Psychological Warfare and PSYOP
Sign In

Not already a member? Register a free account

Forgot your password?

Welcome to PsyWar.Org (Sign in / Register)

Leaflet Archive



Recent Forum Posts

Re: Je suis Charlie

6 January 2018 at 12:54 pm

Re: Newbie to this site

3 December 2017 at 5:47 pm

Newbie to this site

3 December 2017 at 4:35 pm

Re: Black Propaganda Leaflets

25 November 2017 at 7:29 pm

'Wanted for Incitement to Murder' - the Churchill leaflet

3 November 2017 at 3:44 pm

Re: Burma Front Leaflets

23 September 2017 at 6:27 pm

Re: IFBU in Burma 1945

2 September 2017 at 6:59 am

Re: IFBU in Burma 1945

31 August 2017 at 5:13 pm

IFBU in Burma 1945

31 August 2017 at 11:37 am

Re: Burma Front Leaflets

22 August 2017 at 8:31 am

Psychological Operations in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom, 2001 by SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

Share on Facebook
Google +1

Note: Portions of this article were featured in Perspectives, the Journal of the Psychological Operations Association, Volume 14, Number 4, 2002.

holdingleaftbeat.jpg (22785 bytes)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFD189Front.jpg (26196 bytes)
World Trade Center Leaflet AFD-189

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

20th September, 1380. World Trade Center

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

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

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

911AfghanxPoster.jpg (24279 bytes)
World Trade Center Poster AFC035

A poster was produced in Pastun and Dari that depicted a similar picture of the World Trade Center attack, perhaps a few seconds later than the leaflet image, with a greater fireball. The poster is coded AFC035. The text at top is a date in the Afghanistan calendar which is very likely the equivalent of September 11. Because the image is not clear we can just read a small part of the text:

Over 2,800 People were killed and 3,000 children lost their parents…

AFD022BF.jpg (37713 bytes)

AFD022BB.jpg (38292 bytes)

World Trade Center Leaflet AFD-22b

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

Foreign Terrorists do not believe in any borders

New York – U.S.A.      Harat -Afghanstan

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

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

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

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

leafletdropAfghanistan.jpg (92012 bytes)

Leaflet drop over Afghanistan

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

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

TSCover03.jpg (45810 bytes)
The Secretary of Defense implies that Saddam Hussein is a Foolish Man.

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

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

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

Their arrows are sharp, all their bows are strung; their horses’ hoofs seem like flint, their chariot wheels are like a whirlwind. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

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

BibleQuoteGunsight.jpg (137582 bytes)
Is this a "Jesus" Gun-sight?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

afghan01f.jpg (32097 bytes) 

afghan01b.jpg (26155 bytes)

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

The partnership of nations is here to help.

The back of the leaflets says:

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

afghan02f.jpg (17862 bytes)  afghan02b.jpg (18331 bytes)

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

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

The leaflet tells the Afghan finder what radio stations to dial in order to hear the latest news from the coalition forces. Part of the PSYOP plan was to tell the Afghan people why their country was being bombed. The radio broadcasts stress that this is simply a war against terrorism and not against the people of Afghanistan. The Taliban's main Kabul radio station, Voice of Sharia, ("Islamic Law"), was taken off the air by an American cruise missile several days earlier.

ConstellationLeafPrep.jpg (30344 bytes)

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

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

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

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

Whether it was a leaflet offering a monetary reward, providing a radio listening frequency, extolling the new government, or warning about land mines, the 30 million leaflets 2nd Platoon, A Company, 3rd POB, printed were a significant contribution to the global war on terrorism When radio broadcasts by the Air Force EC- 130 Commando Solo aircraft became possible, Donovan's [PSYOP squad leader] squad printed handbills that ground units could distribute to villages. The handbills depicted a radio tower and had various frequencies for music and news.

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

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

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

afd04F.jpg (25364 bytes)

afd04B.jpg (20444 bytes)

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

Muslims in the United States worship freely.

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

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

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

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

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

AfghansRadio004.jpg (36107 bytes)  AfghansRadio001.jpg (37067 bytes)  AfghansRadio002.jpg (27175 bytes) 

Afghans listening to the Coalition broadcasts

KaitoRadio.jpg (155899 bytes)

Kaito Radio

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

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

FreeplayRadioF.jpg (57828 bytes)  FreeplayRadioB.jpg (22927 bytes)

The Freeplay Plus Radio

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

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

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

On September 11th, the United States was the target of terrorist attacks, leaving no choice but to seek justice for these horrible crimes. We are here to take measures against the terrorists that have rooted themselves in your country. It is not you, the honorable people of Afghanistan, who are targeted, but those who would oppress you, seek to bend you to their own will, and make you their slaves. It will take the combined efforts of the international community and you to remove these evil people from Afghanistan. Take the following action: Do not give food, shelter, or any type of aid to the Taliban or Osama bin Laden. This will be a great help in the effort. We have no wish to hurt you, the innocent people of Afghanistan. Stay away from military installations, government buildings, terrorist camps, roads, factories, or bridges. If you are near these places, then you must move away from them. Seek a safe place, and stay well away from anything that might be a target. We do not wish to harm you.

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

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

PassingRadiosAfgan.jpg (74643 bytes)
Passing out radios

WSSR11Radio.gif (24196 bytes)
WorldSpace WSSR-11Digital Receiver

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

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

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

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

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

Somsbbagram.jpg (40729 bytes)
The Special Operations System B (SOMS B) ground-based
PSYOP radio in Afghanistan. The DRASH tents attached to the
vehicles are the operational areas for the system set up in Bagram.

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

The Special Operations System B (SOMS B) was the first ground-based PSYOP asset in Afghanistan.   There was a SOMS B in Bagram and one in Kandahar .  Initially broadcasting was done on AM and FM.  Eventually, all broadcasting was migrated to shortwave (SW). The three short wave radio frequencies are 9325, 9345 and 9365 kHz.The stations broadcast from 0030 to 1830 with the heading in Pashto "Da Sola Radyo day," and in Dari "Inja Solh-e Radyoe", ("You are listening to Peace Radio."). The antenna field was very crowded in the beginning because all three (AM, FM, and SW) antennas had been set up in the same small area.  The AM antenna was a discone antenna supported by four masts, which were only 50 feet off the ground at the highest point.

VoiceofPeacebldg.jpg (44786 bytes)

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

PSYOP soldiers had visited the Voice of Peace FM broadcast station in Jabal os Saraj a couple of times to try and improve the coverage of this station, which was supporting US efforts.  The station was housed in a donated building up on the side of a tall hill.  The transmitter was a 500 Watt Japanese made solid-state system that had some "repairs" done by the local welder.  The civilian tech advisors working with the soldiers were able to improve the "repairs" and determine that the existing omni-directional antenna was only rated for 200 Watts, limiting the system.  Replacement antennas were acquired which provided a directional coverage and increased effective radiated power to extend their coverage area. The requirements of the operation are such that the SW broadcasting is now done from three locations in Afghanistan.  Each location has its own SW transmitter as the SOMS B systems have all returned to FT Bragg.  The audio products are edited using a Deployable Audio Production System (DAPS) designed for PSYOP use by the civilian technical support in the Media Production Center, FT Bragg.  Video products are edited using the Deployable Non-Linear Editor (DNLE) which was developed by the same resource.

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

The SOMS-B system consists of two primary subsystems: the Mobile Radio Broadcast System (MRBS) and Mobile Television Broadcast System (MTBS). Each of these subsystems consists of a primary HMMWV, a cargo HMMWV, and a mission trailer carrying a 33 kW generator, environmental control unit, and Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelter (DRASH) tent system. The two subsystems can be deployed together or separately. The SOMS-B provides an AM, FM, television and short wave radio broadcast capability. Except for the very long range short wave system, the other systems have rather short ranges. It’s normally deployed around populated centers where you want to target that audience. You can have all of those means broadcasting. The shortest range system is the television system and it goes up to long range for the short wave. You can position SOMS-B in a strategic location where you can target the local populace with the shorter-range systems—television, and FM—then go further out with AM and cover even larger parts of the countryside with short wave. You can broadcast different programs on each one of them or you can broadcast the same message on all the radios.

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

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

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

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

ec130dsa2.jpg (59639 bytes)
EC-130 Commando Solo

Beginning in November 2001, a modified C-130 aircraft dubbed Commando Solo began blasting U.S. messages and local music on airwaves across Afghanistan. U.S.planes also dropped tons of leaflets to market the informational radio programming to the Afghans. Tactical PSYOPS teams and nongovernmental organizations distributed nearly 5,000 radios to civilians across the country. But early in March, the military withdrew Commando Solo from the theater to refit for its next mission.

