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15 May, 2009 10:18

Combat blogs to aid operations in Afghanistan?

Former US Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne says the country's seven-year effort in Afghanistan is suffering because the Taliban is winning the information war. He suggests using combat blogs as a countermeasure.

The talk of Washington’s need to improve on communication to counter the militants' propaganda has been going for some time.

This became increasingly evident last week. Dozens of civilians were killed after being caught up in US-led air strikes in Afghanistan.

Afghani sources claimed the casualties were significantly higher. The Afghan president even demanded an end to American air strikes. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US ‘deeply’ regretted the loss of innocent lives and promised a full review of the incident.

In just five days following the incident the top US commander in Afghanistan was replaced, despite the fact that the investigation proved that the casualties were close to initial figures posted by the US army.

Former US Air Force chief Michael Wynne believes letting the troops blog in combat may contribute to a clearer informational picture.

“This thing of letting the Taliban, letting Al Jazeera, letting the enemy public affairs unit get a hold of 24 to 48 hours of news cycle and then you announce that you’re forming an investigative team – what is that?” Wynne said in an interview with wired.com.

“The sad part is, that when [the military] forms an investigative team, it looks like it’s only for one reason: to cover it up. Those firsthand accounts are seen to have more authenticity. If [that soldier] walked into a hut and blogged that there were 20 bad guys, they had 15 computers, 20 AK-47s – if he blogged that right away, even if it went to a command center – you’d be far better off than what we’re doing now,” he added.

Concerns are that combat blogging might jeopardize troops’ security as it may end up revealing their location and other sensitive details.

During its January war in Gaza the Israeli army made a YouTube channel of their own with military video-bloggers, but it proved not enough to cover up the many violations of humanitarian law in Gaza.