractor because my teams were not able to disseminate all of them. It seemed like a waste of money to print so many papers. Even, getting the papers from Bagram to the teams each month was a problem to due to limited space on aircraft or locally hired trucks. I was overruled by the Psychological Operations Task Force; I suspect because the less impressive number would not look as good on efficiency reports. Getting support became a big problem later as units we had established relationships with, began to redeploy. It became a hassle to even get approval to travel to Kabul to pick up our PSYOP newspapers which we had printed by a local contractor, since all ground travel off Bagram needed approval of an officer with the rank of Colonel, which we did not have in country.

American Companies Join the War on Terror

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 Kwikpoint Afghanistan Visual Language Survival Guide

Although this article is about the “official” PSYOP and paper products produced by military units, it is clear that many products that were once printed by military sources, such as “pointee-talkie” cards, are now being produced by private companies. For instance, Gaia Communications of Arlington, Virginia, has prepared a number of handy cards for use in Iraq and Afghanistan that are as good as or better than anything prepared by the military to this point. The cards are highly colorful, sturdily made, fold out, and contain a wealth of information that is valuable to Allied troops. The products, sold under the name Kwikpoint, consists of such items as an Afghanistan Visual Language Survival Guide, an Iraqi Visual Language Survival Guide, a Military Police Visual Language Translator, and a Special Forces Military Translator. The Afghan booklet has 10 panels of text in Pashto, Dari and Farsi on one side and 10 panels of pictures on the other side.

According to Kwikpoint, users have forwarded positive testimonials. Almost all of them are from Iraq, but the cards have been tested in Afghanistan:

We are in the middle of Baghdad and the Kwikpoint Iraqi Visual Language Survivor Guide cards are incredibly helpful and good. They are a hot commodity. We’d like to give some to the hospitals to interface with them. The text is also helpful-our Iraqi translator says any Iraqi can understand it. CPT Arosemena, 1st Armored-2nd Brigade

In Iraq, our unit had the Kwikpoint Iraqi Visual Language Survival Guide on patrols. Using the card helped us find weapons caches by determining if information Iraqis brought to us was good enough to take it up the chain of command. Iraqis kept trying to come and tell us who was shooting at us I would have them draw pictures after showing them how Kwikpoint pictures communicate. I also used it in conjunction with a map to point things out. SGT Darin Dowdy, 3rd Infantry Division.

We, the Army/Navy Science Advisors, USASOC and Defense Language Institute have distributed around 10,000 to date. Everyone wants more, principally, the 18th Corps and Marine Expeditionary Force’s and the 30th MED from V Corps has some number as well. They are in use in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. John Grills, Deputy Director, AMC Fast.

Face-to-Face Operations

Psychological warfare is not just leaflets and radios. Sometimes it can be the personal touch that changes attitudes or projects power. We hear many such stories. Here is one.

The 345th psychological Operations Company out of Dallas, Texas, is an Army Reserve Unit assigned to the 16th Psychological Operations Battalion of the 2nd Psychological Operations Group. They were deployed to Afghanistan where they supported the 3rd and 7th Special Forces Groups. Seven tactical PSYOP teams were scattered throughout the country, Team 2-3 “Gator” was operating out of Mazar-E-Sharif where it found itself in the middle of a power battle between four different factions; the Hezbi-wadat, Jumbish-i-islami, Jamiat-i-islami, and Hericot-i-islami. These groups all resisted the national authority and the team took part in a small operation that clearly told the people that the new government had power and could enforce its rulings. One of the team members told me this story:

One afternoon in May 2002, a Special Forces patrol found itself close to a firefight between two of the rival factions. They learned that two teenage boys had been taken into Jamiat-i-islami custody and sent to a local security compound run by a ruthless chief named Fadah for execution.  The father of the boys approached the members of the 345th POC and asked for help. My team chief and two unit members immediately went to the compound to discuss the fate of the two innocent boys. We were able to convince Fadah that releasing the two young men would help the ongoing effort to continue a Northern Alliance offensive against remnants of hostile Taliban and Al-Qaida and not allow factional differences to collapse into another civil war. After a talk over a chess match, the Chief came around. Meanwhile, another team member explained the meaning of the leaflets that some of the police station personnel had acquired from our team's distribution. I maintained security and monitored radio transmission with the TAC-P not far from their location.  With a peaceful resolution now in place, Team 2-3 “Gator” not only secured the boys’ freedom and the respect of the families and community, but delivered a highly successful psychological blow to the enemy. The father of the boys met a US interpreter at the safe house and dictated a letter thanking the Americans for their efforts. 

The Jamiat-i-islami was one of the groups opposed to the Taliban. It was part of an alliance called the National Islamic United Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, commonly known as the United Front. The United Front supported the government ousted by the Taliban, the Islamic State of Afghanistan (ISA). It is clear why such a movement would be against a national authority that was not Islamic in nature.

