CIA RED Cell Report

    • CIA RED Cell Report

      CIA Red Cell
      A Red Cell Special Memorandum 11 March 2010
      Afghanistan: Sustaining West European Support for the NATO-led
      Mission—Why Counting on Apathy Might Not Be Enough (C//NF)
      The fall of the Dutch Government over its troop commitment to Afghanistan
      demonstrates the fragility of European support for the NATO-led ISAF mission.
      Some NATO states, notably France and Germany, have counted on public
      apathy about Afghanistan to increase their contributions to the mission, but
      indifference might turn into active hostility if spring and summer fighting
      results in an upsurge in military or Afghan civilian casualties and if a Dutchstyle
      debate spills over into other states contributing troops. The Red Cell
      invited a CIA expert on strategic communication and analysts following public
      opinion at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) to
      consider information approaches that might better link the Afghan mission to
      the priorities of French, German, and other Western European publics. (C//NF)
      Public Apathy Enables Leaders To Ignore Voters. . . (C//NF)
      The Afghanistan mission’s low public salience has allowed French and German leaders to
      disregard popular opposition and steadily increase their troop contributions to the
      International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Berlin and Paris currently maintain the third
      and fourth highest ISAF troop levels, despite the opposition of 80 percent of German and
      French respondents to increased ISAF deployments, according to INR polling in fall 2009.
      • Only a fraction (0.1-1.3 percent) of French and German respondents identified
      “Afghanistan” as the most urgent issue facing their nation in an open-ended
      question, according to the same polling. These publics ranked “stabilizing
      Afghanistan” as among the lowest priorities for US and European leaders,
      according to polls by the German Marshall Fund (GMF) over the past two years.
      • According to INR polling in the fall of 2009, the view that the Afghanistan mission
      is a waste of resources and “not our problem” was cited as the most common
      reason for opposing ISAF by German respondents and was the second most
      common reason by French respondents. But the “not our problem” sentiment also
      suggests that, so for, sending troops to Afghanistan is not yet on most voters’
      radar. (C//NF)
      . . . But Casualties Could Precipitate Backlash (C//NF)
      If some forecasts of a bloody summer in Afghanistan come to pass, passive French and
      German dislike of their troop presence could turn into active and politically potent hostility.
      The tone of previous debate suggests that a spike in French or German casualties or in
      Afghan civilian casualties could become a tipping point in converting passive opposition
      into active calls for immediate withdrawal. (C//NF)
      French and German commitments to NATO are a safeguard against a precipitous
      departure, but leaders fearing a backlash ahead of spring regional elections might become
      unwilling to pay a political price for increasing troop levels or extending deployments. If
      This memo was prepared by
      the CIA Red Cell, which has
      been charged by the Director
      of Intelligence with taking a
      pronounced "out-of-the-box"
      approach that will provoke
      thought and offer an
      alternative viewpoint on the
      full range of analytic issues.
      Comments and queries are
      welcome and may be directed
      to the CIA Red Cell at (703)
      482-6918 / 482-0169 or
      44462/50127, secure. (C)
      CL BY: 0711195
      CL REASON: 1.4 (d)
      DECL ON: 20350303
      DRV FRM: FOR C-06
      domestic politics forces the Dutch to depart, politicians elsewhere might cite a precedent for
      “listening to the voters.” French and German leaders have over the past two years taken
      steps to preempt an upsurge of opposition but their vulnerability may be higher now:
      • To strengthen support, President Sarkozy called on the National Assembly—whose
      approval is not required for ISAF—to affirm the French mission after the combat
      deaths of 10 soldiers in August 2008. The government won the vote handily,
      defusing a potential crisis and giving Sarkozy cover to deploy approximately 3,000
      additional troops. Sarkozy, however, may now be more vulnerable to an upsurge in
      casualties because his party faces key regional elections this March and the already
      low support for ISAF has fallen by one-third since March 2009, according to INR
      polling in the fall of 2009.
      • Political fallout from the German-ordered Kunduz airstrike in September 2009 which
      killed dozens of Afghan civilians, demonstrated the potential pressure on the
      German Government when Afghanistan issues come up on the public radar.
      Concern about the potential effects of Afghanistan issues on the state-level election
      in North Rhine-Westphalia in May 2010 could make Chancellor Merkel—who has
      shown an unwillingness to expend political capital on Afghanistan—more hesitant
      about increasing or even sustaining Germany’s ISAF contributions. (C//NF)
      Tailoring Messaging Could Forestall or At Least Contain Backlash (C//NF)
      Western European publics might be better prepared to tolerate a spring and summer of
      greater military and civilian casualties if they perceive clear connections between outcomes
      in Afghanistan and their own priorities. A consistent and iterative strategic communication
      program across NATO troop contributors that taps into the key concerns of specific Western
      European audiences could provide a buffer if today’s apathy becomes tomorrow’s opposition
      to ISAF, giving politicians greater scope to support deployments to Afghanistan. (C//NF)
      French Focused On Civilians and Refugees. Focusing on a message that ISAF benefits
      Afghan civilians and citing examples of concrete gains could limit and perhaps even reverse
      opposition to the mission. Such tailored messages could tap into acute French concern for
