The Press: Taliban's Air Defense

How do you stop America’s complete ownership of Afghan air space? Shoot down US air support with psyop!

Sayeth Air Force MG Charles Dunlap:

The Taliban are keenly aware that if they can cause enough casualties or, ideally, take American or NATO prisoners as they swarm over the often sparsely manned positions, they will achieve a tremendous victory on the battlefield of public opinion.

What is frustrating them? Modern U.S. and coalition airpower. Relentless aerial surveillance and highly precise bombing turn Taliban efforts to overrun the detachments into crushing defeats. And the Taliban have virtually no weapons to stop our planes.

Instead, they are trying to use sophisticated propaganda techniques to create a political crisis that will shoot down the use of airpower as effectively as any anti-aircraft gun.

It makes sense. Every time there is an airstrike, claim hundreds of civilian casualties. No one in the press challenges these claims (or seems to locate the Taliban press emissary putting out these lies) More:

In truth, no force in the history of warfare has ever worked harder or spent more time and resources to limit civilian casualties than has the U.S. military and its coalition allies. Moreover, so long as they are not excessive under the circumstances, international law tolerates the tragedy of civilian deaths. Why? If attacks were forbidden simply because civilians are present, the message to warring parties would be to surround themselves with civilians to create legal “sanctuaries” — exactly the behavior the law of war wants to prevent.

We must not reward the Taliban for deliberately putting civilians at risk; it will only encourage them — and others — to make increasing use of innocents as defensive shields. The world will become an even more dangerous place for the truly blameless.


  1. Eveningsun says:

    I get nervous when people start talking about "the battlefield of public opinion," as if it were a matter of warfare rather than persuasion. A better metaphor, I'd say, is the good old "marketplace of ideas." Anyway, Dunlap's op-ed was incredibly weak. He offers not one single example of Taliban-friendly press coverage. He might be right about some press coverage, but he's dead wrong about stories like this incredibly well-sourced piece in the NYT: