Opportunities & Threats: Integrating and synchronizing influence in counterinsurgency and stability operations
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Public decision making is a focal point when attempting to counter an insurgency. This decision making is under great pressure from insurgent intimidation and propaganda, or it may favor the insurgency for providing services, out of real and perceived grievances caused by the counterinsurgent, ethnic and ideological loyalties or other motivations. Although the counterinsurgent often enjoys superior resources, he faces strong competition on the cognitive level with an adversary who has established situational understanding, an extensive network of contacts and a resonating, tailored information strategy. This competitor is not bound to any laws or truths except its own, putting the counterinsurgent at a severe disadvantage. Although there are ample military activities specifically designed to achieve these effects, they have not fully synchronized their information requirements with, or had insufficient access to, existing intelligence resources. Furthermore, these activities are conducted as separate efforts, rather than part of an overarching influence strategy. A Provincial Reconstruction Team is a potentially powerful instrument for collecting and analyzing population-centric information.This kind of information is vital for creating and effectively disseminating a resonating counter narrative, conflict mediation, addressing grievances, gaining credibility, goodwill and ultimately shaping cognitive decision making and behavior. Kinetic activities, reconstruction projects and key leader engagements can, and often do, have stronger informational effects than flyers or press conferences. The initiative needs to be reclaimed in the information war. A intel-driven pro-active policy for countering insurgent propaganda and exploiting opportunities is desirable. When one acknowledges the importance of cognitive influence in counterinsurgency and stability operations, a behavior focused approach should be integrated in planning. My model based on social marketing is only a possible starting point. Such a model requires not only a synchronized inter-organizational effort, but has information requirements exceeding the current capabilities of the intelligence organization.