Cash Reward for Weapons

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Billboard in Afghanistan offering cash for Stinger Missles

One of the most popular PSYOP campaigns involves offering a cash reward for weapons. In every modern war the United States has offered the enemy a monetary reward for the handing in of weapons or ammunition. In Afghanistan this happened after the end of the combat phase when the new Afghan government was attempting to take control of the country. The leaflets and poster below were disseminated by Special Forces stationed at fire base Gardez and Ghecko in March of 2003.

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Leaflet AFD1040A

The front of full-color leaflet AFD1040A depicts what appear to be pipes on the ground. The picture is very dark and the image is not clear. The text is:

The members of the Joint Forces keep finding weapons belonging to al-Qaida in secret places. Identify members of Taliban and Kalb Aldeen (a Religious party) and receive a gift of $2500 dollars.

The back depicts about a dozen rifles on the left and nine American $20 bills at the right. The image is clear. Turn in your weapon and receive U. S. greenbacks. The text is:

Receive cash for weapons

Staff Sergeant Jesse Wilson

I always enjoy hearing from the people that designed the leaflets. Jesse was a 37F (Psychological Operations Specialist), not an illustrator. However, on his first deployment to Paraguay he crossed-trained on Adobe Photoshop because it gave him more latitude to help and design leaflets when the illustrators were either too busy or did not quite get it right. Several of the leaflets were made into handbills and posters. They were trying to support the new nation and highlight the good that the new Army, Police Force, and President Karzai were doing at the time.

Jesse grew up in Brazil and Mexico, so when he joined the army, he wanted to do something that would use his languages (Portuguese and Spanish). He joined as a Special Forces candidate, so did Infantry One-Station Unit training and airborne school. While he was waiting for Special Forces Assessment and Selection to begin, he blew out his knee so waited for orders from the 101st Airborne Division. He was asked if he wanted to reclass to PSYOP instead; an opportunity that intrigued him. He finished PSYOP Advanced Individual Training and went straight to A Company, 1st PSYOP battalion (Airborne). He remained in the First Battalion for the duration of his career. He deployed to Paraguay on the first Military Information Support Team (MIST) ever in that country. The team was there from March to July of 2005. He got home and immediately volunteered to be on the PSYOP task force supporting the Combined Joint Task Force 76 (CJTF76) in Afghanistan. He left in October 2005 and came home in March 2006. All the leaflets that we show below are from that deployment. He next volunteered for a rotation on the MIST in Colombia. He was there from June to December of 2006. He then attended some schools for additional training. From November 2007 to April 2008, he deployed to Mexico as the first MIST invited to support Northern Command’s mission. Finally, from September 2009 to August 2010, he deployed again to Afghanistan to support Task Force 41. He was the Product Development Detachment Noncommissioned officer in charge for a few months and then the Red Cell NCOIC - we translated and analyzed enemy propaganda. 

NOTE: Combined Joint Task Force 76 (CJTF-76) was a US led subordinate formation of Combined Forces Command – Afghanistan (CFC-A) headquartered in Kabul, Afghanistan. It was active from the time CFC-A was formed (about 15 April 2004) to the time the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) took full command of the coalition military operations in Afghanistan in October 2006. CJTF-76 was replaced by Combined Joint Task Force 82, in the middle of 2007.

The Leaflets

We Normally show the actual leaflets which would be in Pashto or Dari. Jesse saved the English-language versions of his leaflets electronically. These will look a bit different, but it is important to show these "Nation Building” and “Consolidation” leaflets so that the reader can see the effort the PSYOP Specialists put in to try and bring the Afghan people behind their new elected government. All the leaflets in this group were from Wilson’s first deployment to Afghanistan with CJTF76.

The first group of leaflets all feature President Karzai’s image or words. Hamid Karzai is an Afghan politician who served as the fourth president of Afghanistan from July 2002 to September 2014, including as the first elected president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan from December 2004 to September 2014. Karzai had been a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency contact, and was well regarded by the CIA. After the 7 October 2001 launch of Operation Enduring Freedom, the United Front (Northern Alliance) worked with teams of U.S. special forces and together they overthrew the Taliban regime and mustered support for a new government in Afghanistan. Notice that all the leaflets use the background of Afghanistan.




No Code 

The Afghan National Army  

This leaflet was in support of the new Afghan Army. We told the people this was their army, democratically led with nepotism and with a code of morality. We show quite a few of these leaflets and posters in other parts of this article.

The Afghan National Police – AFC01aaPS1026

The leaflet depicts various National Policemen and of course one holding a child which always indicates honesty, purity, and trustworthiness.

Supporting the New Government by telling of its Achievements

Wilson said that he did a series of trifolds highlighting the good things that the coalition was doing in certain areas of the country. They were shipped out to the Provincial Reconstruction Teams operating in those respective places. We show the fronts. They vary in many ways but all attempt to show the new Afghanistan where the people are happy and free of the restraints put on them by the Taliban. You can see how each of these leaflets are broken into three horizontal parts so they can easily be folded.

Tarin Kowt Soccer Tournament - AFA01aaTF1001.

Job Training in Qualot - AFA01aaTF1002.

Ghazni Veterinary Civil Assistance Program - AFA01aaTF1003.