AfgPSYOPRadio002a.jpg (14934 bytes)

Inside a PSYOP mobile radio studio

On March 8, PSYOPS soldiers in Bagram and Kandahar went on the air. They literally took over their mission on the same frequencies using the Special Operations Media System. The eight-man team now broadcasts round the clock. The Afghan programming, simultaneously broadcast on both AM and short wave is presented in the country’s predominant languages, Dari and Pashto. Using hour long formats like commercial stations, news and information is broken up by blocks of Afghan music. And of course, the news is all good. Two current messages include the reopening of Kabul University and story of two bicyclists in Kandahar training for the 2004 Olympics. They also air public service announcements about things such as the need for identification cards and polio vaccinations. What locals really like is the music, and they tell the team how the Taliban kept most music on the forbidden list. From Bagram, PSYOPS radio extends about 30 miles, and begins breaking up at the outskirts of Kabul. The short wave broadcast can reach the entire country depending on weather conditions.

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

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

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

AfghanMusicRadio01.jpg (17707 bytes)
A member of the 8th Psychological Operations
Battalion, shows some of the Afghan music CDs that
the battalion's radio station from Kandahar Airfield.

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

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

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

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

ARSOF in Afghanistan adds:

PSYOP units working in the field distributed small transistor radios countrywide because the Taliban had made it a crime to possess a radio and few were available. Dawkins [an American PSYOP trooper] met an Afghan woman who had one of the airdropped American transistor radios. She told him that it was the first radio she had heard in seven years. Dawkins made it a point to request the delivery of more transistor radios. Broadcast media proved very effective during the PSYOP campaign. More than 7,500 small battery-powered transistor radios were distributed both by airdrop and by TPTs with Special Forces ODAS. Simple leaflets told the Afghan people which numbered channels to tune to for American PSYOP-produced programs.

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

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

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

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

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

FlagRaisingEF.jpg (92831 bytes)

Ranger Calling Card Leaflet "Freedom Endures"

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

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

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

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

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

Firefighterleaf01.jpg (19352 bytes)
Ranger Calling Card Leaflet on Rucksack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It told anyone in the area that U.S. forces were present and that they needed to exit the buildings, stay away from the airfield, drop any weapons, and get down on the ground if they wanted to survive. We played the message for about 5 minutes. The broadcast resounded across the valley floor into the compound. There was no doubt that, anyone in the area had fair warning. This done, we bounded forward to join the rest of the Ranger element at building #1, secured a room, and awaited orders. We were told to assist in searching the building for any intelligence and weapons, and to be watchful for booby traps. We found a Soviet RPK machine gun with a belt of ammo in the feed tray, expended shell casings, belt links on the ground, a [rocket-propelled grenade] (RPG) launcher with 10 to 12 rounds nearby, and two AK-47 assault rifles. The rooms had articles of clothing strewn about, mattresses and bedding, and other personal effects. After collecting the weapons, we distributed about 400 leaflets in and around the building.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4thleafletf.jpg (25067 bytes)

4thleafletr.jpg (22984 bytes)

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

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

Drive out the foreign terrorists.

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

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

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

The Religious Police will whip women on the street that they feel are not dressing in accordance with a strict interpretation of the Koran.

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

Do you enjoy being ruled by the Taliban? Are you proud to live a life of fear? Are you happy to see the place your family has owned for generations a terrorist training site? Are you proud to live under a government that harbors terrorists? Are you proud to live in a nation ruled by extreme fundamentalists? The Taliban have robbed your country of your heritage. They have destroyed your national monuments, and cultural artifacts. They rule by force, violence, and fear. They insist that their form of Islam is the one and only form, the true form, the divine form. They see themselves as religious experts. They seek to rob you and your nation of its past. That which has brought you together as a nation over the past thousands of years is being slowly torn apart. They destroy your national treasures. They also harbor terrorists.

humanaidf.jpg (27410 bytes)

haid2.jpg (24317 bytes)


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

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

HDRAfghanColor.jpg (418211 bytes)
A New Color for the Food Packet

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

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

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

leafAfghan05B.jpg (49328 bytes)

On November 2, the Pentagon announced that they had dropped a new aerial propaganda leaflet. The oversized leaflet depicted three photographs of the face of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar targeted by the crosshairs of a gun scope at the far right. The Mullah had earlier forbidden any photographs of himself. To the left of the photographs were three photographs of the license plate of one of Omar's vehicles, again covered by the crosshairs. This second photo was probably taken during an earlier operation when an American Predator unmanned surveillance aircraft fitted with two "Hellfire" anti-tank missiles had targeted the car but was not allowed to fire due to a rules of engagement dispute. To the left are three pairs of eyes alternated with the text "We are watching!" The leaflet is identical on both sides except for the text, which is in Pashto or Dari. The Pentagon announced that 16 million leaflets have been produced and would be dropped in batches at intervals.

bombsvsaid.jpg (21864 bytes)
Humanitarian Aid Packet and BLU 97 Cluster Bomb

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

AFD39.jpg (19759 bytes)

The warning leaflet is AFD39. The leaflet depicts a hand reaching toward a food packet on one side and a short message explaining that this is safe. The back of the leaflet depicts a hand reaching for a bomblet, and shows bomblets in several forms on the ground. There is a skull and crossed bones at the center of the leaflet warning finders of the danger. On November 8, the Pentagon announced that 16 million propaganda leaflets had been dropped on Afghanistan. The previous day the 4th PSYOP Group at Ft. Bragg had printed 800,000 new leaflets and packed them inside 15 propaganda bombs to be shipped to Afghanistan. The PSYOP troops were placed on a war footing at the start of the operation and regularly worked 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day. The text is short and sweet:

Clean and safe food / Halal


AFD290F.jpg (19771 bytes)

AFD290B.jpg (19452 bytes)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

familyusafgf.jpg (32484 bytes)

familyusafgb.jpg (31988 bytes)


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

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

AFD030bFront.jpg (44413 bytes)

AFD030bBack.jpg (50045 bytes)
Friendship II? AFD030b

There is no code on the "Friendship" leaflet, but we know from Army documentation that a leaflet AFD30a exists. 2,540,000 were disseminated by M129 leaflet bombs up until September 2002.That first "Friendship" leaflet may have a significant error. Notice that the map of Afghanistan is covered by a three-color flag in a horizontal format. The actual Afghan flag has the three colors in a vertical format. A second almost identical leaflet with the same text was printed and coded AFD30b. This leaflet depicts the flag of Afghanistan over the map in the proper vertical format. A third variety coded AFD030c exists and is identical to AFD30b except that the frame around the vignette on the front and the back is a thick black line.

AFD62F.jpg (14577 bytes)

AFD62B.jpg (16184 bytes)

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

Taliban: we know where you are.

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

Stop fighting for the Taliban and live.

There is a second variety of this leaflet. The vignettes are identical, although the color is slightly different by a few shades. The second version has text at the top and bottom of the leaflet and the font is slightly smaller in size.

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

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

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

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

Blu82HeloLanding.jpg (121957 bytes)
BLU-82 dropped in Vietnam to make a landing zone

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

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

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

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

afghan13front.jpg (36541 bytes)

afghan13back.jpg (30520 bytes)

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

The Taliban reign of fear...

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

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

afghan14front.jpg (18820 bytes)  afghan14back.jpg (20761 bytes)

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

Expel the foreign rulers and live in peace.

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

Who really runs the Taliban?

It had been reported earlier that this leaflet was dropped over Kandahar.

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

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

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

afghan12front.jpg (41033 bytes)

afghan12back.jpg (24557 bytes)


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

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

The back of the leaflet is all text and says:

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

AFD89Dari.jpg (24231 bytes)

aiddates.jpg (23543 bytes)
Dates being prepared for distribution

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

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

It is worth noting that the American translation misspells one Arabic word, which should be "Mubarak." The translation of "Eid Mubarak" is "Have a blessed holiday." The Pentagon finally released the leaflet illustration to the public in February of 2002. At that time it was also reported that California dates had been dropped along with the leaflets. Dates are a fruit that the Muslims traditionally use to break the fast of Ramadan. By including dates in the air drop bundles, the United States showed respect for this significant Muslim holiday. The leaflet code number is AFD89.

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

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

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

afghan11front.jpg (28854 bytes)

afghan11back.jpg (24646 bytes)


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

$25,000,000 reward.

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

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

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

afghan10front.jpg (29817 bytes)

afghan10back.jpg (26040 bytes)


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

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

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

This is what the Taliban has done?

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

The leaflets can be broken down into four general categories. The first category is the "threat" leaflet with a warning of the forces arrayed against the Taliban and predictions of their imminent death. Four such leaflets are shown.

