02:09 GMT +320 September 2019
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    US marines take part in a multinational NATO military exercise Agile Spirit 2015 at the Vaziani military base outside Tbilisi  (File)

    US Marines to Get More PSYOP Tools

    © AFP 2019 / VANO SHLAMOV
    Military & Intelligence
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    The US military is planning to arm US Marines with PSYOP (psychological operations or local influence operations) capabilities despite a checkered history suggesting warfighters may be best off sticking with warfighting.

    The US military's record of using PSYOP tactics hardly inspires confidence: last fall, it was forced to apologize for distributing "highly offensive" leaflets in Afghanistan that displayed a Muslim prayer printed on top of a dog, an animal many Muslims view as unclean, with a large lion chasing the dog, the Los Angeles Times reported. "It's an insult to Islam," said a spokeswoman for the provincial government where the leaflets were dropped.

    A US general addressed the situation at the time by saying "the design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam. I sincerely apologize."

    But instead of recognizing the troops may not be cut out for PSYOP tasks and could actually do more harm than good, the military is doubling down.

    Speaking at the Pentagon Thursday, US Marine Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman explained to reporters that Marine units have been given more "military influence support operations" tools, known more broadly as PSYOP tools.

    "At the battalion level, we gave [the Marines] some tools to support military information operations, to be able to support our influence efforts in a contested [area of operations] and to work to gain the support of local populations and discourage the efforts of potential adversary forces," Wortman said.

    Without going into specifics, the general said the tools would include "being able to reach people on their phones with texts or other types of capabilities to deliver messages: those are the types of tools that we want to provide down to the battalion level."


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