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ANSF takes the lead in information fight

By Sgt. William Begley , 11th Public Affairs Detachment

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LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (May 22, 2012) — Afghan National Security Forces are working hard to ‘take point’ in the information fight as the withdrawal of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan draws closer.

“The ANA guys are really on point here,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Kevin Kumlin, a team leader with the Tactical Military Information Support Operations Det. 1355, and Minneapolis native. “They have their finger on the pulse of the area and know what method of delivering information will work best.”

The ANSF are working closely with their coalition partners to learn various methods of communication to earn trust and build credibility with local populations.

U.S. Army Capt. Brian Gorre, a native of Mancato, Minn. and Tactical MISO Det. 1355 commander, said some of those methods are distribution of paper products, face-to-face engagements with key leaders, rapport building, and the use of radio broadcasts.

The broadcasts are one of the most effective methods because for years, free hand-crank radios, or “radios in a box”, have been distributed to local Afghan communities.

Afghan National Army commanders in partnership with U.S. Forces utilize RIAB to send messages, such as unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive device information, out to the populace. Radio is the primary method Afghans use in Logar Province to get news and other information since there are few or no TV stations, Gorre said.

“What we’ve done along with the ANSF is to get on the RIAB and have call in shows,” he said. “So when the locals call in to the station number they can get answers for most of their questions by local officials.”

Mohammad Masoom, a disc jockey for Radio Unity 94.9 FM, based in the Logar Province, has been doing his job for seven months.

“I can help the people through the radio shows,” said Masoom. “If the people have questions they can call in, and I give them answers.”

Masoom said he hopes for peace and a brighter future for Afghanistan.

“I enjoy my job because it gives me the opportunity to serve my people,” said Masoom. “I can also help bring prosperity to Afghanistan and to my people by doing my job. I can support my family because I make money here.”

Through the RIAB, ANA Col. Rahim Jan, officer in charge of recruiting in Logar province, has noticed an increase in recruitment for May.

“Last year in May we had 47 recruits,” said Jan. “But this year because of the help from our coalition friends and the rapport building item distribution we have 106 new recruits, and the month is not over. We are hoping to sign at least eight more for a total of 114.”

The broadcast detailed standards for Afghan citizens to join the ANSF, causing recruitment to skyrocket as a result of a simple message.

Rapport building items, or RBI, have been a huge bonus in Afghanistan, Gorre said. It takes time to build relationships and gain trust. The ANSF are responsible for distributing items to the local populace such as blankets to keep them warm during the cold winters and hand crank radios with rechargeable batteries to help them to receive radio broadcasts.

Besides building rapport with the local populace and using information operations to increase recruitment, the ANSF has also been effective at using messaging to counter enemy propaganda.

One of the methods insurgents use to instil fear in the heart of the Logar population is called a night letter. At night, when the villagers are asleep, letters are posted in villages with negative messages about the government and the ANSF.

U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Mark Malott, senior enlisted leader for the 340th Tactical MISO Co. and a native of Williamsburg, Ohio, credits the ANA for coming up with a solution to counteract these.

“The ANA came up with an idea called a confidence letter. It’s basically a letter that says while you were sleeping we were here to protect you,” said Malott. “So the locals see that they are being protected, and it gives them a feeling of security.”

Confidence letters, along with flyers informing the population about the dangers of UXO and IED’s are some of the ways paper products are used to provide the Logar population with information that can make their lives along with the lives of ANSF and U.S. Soldiers safer.

“Another huge problem within our area of operations is IED’s. The locals know what they look like; they know to stay away from them,” said Gorre. “However, young children still like to investigate, and kids will be kids. The ANSF has made sure the message gets out that it’s not only the business of CF to make sure that not only are we looking out for those dangerous items, but they are as well.”

And as the children grow older, and the 2014 withdrawal date nears, they will need to know more about their country than staying away from IEDs, and the ANSF, trained and mentored by their coalition partners, will be right there to help them.