TF11RP03DF.jpg (14514 bytes)

TF11RP03DB.jpg (10151 bytes)

The first leaflet shows a dead al-Qaida soldier. The text is:

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

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

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

Osama bin Laden the murderer and coward has abandoned you.

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

AFDDG2dari.jpg (26063 bytes)


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

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

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

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

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

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

AFDDG1dari.jpg (23963 bytes)


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

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

AFD94F.jpg (23881 bytes)

AFD94B.jpg (21373 bytes)

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

Al Qaida, your escape routes are mined.

The back shows two burning trucks with the text:

You are trapped.

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

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

ARSOF in Afghanistan adds:

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

AFD69bdpf.jpg (14709 bytes)

AFD69bDPB.jpg (14152 bytes)


Another leaflet shows five Taliban 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 Taliban soldiers with their eyes wide open in fear, the cave entrance blocked with rubble. The text is: your tomb?

AFD40dDPF.jpg (11129 bytes)

AFD40dDPB.jpg (13138 bytes)

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.

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.

spookynight.jpg (14172 bytes)

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.

AFD29pdpF.jpg (16118 bytes)

AFD29pdpb.jpg (11276 bytes)

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.

AFG06.jpg (33659 bytes)

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.

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

AFD130Front.jpg (26829 bytes)

AFD130bF.jpg (20976 bytes)

AFD130cF.jpg (21849 bytes)

AFD130bB.jpg (23401 bytes)


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.

pakistaniChildleaf.jpg (26435 bytes)
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.

AFG12a.jpg (58028 bytes)

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.

AFD103Front.jpg (32343 bytes)

AFD103Back.jpg (31571 bytes)

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.

TF11RP091F.jpg (18278 bytes)

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.

TF11RP05dp.jpg (10557 bytes)

TF11RP05dpb.jpg (10574 bytes)

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.

AFD85dpF.jpg (12615 bytes)

AFD85dpb.jpg (11506 bytes)


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.

AFD88adpf.jpg (8249 bytes)

AFD88adpb.jpg (8930 bytes)

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.

AFD91d.jpg (18740 bytes)


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.

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.   

AFD93dari.jpg (10095 bytes)


The next leaflet shows bin Laden sitting cross-legged on a pile of dead Afghans. The text is:

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

It should be noted that during Desert Storm Saddam Hussein sometimes was shown sitting on a throne of skulls.

AFD92p.jpg (13899 bytes)


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.

TF11RP07pashtu.jpg (19719 bytes)

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.

TF11RP07bFdari.jpg (32299 bytes)

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.

Hamburgposter.jpg (20795 bytes)

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.

AF1A11P1dari.jpg (30048 bytes)


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.


AF1B11P1dari.jpg (34573 bytes)


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


TURN AWAY NOW! 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.

AF8B11HB1Dari.jpg (24638 bytes)

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...

AF5C11HB1dari.jpg (22133 bytes)

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.

AFG105fdari.jpg (23206 bytes)

AFG105bdari.jpg (25410 bytes)


A fourth leaflet shows the exact same illustration and text as leaflet AF-8-B-11-HB1 on the front. 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.

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.

AFG07Eng.jpg (33399 bytes)


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.

AFG08Eng.jpg (32250 bytes)

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.

AFG09Eng.jpg (25680 bytes)


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

AFG10Dari.jpg (20335 bytes)

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.

AFD114F.jpg (29300 bytes)

AFD114B.jpg (23946 bytes)


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.

AfghanmoneyleafBig.jpg (31871 bytes)

150rewardleaf.jpg (17252 bytes)

The first propaganda leaflet in the form of a banknote was used during this battle. Members of the Paktia Province Intelligence Unit distributed them. 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.

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.

AFD101c.jpg (35328 bytes)
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:

Different 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 two at left are Pastun, the upper right person is Uzbek, and the lower right member is a Tajik.

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

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:

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.

Afghanmoneyleaf.jpg (30338 bytes)
150,000,000 Reward

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 AFD29nBW.jpg (16465 bytes)

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).

AfghanMan07.jpg (14251 bytes)

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.

Afghanman05.jpg (14813 bytes)

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.

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.

 Afghanman01.jpg (11288 bytes)

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).

AFD52bFront.jpg (23292 bytes)

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.

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."

SSGPenrodLDAfghan.jpg (129787 bytes)
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.

AFDC43678.jpg (84228 bytes)

AFDC43678B.jpg (50900 bytes)
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.

AFDC43838.jpg (48019 bytes)

AFDC43838B.jpg (39958 bytes)
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

AFD171aBack.jpg (32284 bytes)

AFD171aFront.jpg (33915 bytes)

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.

PeaceNewsAfghan.jpg (56073 bytes)
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.

American Companies Join the War on Terror

KwikAfghan.jpg (111284 bytes)

KwikAfghan2.jpg (115557 bytes)
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

StingerBillboard.jpg (53312 bytes)

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.

AFD1040F.jpg (28982 bytes)

AFD1040B.jpg (28695 bytes)
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

AFD194F.jpg (20163 bytes)

AFD194B.jpg (49432 bytes)

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].  

poster0371.jpg (56268 bytes)

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.

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.

AFCF43000a.jpg (237898 bytes)
Poster AFC-F4-3000a Pashtu

Martin Smirl sent us poster AFC-F4-3000a Pashtu in March, 2011. Unfortunately we haven’t translated it yet but 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 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.

OIF4Escape.jpg (70968 bytes)
Escapee leaflet

Four Arab al Qaeda 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.

AFD48a.jpg (52861 bytes)

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 back of the leaflet depicts a terrorist near a vehicle at the right, and an Afghan with his family at the left.

Playing Cards

IraqArtifactsCard1.jpg (24283 bytes)  IraqArtifactsCard2.jpg (20389 bytes)  IraqArtifactsCard3.jpg (22582 bytes)

"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

AFsticker111.jpg (27545 bytes)

AFsticker2114.jpg (20541 bytes)

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

BinLadenMatchbookx3.jpg (5234 bytes)  BinLadenMatchbookx1.jpg (20728 bytes)

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.

BinladenMatchx2.jpg (5206 bytes)

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.

Adnanmatchbook.jpg (55032 bytes)
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.


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.

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. 

British PSYOP

ISAFnewsAfghan.jpg (42114 bytes)
British 15th (UK) PSYOPS ISAF News

ISAFnewspaperPass.jpg (346906 bytes)

Distributing the ISAF News
Courtesy of Peter Strehlenert

A Swedish Military Observation Team soldier hands out the
ISAF News at the Police station in Qarqin, Jowszjan province.

The British 15th (UK) PSYOPS Group undertook a range of tasks in Kabul and surrounding areas in support of its mission. Two of its major missions were assisting the Interim Administration in developing future security structures and assisting the Interim Administration in reconstruction. Working within the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) they helped to produce the newspaper ISAF News.

ISAFfootballPost.jpg (132631 bytes)

"Game of Unity" Poster

They also produced various leaflets in the form of mine awareness warnings, and posters encouraging the neighborhood watch campaign, health assistance, and the "Game of Unity" which was the first major athletic event after the fall of the Taliban. This match pitted a handpicked team of the capital's finest footballers against a squad selected from the eight-nation Afghan peacekeeping force.

In January 2007 the British commented on their PSYOP activities in Afghanistan in an article entitled "NATO Reveals Dark Art of PSYOP" in the London Sunday Times. The article stated that British Commanders believe that there are two types of Taliban insurgents in the war-ravaged south of Afghanistan. The first, called "Tier 1," are the leaders, some of whom are foreign-born. The second, called "Tier 2," are the rank and file. Major Kirsty McQuade, the top NATO PSYOP officer in southern Afghanistan is quoted:

Tier 1 wants to regain control of the country. Some of them have power and prestige and they like that. Some of them are just psychopaths. Tier 2 is often motivated by factors such as debt. Some are very poor and uneducated and they do as they are told. If you can clear the debt or give them an alternative way of making money they are often willing to give up.

In Operation Baaz Tsuka, in which Canadian, British and American forces routed hundreds of Taliban from two districts that they had been using as platforms for assaults on Kandahar , the PSYOP troops targeted each group with a separate message. The goal of Operation Falcon Summit, Baaz Tsuka in Pashto, (also written as Baaz Tsuka or Baaz Suka) in December 2006 was to either kill or force the hard-line Taliban to leave the Panjwaii and Zahre districts where they have fought Canadian troops for months. Under overall British command, Canadian troops, tanks, and armored vehicles advanced and sought to convince the so-called Tier-two fighters -- who have joined the Taliban simply for the relatively good pay -- to go back to their villages. It was hoped that with those fighters disarmed, the ideologically committed Tier-one hardliners and leaders west of Kandahar City would be left on their own. As the offense moved forward, the NATO forces secured the area and then installed Afghan police. Some 800 auxiliary officers were deployed in Kandahar province.