      civilians and refugees. Those who support ISAF in INR surveys from fall 2009 most
      frequently cited their perception that the mission helps Afghan civilians, while opponents
      most commonly argued that the mission hurts civilians. Contradicting the “ISAF does more
      harm than good” perception is clearly important, particularly for France’s Muslim minority:
      • Highlighting Afghans’ broad support for ISAF could underscore the mission’s
      positive impact on civilians. About two-thirds of Afghans support the presence of
      ISAF forces in Afghanistan, according to a reliable ABC/BBC/ADR poll conducted in
      December 2009. According to INR polling in fall 2009, those French and German
      respondents who believed that the Afghan people oppose ISAF—48 percent and 52
      percent, respectively—were more likely than others to oppose participation in the
      • Conversely, messaging that dramatizes the potential adverse consequences of an
      ISAF defeat for Afghan civilians could leverage French (and other European) guilt
      for abandoning them. The prospect of the Taliban rolling back hard-won progress
      on girls’ education could provoke French indignation, become a rallying point for
      France’s largely secular public, and give voters a reason to support a good and
      necessary cause despite casualties.
      • The media controversy generated by Paris’s decision to expel 12 Afghan refugees in
      late 2009 suggests that stories about the plight of Afghan refugees are likely to
      resonate with French audiences. The French government has already made
      combating Afghan human trafficking networks a priority and would probably
      support an information campaign that a NATO defeat in Afghanistan could
      precipitate a refugee crisis. (C//NF)
      Germans Worried About Price And Principle Of ISAF Mission. German opponents of
      ISAF worry that a war in Afghanistan is a waste of resources, not a German problem, and
      objectionable in principle, judging from an INR poll in the fall of 2009. Some German
      opposition to ISAF might be muted by proof of progress on the ground, warnings about the
      potential consequences for Germany of a defeat, and reassurances that Germany is a
      valued partner in a necessary NATO-led mission.
      • Underscoring the contradiction between German pessimism about ISAF and Afghan
      optimism about the mission’s progress could challenge skeptics’ assertions that the
      mission is a waste of resources. The same ABC/BBC/ADR poll revealed that 70
      percent of Afghans thought their country was heading in the right direction and
      would improve in 2010, while a 2009 GMF poll showed that about the same
      proportion of German respondents were pessimistic about ever stabilizing
      • Messages that dramatize the consequences of a NATO defeat for specific German
      interests could counter the widely held perception that Afghanistan is not
      Germany’s problem. For example, messages that illustrate how a defeat in
      Afghanistan could heighten Germany’s exposure to terrorism, opium, and refugees
      might help to make the war more salient to skeptics.
      • Emphasis on the mission’s multilateral and humanitarian aspects could help ease
      Germans’ concerns about waging any kind of war while appealing to their desire to
      support multilateral efforts. Despite their allergy to armed conflict, Germans were
      willing to break precedent and use force in the Balkans in the 1990s to show
      commitment to their NATO allies. German respondents cited helping their allies as
      one of the most compelling reasons for supporting ISAF, according to an INR poll in
      the fall of 2009. (C//NF)
      Appeals by President Obama and Afghan Women Might Gain Traction (C//NF)
      The confidence of the French and German publics in President Obama’s ability to handle
      foreign affairs in general and Afghanistan in particular suggest that they would be receptive
      to his direct affirmation of their importance to the ISAF mission—and sensitive to direct
      expressions of disappointment in allies who do not help.1
      • According to a GMF poll conducted in June 2009, about 90 percent of French and
      German respondents were confident in the President’s ability to handle foreign
      policies. The same poll revealed that 82 percent of French and 74 percent of
      German respondents were confident in the President’s ability to stabilize
      Afghanistan, although the subsequent wait for the US surge strategy may have
      eroded some of this confidence.
      1 European hand wringing about the President’s lack of attendance at a EU summit and commentary
      that his absence showed that Europe counted for less suggests that worry about European standing
      with Washington might provide at least some leverage for sustaining contributions to ISAF. (C//NF)
      • The same poll also found that, when respondents were reminded that President
      Obama himself had asked for increased deployments to Afghanistan, their support
      for granting this request increased dramatically, from 4 to 15 percent among
      French respondents and from 7 to 13 percent among Germans. The total
      percentages may be small but they suggest significant sensitivity to disappointing a
      president seen as broadly in sync with European concerns. (C//NF)
      Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the ISAF role in combating
      the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their
      experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban
      victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share
      their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome
      pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission.
      • According to INR polling in the fall of 2009, French women are 8 percentage points
      less likely to support the mission than are men, and German women are 22
      percentage points less likely to support the war than are men.
      • Media events that feature testimonials by Afghan women would probably be most
      effective if broadcast

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