Winter Supplies Air-dropped in Ghazni - AFA01aaTF1004.

Wall Dedication Ceremony in Qarabagh District - AFA01aaTF1005.

Kandahar Receives Tractors and Wheat - AFA01aaTF1006.

Tarin Kowt Medical Civil Assistance Program - AFA01aaTF1007.

Rebuilding Afghanistan

Notice that we show the front of seven nation-building leaflets above. The image "Rebuilding Afghanistan" was placed on the back of all seven leaflets. 

Captain Peace

Wilson told me about a character named Captain Peace that he started on his first deployment. Notice that they gave Captain Peace a mustache. The Muslims find facial hair a sign of respectability and honesty. He told me:

Captain Peace was a cartoon character that was born on my first trip to Afghanistan. We had a Staff Sergeant whose background was not entirely clear. He was an 11B (infantryman) with some serious drawing skills. He got assigned to our task force and drew a lot of illustrations for our products. Captain Peace started as just a random Afghan Army soldier requesting information about terrorist activities on our leaflets.





He eventually got his own full comic book. I was just leaving Afghanistan at that time so unfortunately; I didn't get to keep a copy of the comic book. But by the time I came back, Captain Peace had gotten much bigger, or he had been resurrected and brought to life in a different way. I will talk more about him in my second deployment below.

Wilson prepared this next group of leaflets on his second deployment to Afghanistan as a member of PSYOP Task Force 41 from September 2009 to August 2010. He told me:

My second trip to Afghanistan was with Task Force 41 (1st PSYOP Battalion, 4th PSYOP Group). For the first few months I was the PDD (Product Development Detachment refers to a specialized unit responsible for creating and developing various products used in psychological warfare. These products are designed to influence foreign audiences, shape perceptions, and achieve specific objectives). NCOIC (Noncommissioned Officer in Charge). We mostly did heavy target audience analysis and planning. I attach a few printed products that we printed but most of what we were developing out of Task Force 41 was radio and TV spots. It was good quality stuff. On that mission we had a contract with a civilian production company, so we had a lot of capability. I was then assigned to Red Cell. I had a team of Afghan American interpreters, and we worked on translating and analyzing counter propaganda, mostly in the form of night letters. (The Taliban did not have aircraft, so they disseminated their propaganda by leaving propaganda letters under doors and such in the middle of the night). I cannot send any of this material because it was all classified at the time I worked on it.

The Leaflets


These anti-corruption handbills depicted below were used across the country. The product code on all of them started with “AF10B05mm” followed by four numerals. They had radio spots that went along with them. There are three different images, each having the same message on the front and back. This was a concentrated effort to convince the people that the new Afghan Police were incorruptible and were the most honest force in Afghanistan.

These anti-corruption handbills depicted below were used across the country. The product code on all of them started with “AF10B05mm” followed by four numerals. They had radio spots that went along with them. There are three different images, each having the same message on the front and back. This was a concentrated effort to convince the people that the new Afghan Police were incorruptible and were the most honest force in Afghanistan.


We mentioned Captain Peace above during Wilson’s first deployment. Now he tells us more about the same character and how he was used in his second deployment.

A Captain Peace Poster

Friday to Saturday Farad FM At 8:30 p.m.,
from us
Peace is the path of honor.

We did radio programs (The Lone Ranger style) and he was advertised all over the country. The poster was a promotion for the radio program. I'll send some others along with their product numbers. Incidentally, the guy in the poster acting as Captain Peace was a new Staff Sergeant on Task Force 41 that happened to look a bit like the cartoon, so he modeled for the products. I don't have product numbers that followed the PSYOP numbering doctrine, apparently because the civilian company that worked for us didn't use them.

A Captain Peace Billboard.

The Billboards were sent to Farah, Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan, and Zabul provinces. The Poster above and Radio promos went out to all provinces as well.


Jesse sent several of his radio spots to me.  Below is a radio spot AF1005asRDD0001, 48 seconds long in the Dari language. The first is the capture of Mullah Baradar. I should warn you that it takes a few seconds to come up so don’t be too quick to give up on the recording. There is background music and the message begins:


In the name of God, the most gracious and most merciful. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was captured in Pakistan where he was cowardly hiding. Mullah Baradar killed over two thousand of Afghanistan’s brothers and sisters. He no longer poses a threat to us. This, in conjunction with the success in Marjah, shows the unstopping momentum towards a secure Afghanistan.

PSYOP Television


Wilson told me that this is a tv spot that his team produced. Once again, there is a wait of several seconds before this comes up. It is a BIG file.

This is our footage - meaning that our people got the footage and brought it back to use in products. We did four different TV spots on just this avalanche. The goal was to highlight the good the new Afghanistan Army and Police were doing across the country.

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Leaflet CJTF180-P-AF D194

The front of full-color Leaflet CJTF180-P-AF D194 depicts a number of automatic weapons and rockets. The leaflet is smaller than the standard 6 x 3 inches and poorly registered, so it was probably made by a unit other that the regular Army PSYOP troops. The text is:

Trade your weapons for money

The back depicts a pile of Afghan currency, but the registration is so bad that it is impossible to tell the value of the various banknotes. The text is:

If you have information's about the secret locations of the members of al-Qaida and the Taliban or their weapons, tell the joint forces and we will pay a reward in the amount of 87,500,000 Afghani.

[Note: The code indicates that this leaflet was designed to be used by Combined Joint Task Force 180. The Task Force was tasked with the training of the Afghan National Army, providing civil affairs support, and disrupting, denying, and destroying terrorist and anti-government forces in order to establish a stable and secure Afghanistan].  

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Poster CJTF180-P-AF C031

Poster CJTF180-P-AF C031 was obviously prepared for the same campaign as the preceding leaflet since the weapons shown at the top are almost identical to those depicted on the leaflet and the banknotes below, now very clear and easy to see, are once again the banknotes of Afghanistan. The text is:

Trade your weapons for money

Below the weapons, Afghan banknotes are depicted. The text is:

If you have information about the secret locations of the members of al-Qaida and the Taliban or their weapons, tell the joint forces and we will pay a reward in the amount of 87,500,000 Afghani.

The code indicates that this poster was designed by the Combined Joint Task Force 180. The Task Force was tasked with the training of the Afghan National Army, providing civil affairs support, and disrupting, denying, and destroying terrorist and anti-government forces in order to establish a stable and secure Afghanistan

Are these weapons reward leaflets of any value? Do they work? Apparently they do. In early 2008 for instance, it was reported that an Afghan man assisted Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces in uncovering more than 325 pieces of ammunition when he led them to a weapons cache in a cave in Northern Afghanistan. The cave revealed neat stacks of unburied munitions in almost pristine condition. The man received a monetary reward for the information he provided as part of the Small Rewards Program. Approximately $65,000 was paid to individuals who have provided information resulting in locating and destroying weapons caches throughout Afghanistan.  The Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, Afghan Commandos and Coalition forces located or destroyed more than 7,000 enemy weapon systems, including rocket-propelled grenades, land mines, rifles and various types of ammunitions.

Poster CJTF180-P014

This is a strange poster. In Vietnam the U.S. felt it was dealing with farmers and highland tribes that needed help with nutrition, medical problems, cooking, sanitation, and cleanliness. There were dozens of posters made telling the people how to wash their babies, cook with clean water, bury their waste, etc. This poster tells the Afghans to wash their hands. I would assume the Afghans understood washing, but perhaps some of the clans were so far out in the wilderness this message had to be repeated. This is another Combined Joint Task Force 180 poster. The text says in Pashto and Farsi:

Reduce the risk of spreading diseases.

Wash your hands first.

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Poster AFC-F4-3000a Pashtu

Martin Smirl sent us poster AFC-F4-3000a Pashtu in March, 2011. It depicts a Taliban insurgent aiming a surface to air missile (SAM) at a civilian air liner. The insurgent is covered with a red “X” so clearly the Coalition is telling the Taliban not to fire at aircraft, and below the vignette we see American banknotes with a missile and missile launcher so the poster is certainly offering a reward for these weapons. The text is:

Hand over your weapons to the Coalition forces.

Provide information about the RPG-7 and get your reward

The Taliban has always had older-model, shoulder-fired missiles. The missiles have been of limited use because the batteries are mostly dead. However, in 2011, intelligence reports said that Iran had supplied fresh batteries for some three dozen shoulder-fired SA-7 missiles stockpiled by Taliban forces in anticipation of a U.S. attack. The U.S. supplied the mujahedeen with Stinger missiles in the 1980s for use against the Russians and allegedly tried to buy back the weapons when the Soviets were driven out, but several hundred Stingers and other shoulder-fired missiles remain in Afghanistan, believed to lack batteries.

As 2005 progressed, the Taliban, once thought beaten made a gradual comeback, probably fueled by the success of the terrorist actions in Iraq. Starting in April, the insurgents pursued a campaign of bombings and assassinations in a bid to disrupt parliamentary elections scheduled for Sept. 18. The American and Afghan forces fought several battles along the Pakistani border and a number of prisoners were taken and added to those already in confinement.

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Escapee leaflet

Four Arab al Qaida militants escaped from a detention center at the main U.S. base in Afghanistan at Bagram north of Kabul 11 July 2005. They are Syrian Abdullah Hashimi, Kuwaiti Mahmoud Ahmad Mohammad, Saudi Mahoud Alfatahni and Libyan Mohammad Hassan. A leaflet handout was immediately prepared depicting each of the escapees in prison garb and offering a reward for information leading to their recapture.

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Leaflet AFD48a

Leaflet AFD48a depicts a terrorist considering surrendering at the right. The picture at the left depicts two terrorists running with their entire upper body on fire, reminiscent of napalm attacks during the Vietnam War.  This is one of the most terrifying images produced by the Coalition for Afghan anti-terrorist PSYOP. The text is:

Dying - Living

The text on the back in Pashto and Dari is:

Escape to survive.

The Black and White Series.

