Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate that he commands are under an asymmetric attack of a unique kind. The Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI), the eyes and ears of the army, is in the midst of a ‘war of the mind’. The weapon is one of the oldest in the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) stockpile. It is non-lethal but a definite combat multiplier. The weapon is all about ‘sight and sound’ and is dispersed either by the media, newspapers, magazines, diplomats, courts or by face-to-face interactions.
The CIA executes psychological operations (PSYOP) through the agency’s Special Activities Division (SAD) which in turn is a part of the National Clandestine Service. The US Army also conducts PSYOPs through the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) which is a dedicated PSYOP unit. The US Navy has a special-purpose radio/television dedicated to psychological operations units. The US Air Force’s 193rd Special Operations Wing uses a modified C-130 Hercules to provide an aerial platform for CIA’s PSYOPs.
During WWI, the US undertook PSYOPs through the Propaganda Sub-Section of the Military Intelligence Branch. In WWII, white propaganda was conducted by the Office of War Information and black propaganda by the Morale Operations Branch. During the Vietnam War the CIA-along with US Special Operations Forces-planned and executed the Phoenix Program. The CIA has also executed extensive PSYOPs in Korea, Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, Sweden and during the two Gulf Wars.
The CIA’s new target is the ISI. CIA has been carefully studying the ISI through defectors, intelligence reports and some native help. On or around May 3, a comprehensively reinforced Tactical PSYOP – targeting a specific enemy combat group – was launched in order to cajole, coax and impel the ISI into doing what the CIA considers are America’s national objectives.
The CIA’s Tactical PSYOP is targeting to deplete ISI’s esprit de corps by severely disrupting ISI’s internal cohesion. CIA is bent upon three things: reducing morale, promoting dissension and inducing defections.
Simultaneously, CIA’s Strategic PSYOP is targeting the Pakistani population at large. The goal here is to fracture ISI’s reputation within the Pakistani population and consequently to create a rift between the two – population and the ISI.
The CIA’s tools include demoralizing the target, instilling fear in-tandem with a diplomatic onslaught. Carriers of these tools include The New York Times, The Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, Voice of America, Senator John Kerry, Marc Grossman, Admiral Mike Mullen, Tahawwur Hussain’s trial in Chicago, summoning of DG-ISI by a Brooklyn court, talk of ‘stealth drones’ and many others.
The American military mind is not much concerned as to how the message is carried – or by whom – but the impact of the message on the targeted recipient. In 2010, Lt General Caldwell, Commander, Nato Training Mission in Afghanistan, ordered a PSYOP targeting visiting American senators and 4-star generals to influence them into sending additional troops. Under US law, PSYOP units are prohibited from undertaking “PSYOP missions on domestic audience.” General Petraeus has now ordered an investigation into the alleged PSYOP against American senators.
To be certain, Osama’s elimination is purely tactical with little or no strategic value. America’s strategy of an ‘honorable exit’ hasn’t changed, before or after Osama’s death, but the tactical advantage is now being used to bring ISI down to its knees.
The eventual aim is to maneuver an ISI cave-in without having to fight for it. Sun Tzu, the greatest military strategist that ever lived, said: “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence.”