Army Seeks Social Media Gurus to Save Afghan War

Know how to tweet? Or how to put words into the mouths of foreign security functionaries? If so, the U.S. Army wants you to help un-quagmire the Afghanistan war. In honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, here's one way you can help and get out of the bleak job market.

A new solicitation from the Army seeks communications experts to run the full spectrum of outreach and messaging for the war effort, said Spencer Ackerman in Wired. A new “Web Content/Social Media Manager” will work with the U.S. military command in Afghanistan, known by the acronym USFOR-A, to spruce up and maintain “the command’s official website and related social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.” Other officials will dig into the Afghan security ministries to advise key officials how to convince people they’re competent, energetic and not at all corrupt.

To non-Afghan eyes, USFOR-A’s got a pretty robust social media presence. Check out how often it tweets its messaging on Twitter. Its YouTube channel is filled with positive videos, and its Facebook page — folded into the NATO command’s page — has nearly 80,000 Likes. Is the war won yet?

Evidently not. The solicitation sees the Taliban doing a better communications job than the U.S.: ”To date, the Insurgents (INS) have undermined the credibility of USFOR-A, the International Community (IC), and Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) through effective use of the information environment, albeit without a commensurate increase in their own credibility.” Guess the Army thinks the Taliban’s recent English-language tweeting and SMS terror campaign is having an impact. Or that Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s 2009 plea to revamp the war’s communications apparatus didn’t have the desired effect.

That problem’s magnified when it comes to the Afghan government, which is so corrupt that Ryan Crocker, Obama administration’s nominee for ambassador to Kabul, compared its perfidies to a “second insurgency” on Wednesday. The answer? “[C]ulturally-astute and culturally-attuned communication and public affairs advisement” to mouthpieces for the ministries of Defense and Interior.

What will those advisers do? The short answer is teach them how to spin. The long answer: “better align media reporting and public perception and proactively engage opinion-shapers, from media to key leaders, in order to bring these attributes of the information landscape into alignment.”

This is only partially about gaining or keeping Afghan support. The bolstered social networking push needs to have rapid translation into Dari and Pashto, as well as ceaselessly nimble translations of the local press so the military gets feedback, the solicitation says. But it’s primarily to “inform key audiences” — that is, “media and civilian populations internationally and within the region” about USFOR-A spin. And when the best that the smooth diplomat Crocker can tell the Senate about the war is that it’s “not… hopeless,” it’s no wonder that the Army thinks USFOR-A needs all the communications help it can get.

- As seen in Wired