I have many very handsome full color leaflets from Afghanistan I prefer to show them over black and white leaflets. However, there are a series of leaflets with short texts (and long code numbers) that seem to go together so I thought I would add these three just to show something a bit different. The code number indicates they were part of the same propaganda campaign. These all seem to be, "Respect and trust your new military" themes.

Leaflet AFD04aaHB3307 Pashtu

This leaflet depicts a soldier helping an older gentleman on the front and on the back, a group of soldiers with rifles. The text is:

The Afghan National Army has come to assist you.

The Afghan National Army has arrived to rebuild Afghanistan.

The Afghan National Army is here to provide for your security.

The Afghan National Army is responsible to protect you, your home, family, and the whole Afghan nation.

Leaflet AFC01aaHB1000

This leaflet depicts the same group on Afghan Children on the front and back. The text is:

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Your children are waiting for you.

For peace, stability, and a bright future.

Leaflet AFC01aaHB1032 Pashtu

The front has a group of Afghans on a mountain top, the back depicts an Afghan soldier holding a child. The text is very difficult because the printing is poorly done, white on grey. This might be a case where the PSYOP troops used a local printer. My translator is very good, but some words were unreadable. They are not in italics. I will send what he saw. If any reader can make out the words, feel free to contact me. The text on the front is:

Defending the homeland and eradicating terrorism will require your cooperation.

Besides, it is impossible for [Monrio] to defend his home soil.

Head of State, [Shaghli?] Hamid Karzai.

The text on the back is:

It is dishonorable not to defend one’s land, and we are honorable.

Afghanistan is famous for its bravery, not for its cowardice.

People's Leader, [baali?] Hamid Karzai.

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Leaflet AFD48d

I have no record of this leaflet being disseminated. The copy I have is poorly cut from the sheet and I suspect it was discarded as printer’s waste. It is also in black and white and not very clear. As in AFD48a it shows burning terrorists and a Taliban fighter on one side, the other side depicts a gun ship firing at a Taliban vehicle.


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“Cultural Awareness” playing cards

Psychological Warfare uses many types of media. One of the most interesting is the playing card. These cards have a long and well-respected use in the military. During the years that I was in the service I received many different types as training aides. To name just a few: “Survival Cards for South East Asia,” “Aircraft Recognition Playing Cards,” “Armored Vehicle Recognition,” “Soviet Manufactured Forward Area Aircraft,” “Free World Forward Area Aircraft,” and “Russian Words and Terminology.” At the end of the fighting phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom Coalition troops were issued the “Iraq’s Most Wanted” playing cards.

The U.S. military is now distributing “Cultural Awareness” playing cards to its troops in an attempt to teach them how to prevent inadvertent damage to archaeological sites and stop the traffic of looted artifacts. This “good neighbor” project is explored in depth in an article entitled “Army Project Teaches Cultural Awareness to Deployed troops,” by Toni Eugene in Army, March 2008. Each card has the text “ROE First” at the top, reminding the soldiers that safety and the rules of engagement have priority over saving any antiquities. Approximately 50,000 decks of the card have been shipped to troops and installations already, and more are on the way. Note that these cards are prepared for use both in Afghanistan and Iraq. The text on a few cards is:

Buying looted artifacts is forbidden. These objects will be confiscated if discovered during redeployment inspection.

The main goal of archaeology is to understand the past - your past

The Department of Defense needs your help protecting cultural heritage resources.

Ancient walls of mud brick are easily damaged.

Gummed Labels and Bumper Stickers

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Two examples of gummed labels

The United States prepared a number of gummed labels and stickers to be placed on walls, tables, and anyplace the Afghan citizens might congregate. They were prepared on a water-proof plasticized paper in full color. Most of the stickers are quite attractive. Some depict an American flag next to an Afghan flag with a dove of peace in the foreground. Others show the flag of Afghanistan in an attempt to build loyalty to the nation. All of the labels have text in both Dari and Pashto.

Matchbook PSYOP

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During the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq a number of Coalition propaganda matchbooks were prepared, usually showing a wanted terrorist or former political leader and offering a reward. In May 2008, it was reported that matchbooks bearing Osama bin Laden’s photograph were in circulation in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. Some of the text is:

Contact the nearest US embassy or consulate if you have any information about Osama Bin Laden.

Inside the matchbook the reader is told that Bin Laden is wanted by the US government on charges of killing 220 innocent citizens in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7, 1998 and that a reward of up to $5 million dollars will be paid for any information leading to the arrest of Bin Laden in any country or help prove the charges leveled against him. As always, the informer's name will be kept secret, and relocation to a safer country is possible.

The Rand monograph did not like the color of the matchbook. Green is associated in many Muslim countries with Islam. Thus, Afghan audiences might have believed the printing of bin Laden’s image with a green background meant he was a Muslim holy man. They also thought that the amount of the reward was far too high. It was so much money that the average Afghan would not even understand the concept. They said it produced a “cognitive dissonance.”

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Curiously, this is not the first use of such a matchbook in Pakistan. The Voice of America reported in February 2000, well before the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center that the U.S. government had distributed matchbooks offering a reward for the capture of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, charged with planning the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. 