During the early morning hours of December 15, NATO aircraft began dropping three different leaflets over the region, the first warning the population of the impending conflict, the next was a plea for locals to turn their backs on the Taliban and support NATO, and the third consisting of an image of a dead Taliban fighter to warn Taliban fighters to either leave the area, or face NATO.

Sergeant Rich Bryan of the British 15th PSYOP Group illustrated several of these leaflets. They were his last projects of that tour in Afghanistan and as he left the leaflets were being loaded on Blackhawk helicopters for the leaflet dissemination. He said:

The leaflets were a success; many surrendering or captured Taliban had them on their person. The leaflets even appeared in the British FHM magazine in August of 2007.

FailedSkull.jpg (83726 bytes)
The Failed Skull Leaflet

The leaflet aimed at Tier 1 Taliban showing the humiliation of capture on one side and death on the other angered me. My first design was so much better it was simple but effective. It depicted a skull with the words:

Death is coming, leave this area.

It was never disseminated because during a "murder board" one of our Afghan interpreters failed to recognize that a skull symbolized death (Afghanistan must be the only country in the world where this is the case!). The "dead guy" in the one that was dropped was very much a "Frankenstein" and was made up from many different pictures (head of an Iraqi, body, gun, blood from different images). To this day I think that interpreter was just trying to piss me off.

AFH1ppLF6197fPX.jpg (27719 bytes)
An early rendition of the leaflet - with pistol

AFH1ppLF6197fP.jpg (27719 bytes)
The final image chosen for dissemination - with AK47

AFH1ppLF6197bP.jpg (22913 bytes)


Leaflets showing the bloody body of a dead gunman and a hooded prisoner of war warned Tier 1 Taliban leaders and hardliners:

Enemies of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - LEAVE.

Capture or death await you.

AFH1nnLF6198fP.jpg (37963 bytes)

AFH1nnLF6198bP.jpg (36506 bytes)


The leaflet aimed at Tier 2 foot soldiers depicted a hand holding bullets on one side and a hand holding seeds on the other. The text is:

Do not choose to follow the enemies of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Choose peace and return home to your elders

The Tier 2 foot soldiers were told:

Choose peace. Return to your homes and meet with your elders.

More than 88,000 propaganda leaflets were dropped. A day after the leaflet drops Canadian forces took control of Howz-e Madad, a former Taliban-held village, without firing a shot.

In a separate operation in Helmand province, British Royal Marines hauled a loudspeaker into battle to talk to the Taliban: Major Kirsty McQuade adds:

We explain to Tier 2 that their commanders don’t care about them. They are just using them for their own aims.

In another January 2007 news story, David Leask mentions a second British PSYOP program in The Herald. The operation is in Lwar, a hamlet effectively in the no-man's land between the British and the Taliban in Helmand, the country's most volatile province. Corporal Phil Morrison of the Royal Marines gives a local elder leaflets and a newspaper printed by the British. The stories are designed to show what the British, and the government of Hamid Karzai are doing.

Its front page has a picture of a woman in uniform: Afghanistan's first policewoman. After years of Taliban oppression, when girls could not go to school, it is designed to show things have changed. Most girls still struggle for education. But the officer, in faraway Kabul, is even teaching policemen how to shoot.

Other themes are:

"Don't go near convoys." A family that did was shot dead. That didn't do much to win hearts and minds. Messages, without a hint of irony, also warn Afghans away from "foreign fighters," That refers to the Arabs and Pakistanis believed to be helping the Taliban in their holy war against British and other international troops in the country.

Jerome Starkey mentions British propaganda against the Taliban in the New Scotsman, 29 July 2008. Some of his comments are:

BRITISH troops in southern Afghanistan are aping the Taliban's propaganda techniques as part of an increasingly desperate battle to win support of the local people. Psychological warfare soldiers are using a series of subtle – and not so subtle – leaflet campaigns to turn the insurgents' messages against them…The Taliban's top-level commanders fled to Pakistan after the regime collapsed in 2001. Many of their mid-level commanders were educated in Pakistani madrassas, or religious schools, and their ranks have been swelled with Arab and Chechen fighters bent on waging holy war against western forces. Intelligence officials have even found evidence of renegade British terrorists fighting for the insurgents. "We're trying to plant the idea in their heads that the Taliban are under foreign leadership," Lieutenant Commander MacLean said. The PSYOP cell has produced a series of leaflets linking atrocities with foreign fighters. One leaflet shows a screaming baby that has lost both legs and a hand, with the message: "This is the foreign Taliban's gift for you. They don't care about your life."

The British code name for operations in Afghanistan was "Herrick." Although British PSYOP products have been slow to surface in the United States, we depict some that have been brought back by returning servicemen.

JusticeDoesnotSleep.jpg (143486 bytes)
Justice Does not Sleep

Just as many American leaflets warn the insurgents that they are constantly being watched day and night, this leaflet depicts a British soldier with a terrorist in his sights. The text is:

Night is no refuge for the terrorists

Justice does not sleep

NoHideNightBrit.jpg (91266 bytes)

You cannot hide at Night

This leaflet shows that there is no hiding place for members of the insurgency. British helicopters fly through the night and their spotlights light up three armed Taliban below.

StayingPeaceReturnsP.jpg (257227 bytes)

We are staying until Peace Returns

This leaflet was produced and distributed after intense fighting in Lashkar-Gah. It shows the Afghan National Security Forces along side UK forces standing firm until the "dove of peace" returns. The text reminds the Afghans that the British are staying until the Taliban is beaten. The Taliban propaganda claimed that the British would soon leave and then retribution would be taken against collaborators. Afghan Governor Mangle is included as a symbol of authority. The text is:

We are staying until Peace Returns

PeaceVsWarAfghanBrit.jpg (215078 bytes)

Peace vs. War

This poster shows the stark contrast between the world of the legitimate Afghanistan Government and that of the Taliban. On one side of the street security is provided by the Afghan National Security Forces, children are playing and the hospital is modern. On the other side children are armed and it shows the destruction caused by the Taliban. A former Taliban fighter has put down his weapon and is being helped to come over to the National Government.

TalibanPigs.jpg (233255 bytes)

Taliban Pigs

This image was produced as both a poster and a leaflet and implies that the people who lay improvised explosive devices are the lowest form of life. Other versions depicting dogs and foxes were produced for areas where the use of the pigs would be considered too offensive.

TalibanMurderMosques.jpg (195010 bytes)
Taliban Murder Elders in your Mosques

The poster was in response to the Taliban murdering an Afghan Elder in a Mosque. The Taliban are shown using a knife and this is purely symbolic and it reflects the murder of the 3rd Caliph, Uthman ibn Affen whilst at prayer in the year 656 AD, an incident which resonates strongly with the Sunni Muslims. The text is:

Taliban Murder Elders in your Mosques

Never forget

Since we are mentioning British and Canadian troops in Afghanistan. Perhaps we should mention the number of troops the various English speaking allies sent to Afghanistan. Great Britain deployed 25,000 troops between 2001 and 2007. Canada deployed 20,000 troops between 2002 and 2007. Australia sent 10,000 troops between 2001 and 2007 and New Zealand sent 3100 troops between 2001 and 2005.

Canadaflag.jpg (5562 bytes)

Canadian PSYOP

Since we mention Canadian troops in the paragraph above perhaps this would be a good time to give a brief description of their part in Operation Enduring Freedom. Canadian peacekeepers were first deployed to Afghanistan in August 2003. Two contingents of 1,800 Canadian soldiers were deployed in consecutive six-month rotations. Forty-four Canadian soldiers had been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom by December 2006.

Not much has been published about the Canadian PSYOP teams in Afghanistan. Colonel Steve Bowes, commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar said in September 2005 that the Canadians in Kandahar were running Canada's largest propaganda campaign since the Second World War, using a Montreal-based group of specialists known as Canadian Psychological Operations. They sent patrols to the remote town of Spin Boldak, near the Pakistani border, and to other locations around Kandahar:

The PSYOP team distributed stacks of colorful newspapers, posters, leaflets and brochures in the local languages of Dari and Pashtun. The leaflets were simple: glossy pictures of children and white doves, with the slogan, "Your votes will make your future. Congratulations for voting." To test its product, the team pulled aside several people who couldn't read to see how well the images were understood in a country where four out of five people can't read.

