Being Open About US Propaganda Efforts in Afghanistan

USA Today reports on a study published by the Army’s War College that found “U.S. propaganda efforts in Afghanistan have failed” because the military took bad (and expensive) advice from private contractors.

Examples of failed efforts, according to the paper, include a proposal to pay $6,000 dowries to Afghan men to keep them off the battlefield — a scheme that could have cost $4 billion. That project, ultimately rejected, fits into what the U.S. military calls Information Operations programs.

The dowry program and ineffective television ad campaigns “represent merely the tip of the iceberg: over the years, huge amounts of money have been spent on IO programs that are largely anchored in advertising and marketing style communication with little concurrent investment, it would appear, in detailed understanding of audiences and environments,” the report concludes.

USA TODAY, in a series of reports since 2012, has found the Pentagon has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on poorly tracked propaganda programs. A government report obtained by the newspaper this spring showed the impact of the programs is unclear, and the military doesn’t know whether it is targeting the right foreign audiences. These propaganda efforts include websites, leaflets and broadcasts intended to change foreigners’ “attitudes and behaviors in support of U.S. Government” objectives, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office.

USA Today has provided important articles in the past about propaganda firms working with the Pentagon, hired to employ “the modern equivalent of psychological warfare.” The paper has previously exposed the dubious nature and exorbitant costs of the Pentagon’s “Information Operations,” (IO) or war propaganda, used on foreign populations.

The frank discussion of the failure of U.S. propaganda efforts is fascinating. The dictionary provides a hint as to why:


  1. derogatory information, esp. of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.

So, to reiterate: The U.S. government wastes billions of dollars on failed efforts to “mislead” the Afghan people in a “derogatory” fashion with regard to their thoughts about America.

That might be the best news lede I’ve read in a long time. Who knew it would be so hard to get people you’ve been bombing for ten years to like you?