Nov 24

Rifles? Check. Smartbombs? Check. PR? Um…

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Matt Purdue.

While we are safe at home with our families this weekend, trying to figure out how to fit a   Hires_080709-M-6668G-021b chicken, inside a duck inside a turkey, take a moment to think of our troops overseas on this Thanksgiving—and if you do no other work on this holiday, read this report. You’ll find it shocking from a PR perspective.

Clearly the war in Afghanistan has taken a terrible toll in blood and treasure. Earlier this year, the Afghan conflict became the longest war in American history. Now this new study is out providing a hint as to why this war may be so hard to win.

The International Council on Security and Development, a thinktank based in London, reports that in the Afghan provinces where fighting has been fiercest, 92 percent of 1,000 Afghan men surveyed know nothing of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington that precipitated the invasion. More than 70 percent of respondents “view foreigners as disrespectful of their religion and traditions,” and 40 percent believe that “foreigners are in Afghanistan to destroy the country, to occupy Afghanistan, or to destroy Islam.

The conclusion is obvious. "The lack of awareness of why we are there contributes to the high levels of negativity toward the NATO military operations and made the job of the Taliban easier," ICOS President Norine MacDonald told Reuters.

If you were called in to advise the Pentagon, what would you tell them? America’s armed forces have often made PR a part of the war-fighting effort. Certainly they’ve tried in Afghanistan, too. But, somehow, the message does not seem to be resonating with the Afghans.

If you could spend five minutes with these guys, how would you advise them to win hearts and minds in a country where 85 percent of citizens live by agriculture, and Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare are nowhere to be found?

Let’s hear from you.