Captain N.M. Johnson of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry wrote an article entitled, "The Importance of PSYOPS in Fourth Generation Warfare." Under "Current Canadian Capabilities" he says:

The Canadian PSYOPS Group was formed in January 2004, and currently comprises of twelve full time reservists. An extra 15 to 20 Class B reservists, typically on 18 month contracts, are hired to form the teams that train and deploy with Task Forces (TF) on operations. It is arguably meager in size when compared to the full upscale US and UK PSYOPS battalions, but yet it assures an entirely Canadian PSYOPS capability to the CF. The PSYOPS Group is composed of a Directorate ( COL, LTC and CWO) located in Montreal, and three cells:

1. Operations Support: ensures Reachback capability (the "rear party" PSYOPS specialist production team that supports deployments) 2. Resources and Development: responsible for logistical and financial management, development of concepts and doctrine 3. Force Generation: responsible for recruiting, selection, personnel management, professional development, and training (now done in conjunction with the Peace Support Training Center in Kingston).

Two other organizations complete the Canadian Force PSYOP capability:

1. Tactical PSYOPS Detachment (TPD): joined to a Brigade HQ, this element provides PSYOPS support and planning to Brigade-sized units, commands the Tactical PSYOPS Teams (TPTs, described below) and controls product dissemination. There is currently one TPD (four Canadian personnel) with the HQ of the Multi-National Brigade in Kandahar. The TPD includes a Target Audience Analyst Team (TAAT), which conducts in-depth research of the target audience (different groups within local population) to identify vulnerabilities and susceptibility to PSYOPS themes and messages. The Product Coordination Team validates PSYOPS products, coordinates their production and controls their dissemination.

2. Tactical PSYOPS Team (TPT): is a specialized team, joined to a Task Force mounted in two G-Wagons (Gelaendenwagen vehicles, "G Wagon" for short, produced by Mercedes Benz in Graz, Austria), equipped with loudspeakers, cameras, portable speaker systems and C8 and C9 for close protection. They disseminate approved PSYOPS products (loudspeaker messages, handbills, leaflets, newspapers) to the target audiences. Their presence on the ground allows them to gather PSYOPS related information to identify and reduce the impact of hostile propaganda and rumors, and they are also able to assist the Task Force to respond to crowd disturbances. A TPT was deployed with the Provincial Reconstruction Team, and one is presently with Task Force 1-06.

Notice that the Canadian PSYOP organization (TPD/TPT) is almost identical to the American organization, though on a much smaller scale.

The Canadian Army website mentions PSYOP in a 7 September 2004 article entitled "Psychological Operations plays with soldiers’ minds." The Commander of the Army, Lieutenant-General Rick Hillier, signed the order in November 2003 to develop the Army's PSYOP capability as part of Land Force Reserve Restructure. Prior to Summer 2004, officers and non-commissioned members were trained in PSYOP by the Allies, then deployed overseas in a PSYOP position and upon return to Canada their experience was lost. The Canadian and British Army arranged to have the course brought to Canada. Personnel from the 15th United Kingdom Psychological Operations Group taught the two-week UK Military Psychological Operations Course in Montreal. The article interviews PSYOP Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Bruno Vanasse and says that twenty-four Reservists underwent six weeks of PSYOP training at both civilian and military establishments in the Montreal area.

Second Lieutenant Jessica M. Davis talks about Canadian PSYOP in Afghanistan in the Canadian Military Journal, August, 2005. She says that Canadian troops from the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry took part in two Afghan operations named "Apollo" and "Athena."  She points out that although many Afghans had television sets, TV was not exploited to send messages. There was a lack of human intelligence, and communication between agencies and organizations were poor. Worse, there was a lack of secure communications equipment. She concludes that information operations are the wave of the future and Canada needs to take the subject far more seriously than it so far has.

LarsonCanadianPsyop.jpg (35551 bytes)
Sgt Larson, an interpreter, and a village
elder in conversation in front of a Canadian G-Wagon

A Sergeant Larsen of the Cameron Highlanders reports on his tour from July 2005 to July 2006. He says that he would typically leave Kandahar Air Field about once a week for anywhere from one to five days. His specialty was target audience analysis, so he would discuss the current political situation and then let the Afghans hear or see PSYOP products such as a radio message or a poster and make an evaluation. Larsen felt that he made a positive impact during his tour.

PSTCcrest.jpg (100431 bytes)

Peace Support Training Center

More recently, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported in 2006 that the Canadian military has contracted with the communications expert Ivana Previsic to teach soldiers how to become effective news broadcasters and get the military’s messages out to locals in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Previsic is to establish an operational newsroom in an army studio run by the Peace Support Training Centre in Kingston, Ontario. The soldiers will be taught all the skills required to prepare and broadcast a professional series of programs.

Another military contract won by Ottawa-based International Datacasting Corporation ensures that the first graduates will be broadcasting digital radio broadcasts from Kingston, Canada, into their Afghanistan area of operations by satellite. The Canadian Forces may take part in an allied effort to extend military-controlled radio broadcasting from Kabul to the rest of the country.

In 2010, the Associated Press reported that the Canadians were broadcasting from five small local radio stations in Kandahar Province called the Voice of Panjwaii. The station has been on air since June, broadcasting news, government announcements, weather and other programs throughout the district southwest of Kandahar city where Canadians have been concentrating their efforts in Afghanistan. About 80 per cent of Panjwaii residents have radios. Canadian soldiers have handed out an estimated 30,000 units over the past two year in the province. The article adds:

In Afghanistan, the Taliban uses "night letters," delivered to doorsteps in the dark with threats for those they suspect of co-operating with pro-government forces. The Canadian military now responds with "day letters" to be distributed by Afghan police or soldiers, denouncing the insurgents and suggesting they are cowards who make threats and refuse to stand and fight. Living among Afghans and meeting with them regularly is still the primary way to win trust. "Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting."

GermanyFlag.gif (1291 bytes)

German PSYOP

GermanOpInfoInsig2.gif (20945 bytes)  GermanOpInfoInsig.gif (36704 bytes)

German OpInfo Battalion

On 22 December 2001, the German Bundestag gave its approval for German participation in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), based on Resolution 1386 of the United Nations Security Council. ISAF’s mission and military structure are entirely separate from Operation Enduring Freedom. Some 2,000 German soldiers served in Kabul.

PSYOPS forces were an integral part of the German contingent with approximately 15 soldiers on the ground. The most important element of PSYOP activities were the loudspeaker groups. It was their task to communicate with the population and to disseminate PSYOP products. In addition, the print group was responsible for the production of flyers and newspapers. The "ISAF News" is just one of many products. In addition to the soldiers' radio "Radio Andernach," the PSYOP radio station Sada-e Azadi (Voice of Freedom) was established. Sada-e Azadi broadcasts in the two main languages spoken in the country, Dari and Pashtu.

In October 2003 the Bundeswehr expanded its mission beyond the city limits of Kabul. A Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) supported civil reconstruction in Kunduz. Here again, PSYOPS forces were there right from the start. They printed flyers in the national languages, drove around in loudspeaker vehicles, worked on establishing a newspaper, and broadcast locally on Radio Sada-e Azadi. There were some 250 soldiers in Kunduz, about 16 of whom were PSYOP troops.

OpInfoGunsfBooksP.jpg (14146 bytes)

Guns for Books Poster

One German PSYOP program was aimed at taking toy guns from the hands of children. Leaflets were designed offering children exercise books in exchange for their toy weapons. The campaign was extremely successful and contributed to the safety of the children. It also provided an opportunity to distribute books and stationery to the children.

Flying kites used to be a popular pastime for both young and old in Afghanistan . It was a common sport to fly kites "fighting" each other in the air. The Taliban prohibited this game. The Germans produced a "peace kite" in the Afghan national colors of black, red and green with a dove of peace in the center surrounded by the words "Adorn life with freedom." A small coat of arms of the ISAF forces indicates to the people who distributed these 10,000 kites.

Jon Boone mentioned German PSYOP in The Guardian of 1 October 2009:

Communicating messages to the Afghans is an important part of the NATO mission, with the German army nominally in charge of psychological operations, producing billboards and handbills. Ingenious graphics are used to try to get across basic ideas to a largely illiterate audience: evil cartoon poppies with fanged teeth are supposed to be suggestive of the evils of opium production and convoluted photo-stories warn of the dangers of interfering with roadside bombs.

BelgiumFlag.jpg (2131 bytes)

Belgian PSYOP

Belgium has a small PSYOP Support Element (PSE) unit called the Information Operations Group (Info Ops Grp) consisting of about 30 regular military personnel and selected reservists as needed. In Afghanistan the Belgian unit provided staff in support of the Tactical PSYOP Support Element in Kabul ( Camp Warehouse) and for the Combined Joint Psychological Operations Task Force at the International Security Assistance Force headquarters. They also sent radio specialists to work at the Radio Sada-e Azadi station and print technicians to work with the print section of the CJPOTF. They deployed one tactical PSYOP team in the north of Afghanistan to Kunduz province working under German command. The Belgian team in Kunduz specializes in face-to-face communication with the local population.