Jim Teeple reported from Islamabad that some of the information printed on the matchbooks is incorrect. The printers left out a zero. He said:

For months reward posters and other printed material including matchbooks have been circulated in Pakistan and Afghanistan offering a substantial reward for information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden.  Now it turns out the information on some of the printed material is wrong.   Matchbooks distributed with written messages in Urdu which should have said the reward amounted to five million dollars instead said the reward was 500-thousand dollars.

Matchbook rewards have proved successful in the past helping to lead to the capture and extradition of Mir Amal Khansi who was convicted and sentenced to death in the United States for killing several employees of the Central Intelligence Agency outside C.I.A. headquarters.

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Adnan Shukrijunah Matchbook – Peshawar, Pakistan

Adnan Shukrijumah, is an American Jihadist, thought to be the highest-ranking American in al-Qaida. He is believed to be the successor to 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. He left Florida for Afghanistan in the spring of 2001 and has made it his life's work to attack America. Officials believe Adnan was behind the 2004 foiled plot against financial targets in New York and New Jersey. He was tied to the plot to try to ignite fuel lines at John F. Kennedy airport in 2007. In 2009, Najibullah Zazi traveled to Afghanistan in hopes of fighting U.S. forces there. He was convinced by Adnan Shukrijumah to follow a different path: return to the U.S. and attack the New York City subways. The United States has offered five million dollars for the capture of Adnan Shukrijumah.

Even with all the problems and criticisms, the matchbooks seem to work. An article in the Arab News of 26 May 2012 entitled “Reward for Justice (RFJ) Program Helps Capture terrorists…and Save Lives” says in part:

To date, Reward for Justice has paid 60 informants more than $100 million. Knowledge obtained through RFJ has helped law enforcement officials locate many enemies of America, including Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Edgar Navarro, commander of FARC revolutionary forces in Columbia; and Uday and Qusay Hussein, sons of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Tim Goldsmith sent me a Media note on an earlier campaign

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Rewards for Justice Program has launched a new three-month media ad campaign in Afghanistan to increase awareness of financial rewards being offered for information leading to the apprehension of wanted terrorists. The television ad began airing today in both the Dari and Pashto languages. Local broadcasts will reach audiences in Mazar-I-Sharif, Herat, Kabul, and after August 15, 2005, will reach audiences in Kandahar and Jalalabad.

The radio ads began airing on Afghani radio on July 12, 2005, in both the Pashto and Dari languages. Broadcasts will reach audiences in Kabul, Mazar-I-Sharif, Herat, Kandahar, and after August 15, 2005, will be heard in Jalalabad. The television and radio spots announce rewards for Mullah Omar, Ayman Al Zawahiri and Usama Bin Laden. They remind the Afghans that these men are not only enemies of Afghanistan, but also of the world, and that in recent years, terrorists have been responsible for the murders of large numbers of their citizens. The ads urge anyone with knowledge of these three men or other wanted terrorists and their activities to contact the U.S. Embassy in Kabul at (93) 79 021 304, the local Provincial Reconstruction Team, or to visit the web site at to share information that may prevent further loss of innocent lives.

In addition to the radio and television ads, matchbooks and posters advertising the Rewards for Justice Program are being distributed nationwide. The matchbooks feature photos of Usama Bin Laden, Saif al-Adel, and Ayman Al-Zawahiri and text in Pashto and Dari. The posters show photos of the Rewards for Justice Program’s 17 most wanted terrorists and contact information for U.S. Embassy Kabul, the Rewards for Justice website, and the local Provincial Reconstruction Team. Since its inception in 1984, the Rewards for Justice Program has paid more than $57 million to 43 persons who have provided credible information that has resulted in the capture or death of terrorists or prevented acts of international terrorism.


The use of music in psychological operations is well documented. Americans first saw it in the movie Apocalypse Now when U.S. attack helicopters approached a Viet Cong-controlled village playing “The Ride of the Valkyrie.”

During the Panama invasion, the world watched on television as U.S. PSYOP troops played loud music outside the Vatican nunciature where President Manuel Noriega hid. Some of the songs were: “I fought the Law and the Law Won,” “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” “You're Messin' with a SOB,” “Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down,” and “Nowhere to Run.”

Apparently the same sorts of tactics were used in Afghanistan. They are discussed by Peter J. Smyczek in “Regulating the battlefield of the future: the legal limitations on the conduct of psychological operations under public international law,” Air Force Law Review, Winter 2005:

American soldiers often employ creative tactics such as using loud and aggressive American pop-culture at the tactical level to frighten or intimidate enemy fighters. During the first ground campaign in Afghanistan, American soldiers played the heavy metal song "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" by the heavy metal band Drowning Pool as they were being deployed via helicopter.

Television PSYOP

There are a number of television programs aimed at the Afghans, both from U.S. sponsors and many of the Coalition nations. We mention British television programs elsewhere. I spoke to one of the Information Operations (I/O) officers involved with the first all-Afghan crime drama while he worked at Headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), in Kabul, 2008. He told me:

I created the concept for the first original Afghan TV show about good cops fighting corruption that was finally produced through the American Embassy. The New York Times mentioned it in November 2010.

