Sunday, June 08, 2008

Interagency Task Force Targets 'Violent Actors,' General Says

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 6, 2008 - U.S. Central Command is part of an Interagency Task Force for Irregular Warfare, a CentCom initiative that recently stood up to track and target "violent and extreme actors" in the command's area of operations, the
Air Force general who's spearheading the effort said yesterday. "Regionally, we look at influences of extreme actors that are malign that would provide, from within their borders, exporting either violence or activities that would be disruptive to their neighbors," Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert H. Holmes, CentCom's deputy director of operations, said to online journalists and bloggers during a teleconference from the command's headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

He added that the objectives of the Interagency Task Force for Irregular Warfare for the near term include disrupting some specific elements of terror networks.

"If you find bad stuff in the wrong places, you have to call it like you see it. We continue to see that and continue to watch it," Holmes said. "Our business is looking at this malign influence and then figuring out what we can do to counter it ... in a holistic manner, not necessarily just force on force."

He added that to counter, combat and, ultimately, defeat these kinds of networked activities, it will take more than just
military force over the long term.

Holmes said the Interagency Task Force for Irregular Warfare, which includes other federal partners and nongovernmental agencies, has been observing an "adversarial information operation," or communications tactic, with regard to reporting of civilian casualties. He said that both the Taliban in Afghanistan and
terrorists in Iraq have both adopted this type of tactic.

"[There is a] discrepancy in what we see in open-source reporting with regard to civilian casualties and then what is actually in our operational reporting," Holmes said. "I believe that the enemy uses this tactic to try to dissuade a civilian populace from the things that are actually going on there."

The interagency task force also is looking into the networks of the Taliban and al-Qaida. Holmes said both
terrorist organizations have specialists who are savvy in manipulating the media.

"There is a malign actor there that, in my mind, would have the purpose in an information operation campaign, and that is clearly a piece of terrain for our adversary, that they are going to use this to their advantage," Holmes said.

And that advantage can be significant in the court of world opinion, the general noted, because organizations with nefarious intentions will put out whatever information suits their motives.

"We're bound to tell the truth, and in most cases our adversary is not," Holmes noted.

Once information is put into the dynamic information environment, misleading perceptions are easily created.

"Often, truth is no longer important; it's just out there," he explained. "If I was my opponent, and I wanted to do something against someone I knew was grounded in truthful principles, ... then I would use that to my advantage."

Another trend the interagency task force is watching and trying to weigh out is the use of female suicide bombers. Though it's not a significant trend at this point, young or mentally disabled women being used as suicide bombers is a departure in enemy tactics.

"It's too early to say that this may be a sign of desperation," Holmes said. "We watched the recruitment and flow of young males that have been recruited to be suicide bombers. We have been trying to target that network to disrupt that flow."

(
Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg works in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)

2 comments:

John Maszka said...

Some 13 percent of U.S. Muslims believe that suicide bombings can be justified. Too high, for sure, but it compares with 35 percent for French Muslims, 57 percent for Jordanians and 69 percent for Nigerians. This distinct American advantage- which testifies to our ability to assimilate new immigrants- is increasingly in jeopardy. If leaders begin insinuating that the entire Muslim population be viewed with suspicion, that will change the community’s relationship to the United States. Wiretapping America’s mosques and threatening to bomb Mecca are certainly a big step down this ugly road (Zakaria, 2007:26).

John Maszka said...

Some 13 percent of U.S. Muslims believe that suicide bombings can be justified. Too high, for sure, but it compares with 35 percent for French Muslims, 57 percent for Jordanians and 69 percent for Nigerians. This distinct American advantage- which testifies to our ability to assimilate new immigrants- is increasingly in jeopardy. If leaders begin insinuating that the entire Muslim population be viewed with suspicion, that will change the community’s relationship to the United States. Wiretapping America’s mosques and threatening to bomb Mecca are certainly a big step down this ugly road (Zakaria, 2007:26).

“Muslims on the whole perceive actions taken by the United States in the conduct of the global counterinsurgency campaign as anti-Islamic, and that perception fuels the Jihad by creating sympathy and recruits” (Downing, 2006: 442).

To put this in perspective, compare the still relatively low 13% of US Muslims condoning suicide bombings, with the substantially higher percentage of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon that condone suicide bombings:
A 2002 random sample survey of 342 Palestinian refugees living in southern Lebanon showed overwhelming endorsement of suicide attacks against Israel (66%) and a high willingness for personal involvement in a suicide attack (39%)...In a mid-2001 opinion poll, more than 70% expressed support for suicide attacks...Islamikaze attacks sanctify their perpetrators and further incite families, who have already lost a child, to pledge the lives of other sons and daughters to Allah ” (Winkates, 2006:97-9).

“...word has it that even children are being trained for martyrdom” (Hoffman, 2006:339).