ItalyMap.jpg (1428 bytes)

Italian PSYOP

In April 2010, the Under-Secretary of State of Italian Ministry of Defense, Mr. Guido Crosetto cut the tricolor ribbon at the opening of the Italian contingent’s radio station Sada and Azadi West, which translates to "The Voice of Freedom- West." The radio station, as part of the NATO radios network, was developed with Italian funds by the staff of the Regional PSYOP Support Element (RPSE), composed of personnel of the 28th Pavia Regiment, a unit specializing in "Operating Communications." All of the programs will be broadcast exclusively in Pashto and Dari languages. The station will offer information of public interest for the Afghan people in an attempt to increase knowledge on the purpose of ISAF coalition forces present in Afghanistan. The program will include musical entertainment, local news and in-depth sections on important social issues and local culture. The radio is the main tool to disseminate information throughout Afghanistan and will reach people even in the most remote areas.

The Italians print a magazine for the PSYOP troops in Afghanistan called "Cavallo pazzo." The magazine states that the Italians are able to disseminate PSYOP products in areas previously thought inaccessible by using helicopters. It is apparently difficult to obtain cardboard for leaflet boxes in Afghanistan so attempts have been made to produce a prototype cordura fabric leaflet bag.

Al-Qaida and Propaganda

Al-Qaida was also active on the propaganda front. Although the Taliban was unable to drop leaflets from aircraft, they used other means to distribute their propaganda. On October 30 a report from Kazakhstan told of three men detained for spreading leaflets that claimed that support for the anti-terrorist coalition against Afghanistan meant betrayal of the cause of Islam.

The fundamentalist party Hizb ut-Tahrir in Pakistan released a number of propaganda leaflets and statements. They included such phrases as:

the war criminal Bush is waging an unjust war on the Muslims…

and in regard to Bin Laden's guilt:

We are accustomed to America's lies and willful deception in such situations.

Osama bin Laden produced a number of propaganda videotapes that were sent to Al-Jazeera, an Arabic satellite TV news network. In his messages he claimed that the United Nations was anti-Muslim for supporting the American bombing of Afghanistan.

United States Navy SEALs discovered an al-Qaida propaganda poster showing Osama bin Laden and a civilian passenger aircraft striking the N.Y.C. World Trade Center during a search and destroy mission in the Zhawar Kili area on January 14, 2002. Despite some Muslim protestations that bin Laden was innocent of the crime, he appears to be taking credit for the terrorist act in the poster.

Pamphlets calling for armed struggle against the United States and its coalition allies were circulated among Afghan refugees in Pakistan and in Afghanistan in March of 2002. The so-called "night letters" denounce the interim Afghan government of Hamid Karzai as "traitors to Islam" and warned Afghans and others who fight alongside the Americans that they will someday "suffer the consequences."

The pamphlets sometimes include unsupported allegations that the Americans used chemical and biological weapons to kill thousands of people in last year's bombing campaign. Others include stories of personal sacrifice and so-called "miracles" in the battle against the U.S.-led coalition -- all apparently designed to inspire young Afghan males to take up the fight and to drive home the message that God is on the Taliban side.

There were reports from Kandahar in April 2002, of leaflets threatening death to parents who sent their children to school. Kandahar was the spiritual headquarters of the Taliban regime, which had severely restricted education. The Taliban had forbidden the education of young girls and boys' lessons were restricted to Islamic themes.

The following "Night Letter" was distributed by the Taliban in the Hazarjuft region of Afghanistan in 2004-5. It complements the local warlords on their bravery and piety and reminds them of the days when the Taliban ruled. Some of the text is:

Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan

To the brave warlords of Afghanistan. Peace be with you. As you know, Afghanistan is a land of brave and historical people who were first taught while still in the cradle to be brave.

Alama Shekeb Arsalan says that the Jihadists name would be forgotten in the world. But from the Pamir Mountains to Himalias land, the warlords fight for Islam and support Islam. In the last century, the Afghan warlord’s people were abused, killed and threatened by the super powers like England and Russia that tore Afghanistan into pieces. But the warlords and brave people of Afghanistan never gave up and taught their enemy a lesson. They took freedom for themselves and the poor Muslim peoples all over the world. By the kindness of God and His mercy, the young Taliban members have ruled over Afghanistan to build an Islamic environment and bring peace and Islam in Afghanistan so that 95% of the people were ruled by Islamic law.

At the same time, U.S. military at Bagram air base said they found pamphlets offering rewards of up to $100,000 for the capture of any live Allied soldier and $50,000 for anyone delivered dead.

In June of 2002 posters and leaflets seeking Taliban recruits were found to be circulating along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. They pictured Osama bin Laden and had text such as:

I am alive. My friend Mullah Omar is alive. It is the duty of all Muslims to wage war on non-Muslims.

In early September leaflets appeared in Eastern Afghanistan allegedly produced by the "Secret Army of Mujahedeen."  The leaflet is written in classical Arabic, a language few Afghans speak, and it is believed it is aimed at the Arab al-Qaida still hiding in Afghanistan.

Anti-American leaflets were distributed in the border town of Spin Boldak on 31 January 2003, asking the Afghan people to prepare for Jihad (holy war) against the U.S. forces:

Be ready for Jihad. We are going to clean the floor with the U.S. troops.

The leaflet was distributed by the Hezb-e-Islami movement of renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hetkmatyar.

As the war continued it became clear that al-Qaida had mastered the use of the "night leaflet" and television, using the al-Jazeera network to broadcast their propaganda.

ZawahiriTV.jpg (103321 bytes)

Ayman al-Zawahiri of al-Jazeera TV

This video image taken from Arab al-Jazeera satellite television depicts the al-Qaida network’s alleged number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri's ability to produce a video-taped message soon after escaping a US air strike shows that he is in close touch with Al-Qaida's propaganda arm. The video was his first appearance since a US air strike that targeted him on 13 January 2006 in Pakistan. Al-Zawahiri said he had survived the raid which he said killed "innocents." Some of his comments included:

Butcher of Washington, you are not only defeated and a liar, but also a failure. You are a curse on your own nation. Bush, do you know where I am? I am among the Muslim masses…My second message is to the American people, who are drowning in illusions. I tell you that Bush and his gang are shedding your blood and wasting your money in frustrated adventures.

The policy of the Islamic Fundamentalists is one of wearing the American forces down and destroying the morale of the American government and civilian population. Some of these points are explored by Fred Burton in an article entitled, "Jihadist Perspectives on a U.S. Withdrawal."

Burton mentions a February 2003 message by Osama bin Laden:

We can conclude that America is a superpower, with enormous military strength and vast economic power, but that all this is built on foundations of straw. So it is possible to target those foundations and focus on their weakest points which, even if you strike only one-tenth of them, then the whole edifice will totter and sway, and relinquish its unjust leadership of the world.

In another message bin Laden discussed the importance of the media people and writers who have remarkable impact on breaking the enemy's morale. Afghanistan’s former Taliban leader Mullah Omar and his tactical commanders try not to face coalition forces in mixed battles, but rather attempt to increase the costs to the Americans by ambush and explosives in order to hasten the withdrawal of Western forces.

An al Qaeda military strategist and propagandist, Abu Ubeid al-Qurashi, expounded on this concept in an article titled "Fourth-Generation Wars," carried by the organization's biweekly Internet magazine, Al Ansar, in February 2002:

Fourth-generation warfare is a new type of war in which fighting will be mostly scattered. The battle will not be limited to destroying military targets and regular forces, but will include societies, and will seek to destroy popular support for the fighters within the enemy's society…Television news may become a more powerful operational weapon than armored divisions…The distinction between war and peace will be blurred to the vanishing point.

Coalition "Black" Operations

Not much is known about the various Coalition black operations aimed at Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. That is exactly as it should be because these operations are clandestine and secret. However, on occasion news slips out and it is interesting to report that the Central Intelligence Agency, perhaps with the aid of the U.S. Army, apparently tried to smear Osama as a drinker and pedophile.

In May 2010, Two former CIA officials admitted to creating a fake video in which intelligence officers dressed up as Osama bin Laden and his Taliban pals.

During the planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the CIA’s Iraq Operations Group considered creating a fake video of Saddam Hussein engaged in sexual acts with a teenage boy, then flooding Iraq with copies of the tape. That plan never came to fruition because agreement on the project could not be reached between the Iraq Group and CIA’s Office of Technical Services.