“They break up child suicide-bomber rings, take down drug lords and government ministers (even when they are the same thing) and kick in doors to rescue kidnapped diplomats — all with little or no help from the Americans and NATO. Two men and two women, they are part of an elite Afghan police unit known as Eagle Four, whose exploits have made them so famous that team members are stopped on the streets of Kabul and congratulated — when they are not fielding death threats from the Taliban. “Eagle Four” is a popular new police show on Tolo TV here, financed largely by American Embassy “public diplomacy” money in an effort to raise the esteem in which Afghans hold their much-maligned police force.”

He sent me the original outline for the show. It is 12 pages long and I just quote a few paragraphs.

Silent Hero - Akbar Khan –

Purpose – Create a uniquely Afghan TV show centered on incorruptible characters (Afghanistan National Police chief and his team) who investigate and take down IED networks. (No foreign forces help, ever seen or mentioned – all Afghan cast)

IED education is embedded into the stories; ANP are shown to be trustworthy and honorable; Focus is justice not vengeance; Action sequences are about capture not kill;

No Egos, team members are very cool, active, fit (non-smoking); Cool nicknames or strong traditional/tribal/ethnic heroic names

Bad Guys - No references to Taliban (add no legitimacy to their organization or propaganda); only described as criminals or “sociopaths” due to disregard for human life;

Their violent activities are always senseless, often associated with themes of selfishness and greed stemming from: Corruption, Drug trafficking, Extortion and Kidnapping.

Plot - Akbar starts his organization from scratch. Using the influence of the sponsor has successfully hires his old commando friend as his Operations Chief. He has charged the chief to find two good men like himself, dedicated, selfless and incorruptible, who will form the core of the take down team. The unit characters are physically fit and do not smoke (trying to establish healthy role models). There is unity among them; they do not fight among themselves, there are no ego issues…

HeroPoliceAfghanistan001.JPG (515945 bytes)

Hero Police

A child in District 2, Kandahar, Afghanistan, displays an Afghan Uniformed Police leaflet. The leaflets were distributed on 6 September 2011. Leaflets and stickers were given to children by the police as part of an outreach program. The stickers and leaflets depict the police officers as a type of super hero for the community.

Our next topic is “PSYOP Problems” and there was a problem with the way the embassy “Americanized” the actors in this show. The Army officer had gone to great pains to meet all the cultural requirements and the program was originally about four male policemen. By the time the “politically correct” bureaucrats got done with the story it was a mixed team. The officer says:

The Embassy took poetic license and replaced two of my male characters with females. We severely vetted those characters in the concept to be sure it would play well to the audience and culture in the cities. Woman are treated with such contempt that making them co-equals with the males was something that should not have been done (it is unrealistic in their society at this point). It would not surprise me if they pushed the woman’s equality issue out of sheer ignorance.

The NY Times seems to agree:

The Eagle Four team is also co-ed, which is unheard of here. Most of the tiny handful of female Afghan police officers is afraid to even go into local police stations for fear of sexual assault by their colleagues…The biggest problem [the show] had was with women’s roles. Filming night scenes — anything after 5 p.m. — ran into objections from the actresses’ husbands and fathers. One had not told her family she had a part, and after the program was shown they forced her to quit, leaving a subsequent scene half done.

PSYOP Problems

United States PSYOP in Afghanistan hit a “bump” in October 2005 when Australian journalist Stephen Dupont told The Associated Press that while he was embedded with the 173rd Airborne Brigade of the United States Army outside the southern village of Gonbaz, near the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, he saw Taliban bodies burnt by U.S. troops. Police in Shah Wali Kot district, where Gonbaz village is located, said hundreds of Taliban rebels are believed to be hiding in camps in the mountainous region.

Cremation of bodies is not part of Muslim tradition, which calls for remains to be washed, prayed over, wrapped in white cloth and buried within 24 hours. Allegedly, two soldiers broadcast taunting messages to call out the Taliban soldiers. Dupont said the soldiers responsible for the taunting messages were part of a US Army psychological operations unit. The message apparently was:

Attention Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be. You attack and run away like women. You call yourself Taliban but you are a disgrace to the Muslim religion, and you bring shame upon your family. Come and fight like men instead of the cowardly dogs you are.

General Mohammed Zahir Azimi, spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said those responsible must be found and punished. The U.S. military said it would investigate the report of the burning of dead enemy combatant bodies under inappropriate circumstances. When questioned, the soldiers who burned the bodies said they did so for hygiene reasons. The Geneva Convention allows bodies to be cremated for imperative reasons of hygiene. The Law of Land Warfare allows the burning of remains under certain circumstances, especially sanitation reasons. The Geneva Convention also states that soldiers must ensure that the dead are honorably interred, if possible according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged. Unfortunately, these conflicting rules can lead to confusion and interpretation.

