Round up: Marjah; war reporting; Facebook and the IDF.

March 11, 2010

Fighting the Taliban in Marjah, Afghanistan.

There was an interesting little sub-plot in this article in The Times about the aim of protecting and winning over the population in a counterinsurgency operation. On the one hand these US Marines were being asked to exercise some level of restraint:

"The new rules of engagement, dubbed “Courageous Restraint” and designed to prevent civilian casualties, meant that when the Sun came up over Marjah all they could do was wait."

On the other hand, during a subsequent battle the Marines were forced to temporarily evict a local family from their house:

"…the Marines battled their way to the relative shelter of a nearby compound. The family were ordered to leave and seek shelter in another building nearby. The Marines punched holes in the mudwalls and exchanged fire with attackers who seemed to have surrounded us."

We can all agree that evicting the civilians is far preferable to killing them, but I think I’d still feel rather perturbed by being forced out of my own house and having it turned into a firing position. 

How good are war reporters?

Marc Lynch asks whether war reporters are worth their salt. Writing up a discussion on the subject he paraphrases the thoughts of Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post on the contrasting nature of reporting Iraq and Afghanistan:

"Chandrasekaran — just back from covering the Marja campaign — noted some significant differences between Iraq and Afghanistan for war reporters. In Iraq, he argued, Baghdad was a central hub where a lot of the meaningful politics happened, while in Afghanistan Kabul is just a bubble and tells you virtually nothing about what’s going on elsewhere. The infrastructure of stringers is far less developed in Afghanistan, curtailing that stream of vital information for reporters trying to make sense of the full range of voices and viewpoints."

Israeli Defence Force soldier in Facebook Fail

The IDF called off a raid in Palestinian territory after a soldier stuck up the details of the operation on Facebook. D’oh. Haaretz reports [with a few of my thoughts in brackets]:

"The soldier – since relieved of combat duty – described in a status update how his unit planned a "clean-up" arrest raid in a West Bank area, Army Radio said.

"On Wednesday we clean up Qatanah, and on Thursday, god willing, we come home," the soldier wrote on his Facebook page, refering to a West Bank village near Ramallah.

The soldier also disclosed the name of the combat unit, the place of the operation and the time it will take place [just for good measure]. Facebook friends [who were really there for this soldier when he messed up] then reported him to military authorities."

Head of RAF says forces must embrace Internet technology

This is from a while back now as recorded by the Belfast Telegraph. Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton highlights how the Israeli Air Force used the Web in the battle over international public opinion during the conflict in Gaza in 2009:

"Accurate and timely information has always been critical to the military but its importance is increasing as societies become more networked," he stated. "This is intimately linked to developments in space and cyber-space; as we saw in the conflict in Gaza in early 2009, operations on the ground were paralleled by operations in cyber-space and an ‘info ops’ campaign that was fought across the internet: the Israeli Air Force downloaded sensor imagery onto YouTube, tweets warned of rocket attacks and the ‘help-us-win.com’ blog was used to mobilise public support."

Interesting. I wasn’t as convinced by the success of all aspects of this particular information campaign.