However, the agency did make a video purporting to show Osama bin Laden and his pals sitting around a campfire and drinking bottles of liquor and bragging about their sexual exploits with young boys. The insurgents were played by dark-skinned CIA employees.

This reminds me of WWII when British spy chief Sefton Delmer had a fake German he called "The Chief" rant and rave over the clandestine radio about the homosexuals and pedophiles among the NAZI Party.

These CIA admissions have led to questions about the Bin Laden video found in a house in Jalalabad after anti-Taliban forces moved in. The tape featured a fat Osama laughing and joking about how he’d carried out the attacks on September 11. Despite the fact that the man in the video looks nothing like Bin Laden, the CIA declared it to be the official "9/11 confession video."

In another tape, just before the American invasion of Iraq, Bin Laden appeared and declared himself an ally of Saddam Hussein.

I have personally questioned the various audio tapes allegedly made by Bin laden that seem to appear every few months because I believe that he was killed early in the war. It now seems that we must question all of the video tapes too.

Taliban Propaganda

CanadianAfghan01.jpg (141487 bytes)

By 2006 the Taliban abandoned open warfare in Afghanistan, but still set the occasional ambush and made use of propaganda leaflets, posters and "night-letters." Here a Canadian soldier on patrol passes a Kandahar wall covered with various pro-government leaflets and flyers.

The Associated Press reported on 25 July 2008:

The Taliban has created a sophisticated media network to undermine support for the Afghan government, sending threats by text message and spreading the militia's views through songs available as ring tones, according to a report released Thursday. The International Crisis Group report comes as the Islamist militia that was ousted from power in Afghanistan by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion is making a violent comeback, particularly in the country's south and east. Many of the messages come as songs, religious chants and poetry. One poem — Death is a gift — includes the phrase, "I will not kiss the hand of Laura Bush." The Taliban movement also has a Web site, Al Emarah, or "The Emirate," which has various domain names due to attempts to block it.

The Crisis Group adds:

The Taliban has created a sophisticated communications apparatus that projects an increasingly confident movement. Using the full range of media, it is successfully tapping into strains of Afghan nationalism and exploiting policy failures by the Kabul government and its international backers. The result is weakening public support for nation-building, even though few actively support the Taliban. The Karzai government and its allies must make greater efforts, through word and deed, to address sources of alienation exploited in Taliban propaganda, particularly by ending arbitrary detentions and curtailing civilian casualties from aerial bombing.

In spring 2009, the American military began attempting to prevent the Taliban from using radio stations and Web sites to intimidate civilians and plan attacks. American military and intelligence personnel worked to jam the unlicensed radio stations in Pakistan's lawless regions on the Afghanistan border that Taliban fighters use to broadcast threats and decrees. U.S. personnel also tried to block the Pakistani chat rooms and Web sites that are part of the country's burgeoning extremist underground. In Pakistan, Taliban leaders use unlicensed FM stations to recite the names of local Pakistani government officials, police officers and other figures that have been marked for death by the group. There are about 150 illegal FM radio stations in Pakistan's Swat Valley which allow militants to broadcast every night the names of people they're going to behead or they've beheaded. The Americans hope to block all this Taliban communication and show the people that it is the government in charge, not the insurgents.

TCodeofConduct3.jpg (23533 bytes)

TCodeofConduct2.jpg (36339 bytes)
The New Taliban Code of Conduct

In July 2009, Al-Zazeera reported on a new Taliban "Code of Conduct" that indicated the insurgents realize that they need to win the hearts and minds of the people and that suicide attacks and the loss of life of innocent civilians does not help their cause. The small blue book, The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Rules for Mujahedeen, with 13 chapters and 67 articles, lays out rules and tells the fighters what they can do and what they cannot do. In some ways it is like the American soldier’s "Code of Conduct" or "Rules of Engagement." Some of the rules are:

Suicide attacks should be used only at high and important targets. A brave son of Islam should not be used for lower and useless targets. The utmost effort should be made to avoid civilian casualties… Whenever any official, soldier, contractor or worker of the slave government is captured, these prisoners cannot be attacked or harmed. The decision on whether to seek a prisoner exchanger release the prisoner with a strong guarantee will be made by the provincial leader. Releasing prisoners in exchange for money is strictly prohibited… If a military infidel is captured, the decision on whether to kill, release or exchange the hostage is only to be made by the Imam (Mullah Omar) or Deputy Imam. The Mujahedeen have to behave well and show proper treatment to the nation in order to bring the hearts of civilian Muslims closer to them.

The book was allegedly issued to every fighter and talks of limiting suicide attacks, avoiding casualties among civilians and working to win the battle for the hearts of the local civilian population. The book also forbids the formation of any new militias or armed groups and calls for disbanding any group that refuses to join the main structure of the Taliban movement. Mullah Omar, the group leader, was quoted in the book as saying:

If unofficial groups or irregular battalions refuse to join the formal structure, they should be disbanded. The Mujahedeen must discrimination based on tribal roots, language or geographic background.

The American soldier as a symbol of peace and stability

AFD102cFront.jpg (23020 bytes)

AFD102cBack.jpg (15935 bytes)
Leaflet AFD-102c

As part of the nation-building campaign, many Coalition leaflets depicted the American soldier helping the Afghans in various ways; supplying food, educational tools and protection and security for their way of life. Leaflet AFD-102 depicts American troops handing out pencils and school supplies to Afghan children on the front, and the military might of the Coalition on the back. The text is:

Help the Partnership of Nations bring peace and stability to you.

AFD102df.jpg (33580 bytes)

Leaflet AFD-102d depicts the same symbol of Coalition might on the front, but the back is all text:

Caution! Citizens of Afghanistan!

The Partnership of Nations is working to bring peace and stability to this region. Help us keep you safe. Please do not interfere with military operations.

We know that 1,410,000 copies of this leaflet were dropped on September 2002 by M129 leaflet bombs.


AFD123Front.jpg (14307 bytes)

AFD123Back.jpg (14285 bytes)


Much of the Coalition propaganda effort used children and their future safety and well-being as a theme. 230,000 copies of AFD-123 were dropped by M-129 leaflet bombs during September 2002. The leaflets were printed in both green and black and white. The front depicts two photographs of Afghan children and the text:

Can you imagine your children with no memory of war?

The back depicts Afghan musicians and a young girl. The text is:

A new government offers new freedoms, new hopes.

The Search for an Abducted Soldier

On 30 June 2009, a U.S. Army soldier was lost in Afghanistan. There was some question as to exactly how he was taken by the insurgents. The first story that came out was at the end of his duty day he went off with a group of three Afghan soldiers without his body armor or weapon and got drunk. At some point his friends or some other civilians abducted him and either sold or traded him to a local warlord, Siraj Haqqani, who operates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Taliban wanted credit for the abduction so they later claimed that they had captured the soldier along with his three Afghan comrades. The Taliban claimed on 6 July that it was holding the soldier:

Five days ago, a drunken American soldier who had come out of his garrison was captured by mujahedeen.

missingsoldier01a.jpg (45946 bytes)  missingsoldier01b.jpg (48871 bytes)
If you do not free the American

About 15 July, the U.S. Army began blanketing areas of Afghanistan near where he was believed held with leaflets. The leaflets were produced at Bagram Air Base and distributed in the region by hand.

Two leaflets are known. The first depicts an image of a soldier with his head bowed standing on an open hand and the text in Pashtun:

If you do not free the American soldier, then…"

The back of the leaflet depicts two heavily armed soldiers, one kicking open a door of an Afghan house. The text continues:

…you will be targeted

A second leaflet was prepared that was dropped from aircraft in Ghazni and Paktika province that tells locals that a U.S. soldier is missing and requests any information on his whereabouts.

missingsoldier02a.jpg (53648 bytes)  missingsoldier02b.jpg (52195 bytes)

One of our American Guests…

The front of the second leaflet depicts a friendly U.S. soldier sitting on the ground and talking to five Afghan children. Text on the front is:

One of our American guests is missing

The back depicts the same image except that the soldier has disappeared and is only seen as a black shadow. A hand holding a cell phone has been added at the bottom of the leaflet. Text on the back is:

Return the guest to his home. Call us at 070-769-4351

Some New Aspects of the Psychological War

As the war stretched on into its 7th year, the Coalition searched for new ways to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. One method was increased spending. In April 2009 the US Army published The Commander’s Guide to Money as a Weapons System. The US government plans to nearly double (to $1.2 billion) the main fund military commanders in Afghanistan use to support projects intended to win the hearts and minds of the population. The money is to be spent on aid projects, such as building schools, clinics, and roads and it is hoped this will give the people more faith in their government and turn them away from the Taliban. However, the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University thinks this plan cannot be successful. They believe that in an ethnically and tribally divided society like Afghanistan, aid can also easily generate jealousy and ill will by consolidating the power of some tribes or factions at the expense of others - often pushing rival groups into the arms of the Taliban. It also fuels massive corruption, which erodes the legitimacy of the government. The Taliban exploits this sentiment, and seeks to legitimize its movement by promising better security, quick justice, and a less corrupt government, rather than more roads, schools, and clinics. They conclude:

This is not to say that the United States and other donor countries should not fund development projects in Afghanistan. But foreign aid should focus on promoting humanitarian and development objectives, where there is evidence of positive impact, rather than on promoting counterinsurgency objectives, where there is not.

