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Terrorists Use 'Smoke and Mirrors' in Afghan War

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2001 – Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan are rolling out some age-old sleight-of-hand and propaganda tricks to hide their forces or to influence public opinion in their favor.

Terrorist forces are employing "denial and deception" techniques in Afghanistan. They're hiding tanks and other equipment and supplies in caves, placing troops and military hardware near civilian populations and religious centers, and staging television news broadcasts in hospitals of alleged civilian casualties of the air war, a senior DoD official said Oct. 24 to Pentagon reporters.

Denying information to an enemy or deceiving an enemy "has a long, long history" in warfare and politics, the official said.

Information denial includes "key information about your military forces, leadership, the status of your country, the effect of the adversary's campaign on your country, its infrastructure," the official remarked. Denial techniques range from hiding in caves, as currently seen in Afghanistan, to erecting fake buildings.

If denial is "hiding the real," then deception, he added, "is showing the fake." This, the official noted, could involve using inflatable balloons shaped like aircraft and tanks.

The official remarked that terrorist attempts at public manipulation are "becoming very important in the world media arena, and something we all want to be aware of" in the Information Age. In this context, the official said, the Internet can be used as a handy conduit to spread disinformation.

During the Gulf War, the Iraqi government frequently and falsely accused U.S. forces of desecrating Muslim holy sites, the official noted. In Afghanistan, he added, the Taliban regime is apparently moving military equipment and troops into residential areas or near mosques to either prevent aerial attacks or to coax collateral damage.

The official showed reporters aerial photos of a destroyed Taliban helicopter situated some 20 yards from an Afghan mosque. Surveillance photos taken two days earlier showed no helicopter, the official noted.

The helicopter "was deliberately positioned directly next to the mosque ... with the purpose of either tempting us to cause some collateral damage or preserve the helicopter from strike," the official said.

The strategy didn't work.

"The helicopter was destroyed, and the mosque was not damaged," he remarked.

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Related Sites:
Background Briefing on Enemy Denial and Deception, Oct. 24, 2001
DoD News Briefing Slides, Oct. 24, 2001

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