As a result of the investigation all tactical PSYOP was halted in Afghanistan in late October until commanders determined how to bridge the emerging gap between Afghanistan’s Islamic customs and what is permitted under the Geneva Convention. The problem was called an “emerging vulnerability” centered around a “disconnect” between the Geneva Conventions and Afghan traditions. Policies were rewritten and leaders from battalion commander on up were ordered to study them.

Paul G. Buchanan, a New Zealand writer adds in an article entitled, Civil Affairs, Foreign Area Expertise and Psychological Operations in US Military Force Projection:

The US troops wanted to avoid storming the village so as to limit civilian casualties and have had success with such PSYOP tactics before, so the potential breach of Geneva Convention protocols regarding the treatment of enemy dead was discounted in favor of the practical necessities at hand.

Robert J. Kodosky adds in Psychological Operations American Style – the Joint United States Public Affairs Office, Vietnam and Beyond: Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2007:

An official investigation of the affair issued a report in November 2005 that found evidence of “poor decision-making and judgment, poor reporting and a lack of knowledge and respect for local Afghan customs and tradition.”

In total, four American soldiers received “administrative punishment” for what the Army identified as two separate incidents. The first case involved the individuals responsible for the act itself. The second, however, implicated two PSYOP specialists who heard about the incidence while operating in the area and decided to use it in hopes of inciting Taliban fighters.

Sergeant Rob Castrillo was a team leader for the 3rd Platoon, 101 Military Police Company of the 101st Airborne Division. He deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan sometime in January 2002.   After about a month, he was assigned to the security element and Quick Reaction Force for a PSYOP platoon. He found that the missions he performed were not regular Military Police doctrine and were mostly special operations type missions. He said that his basic mission in Afghanistan consisted of:

After all the pre-mission briefs were conducted and regular rock drills, we would depart to a village within twenty or so miles from Kandahar airfield.  We would approach the villages and meet with the Sheik or village leader.   The soldiers would pull security, passing out candy to the children, as I would basically be the Personnel Security Detachment for the PSYOP teams.  We would sit down and talk about the village, education, urgent needs, etc. At the end of our discussions we would ask if they knew where the enemy was. Overall, these were generally a good mission.  Sometimes we would take doctors or medical technicians with us to check on folks who needed urgent medical attention.

I believed in what I was doing and I was enjoying it. Some non-commissioned officers would swear and direct negative body language to the Afghans.  They didn't like our PSYOP mission and probably provided more negative impact than positive. I was very respectful to them.  I put myself in their shoes.

When you build rapport with residents and sheiks they trust you and believe in you.  When you are hands on, you build respect.  I worked side by side with the locals. It wasn’t “What can I do for you,” and then send in an infantry or engineer company. I believe it's much better if you do it yourself. It makes you credible. I enjoyed my missions with the PSYOP guys in Afghanistan.  PSYOP is definitely the tip of the spear in a combat theater as far as I'm concerned.

Rob told me that from his working with PSYOP troops there were certain things that he felt needed to be addressed. Some of his suggestions were:

The average PSYOP soldier should be trained more efficiently to conduct the missions they are tasked to do. One of the first things that I noticed was the lack of Direct Action training in the PSYOP squads. They were well armed but lacked many of the basic skills that would have freed up their security detail to be more proactive. The military police up-armored Hummers were very intimidating to the enemy, but the PSYOP teams appeared vulnerable with their soft skinned hummers. The PSYOP teams needed more infantry skills, forward observer training (so they could call in air strikes when needed), some emergency medical technician and explosive ordnance disposal training, and advanced communication skills.

By coincidence, one day before I spoke to Rob I was contacted by the program manager for of a private contractor who was supporting the Special Warfare Center by supplying personnel to analyze the current state of PSYOP training. I told him basically the same thing that Rob told me, but in lesser detail:

I have received similar training requests in the past from the Army. In the old days battle skills were taught in basic, then technical skills in AIT. There has been a very definite mission creep in past years because of the urban type of warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq and we see more battle skills taught in AIT. The result is that students leave with an MOS and probably not as thorough knowledge of their actual job as before. I suspect the final answer will be a return to the old technical MOS training, followed by a short (NCO Academy style) 2-3 week advanced military skills course. I think it is important that when a PSYOP soldier graduates AIT he be an expert in his field and to spend time on anything other than those skills is counterproductive.     

The manager answered:

Thanks for the comments – it reinforces all that I have managed to read about the state of things and confirms what I have heard – we may have been doing it right at one point but we seem to have lost the vector to make the training relevant to the warfighter of today. 

Dr. Daniel L. Haulman says about U.S. PSYOP in Afghanistan in his 2003 report: USAF PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS, 1990-2003:

In Afghanistan during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in 2001 and 2002, Taliban troops readily changed sides. Scores of Taliban prisoners interviewed at a U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo in Cuba testified that psychological operations radio messages and dropped leaflets influenced their decision to surrender. The same was not generally true with Al Qaida members, despite their exposure to air-delivered messages in Arabic. For them, precision air strikes often proved to be more persuasive than overt psychological products. Moreover, psychological products failed to reach most of the targeted population in denied areas.