On the same general subject, James E. Parker wrote an article entitled "Stirring Popular Resistance to Insurgency: Psychological Operations in Afghanistan’s Tab Ab Valley, 2008" for the Small Wars Journal, in 2009. Some of his comments are:

Inducements offered by the Coalition were solar lighting, new school buildings, water pumps, district centers, hydro-electric facilities, health clinics, and road construction all featured as enduring contributions of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

Curiously, the Coalition used a method first used by the British in the Malaya Emergency of 1948-1954. In that war, areas were marked "black" on a map if they were Communist controlled and "white" if they were government controlled. In the Tab Ab Valley the Coalition forces used green, yellow and red to determine the status of an area. The author talks about the methods to turn the red and yellow areas into green areas:

A rough rendering of Psychological Operations in Tag Ab is as follows. Civilians were encouraged to stand up to local insurgents: popular loathing, but not fear, was encouraged, along with concrete means, instructions, and inducements on how to safely act in opposition. Psychological Operations have proven highly capable of instilling fear, panic, and mistrust into the minds of those who cheaply trade upon the brutalization of the powerless in pursuit of a crude, brutal, and debased end-state. Moreover, PSYOP programs offer afflicted civilian populations with a means to fight back.

By 2009, improvised bombs were the number one threat to western forces in Afghanistan. The U.S. Army looked to battle the improvised explosive device (IED) threat with new armored vehicles, increased surveillance in the sky, and PSYOP.

The Information Operations division of the Army’s Combined Joint Task Force 82 sent out a call for proposals for a "comprehensive strategic marketing and information campaign" for eastern Afghanistan. The objective of this media and advertising campaign is to cause the reduction of the number of IED devices used against the Afghanistan people and Coalition forces. Commander General Stanley McChrystal said western forces were losing the battle of perception to the Taliban and the information effort must focus on "encouraging the population to assist in countering the scourge of IEDs." Meanwhile, an Army task force is putting together a media campaign on television, radio, newspapers, billboards, and the Internet capable of influencing and informing Afghanistan about the necessity of public rejection of IEDs.

Meanwhile, the Taliban embarked on a sophisticated information war, using modern media tools to soften their image and win favor with local Afghans as they try to counter the Americans' new campaign to win Afghan hearts and minds. Mullah Muhammad Omar issued a new "Code of Conduct" directive for the Taliban in May 2009. This dictates bans on suicide bombings against civilians, burning down schools, or cutting off ears, lips and tongues. The 69-point document discusses how to treat local people, how to treat prisoners, what to do with captured enemy equipment and when to execute captives. Curiously, photographing an execution is forbidden.

The Taliban now presents itself as a local liberation movement, independent of Al Qaida. Although they once denounced Internet technology as un-Islamic, the Taliban now uses propaganda messages on cell phones and Internet videos to broadcast their message. The new public relations campaign and code of conduct may have softened some of the anger at the insurgency, which tribal leaders in the south said had begun to rally people against the Taliban.


During the Vietnam War the United States sponsored a Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) program that was dedicated to bringing enemy troops over to our side. Working with the Government of South Vietnam, the United States offered cash, education, jobs, clothes and homes to those who returned. The program was considered very successful and it is believed that over 275,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars eventually came over to the government side.

PRAfghanPoster02.jpg (77212 bytes)

PRAfghanPoster01.jpg (79608 bytes)
National Police Recruitment Poster

The posters above are a miniature version of the billboard sized ads which can be seen all along Route 1 in Kandahar City. They are part of an Afghan National Police recruiting campaign meant to strengthen the national government. The message is:

Afghan National Police - The Nation's Defenders

There have been attempts to offer a similar program to the Taliban in Afghanistan, apparently without much success. I have been contacted on several occasions by military and civilian organizations in Afghanistan trying to determine what worked and what did not. One PSYOP officer wrote a paper based on my Chieu Hoi article that was to be used as a reference source for basic planning of a similar program in Afghanistan. A second commander wrote to say that he intended to implement the program at a tactical level. Recent news seems to indicate that although this reintegration campaign has been set into motion, a general lack of interest on the part of Coalition nations and the Afghan government seems to doom it to failure.

From about 2005 to 2010, a total of about 9,000 Taliban came over to the government side. In the first past six months of 2010, the total is believed to be just a few hundred. What went wrong? Of the millions of dollars pledged to be spent on reintegration, only $200,000 was actually spent. Employees of the Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Commission went unpaid for months. The United States promised $100 million to support reintegration programs, while Britain, Germany and Japan promised another $150 million. Meanwhile, insurgents who have changed sides in the past have been bitterly disappointed. Few have received benefits other than emergency food rations, and they cannot return to their homes for fear of reprisals from the Taliban. This reintegration campaign screams for strong leadership.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams

PRTplaybookAfghan.jpg (165717 bytes)
The Center for Army Lessons Learned Provincial Reconstruction Team Playbook

During the Vietnam War there were teams that went into the villages to do protection, construction, medical and dental operations. This was called the Combined Action Program.

The U.S. Marines loved this concept and still believe they could have won the war if they were better utilized. While the exact implementation varied with the war and time, the basic model was to combine a Marine squad with local forces to form a village defense platoon. The Army seems less enthused and although they did have such teams, they were never supported in the way the Marines were.

During the war in Afghanistan, the Coalition forces remembered the experience of Vietnam and authorized Provincial Reconstruction Teams. The teams were first introduced by the United States and consisted of military officers, diplomats, and reconstruction subject matter experts, working to support reconstruction efforts. PRTs were first established in Afghanistan in late 2001 or early 2002. Their purpose is to empower local governments to govern their constituents more effectively. These teams go into the villages, work with the people and are part of psychological operations and civil affairs, although they might not always state that fact. By April 2009, 42 different nations contributed troops to 26 Provincial Reconstruction teams.

War Rugs of Afghanistan

911Rug2.jpg (62211 bytes)
Twin Towers War Rug

An author by the name of Kevin Sudeith believes that the Afghan weavers who produced "war rugs" showing Russian weapons during their occupation of Iraq have now begun to use some American propaganda leaflets as the source for the design of their latest war rugs. Notice that this Afghan rug shows two scenes that are found on US leaflets. The first, of course, is the attack on the World Trade Center. The second is the vignette across the center of the rug with the U.S. flag, dove of peace, and Afghan flag. This is a very common symbol found on U.S. consolidation (nation-building) leaflets printed and disseminated near and after the end of the military aspect of the invasion of Afghanistan and the search for al-Qaida terrorists.

AFD170Back.jpg (20238 bytes)
Leaflet AFD-170

Just as on the rug, this leaflet depicts the US and Afghan flags with a white dove of peace in the center. The text on this leaflet is:

Your local leaders and United States forces unite to bring peace to Afghanistan

PSYOP Sergeant Mason West told me that in relation to the dove of peace symbolism in the rug: 

The rug you presented was influenced from a leaflet that was disseminated by my team members in our area of responsibility, Mazar-E-Sharif, in 2002. My Team was known as "Gator 2-3." The unit is 345th Tactical Support Company (Airborne) stationed in Dallas, Texas. The design on the top of the prayer rug was an exact replica of one of our "Peace to Afghanistan from the American Coalition" The irony of this is that we convinced and gave all the credit to the local populous, specifically the rug shop that ran with the idea. The same rug is on display at the Pentagon.

For more information on war rugs and examples of leaflets that have inspired war rug designs, visit

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 existed at that time. Although our intention was to end the story in April of 2002, a continuing insurgency and Coalition consolidation operations have forced us to add additional information. As of May 2005 it is believed that 226 different types of PSYOP leaflets have been disseminated in Afghanistan.

The author invites comments on this article, or additions and corrections from people who took part in the campaign. Please write him at



Featured Articles

Main Topics

About Us

PsyWar.Org (tm), (c)1997-2018, Lee Richards

©1997-2018, Unless otherwise acknowledged, all articles, design, graphics, logos and other content, are the copyright of Lee Richards and cannot be reproduced without permission. Crown Copyright material reproduced under terms of the Open Government License.