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Cablegate: Afghan Strategic Communications: Better Results by Design

VZCZCXRO4813
PP RUEHBW RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #1100/01 1251313
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041313Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3788
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 001100

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, PRM
PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CG CJTF-101, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PAO AF
SUBJECT: Afghan Strategic Communications: Better Results by Design

1. (SBU) The recent wave of positive and balanced U.S. and European
media coverage of Afghanistan is the result of intense collaborative
efforts by U.S. civilian and military personnel inside Afghanistan,
at USNATO, and in Washington. Specifically, we have developed an
effective strategy to identify key media representatives, brief them
on current operations, take them to see successes inside Afghanistan
wherever they are located (which most often is the U.S.-led
RC-East), and then ensure that they receive high-level attention
from the Embassy, ISAF, and other key Afghan and donor country
officials to address remaining questions.

--------------------------------------------
An Afghan Fusion Team Established
--------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) The communications campaign has been driven by about a
dozen key public affairs officers at the Embassy, CSTC-A, USAID, the
101st Airborne Division at Bagram, INL, ISAF, State SCA/PPD and at
USNATO, with support from many others. Over the space of several
months this geographically dispersed group has established a de
facto fusion team, with multiple daily contacts and close
coordination. The effort has been assisted by the NSC, through
weekly coordination conference calls, through regular face-to-face
meetings in Kabul at the Embassy, ISAF and UNAMA, and through ad hoc
gatherings. Information sharing has also been improved by our
on-line Afghan Strategic Communication community which now includes
some 300 interested experts and officials who regularly share advice
and suggestions electronically. The result is a substantially
enhanced media performance by USG civilian and military personnel,
and improved understanding and increasing support for the Afghan
mission in both Europe and the United States.

--------------------------------------------- ----------
Afghan Government Media Center to Launch in June
--------------------------------------------- ----------

3. (SBU) The strategic communication plan includes two additional
critical elements. Afghan government performance on message
development and media outreach remains weak, despite some
improvement in the performance of leading ministries including
Defense and Interior. To address this, the U.S., U.K. and Canada
have collaborated to establish the Afghan Government Media Center
(GMC) which will be under the authority of the Office of the Afghan
Presidential Spokesman. This project is moving along rapidly, and
we anticipate a formal launch in June. The GMC will include
Afghanistan's only state-of-the art press briefing room, facilities
and staff to support visiting foreign journalists, a press office
with desk officers linked to Afghan government ministries and
provincial governments, an analysis and writing cell, a liaison
function to connect with ISAF and UNAMA, and a support staff to
provide and coordinate donor mentoring and training. The GMC will
initially occupy interim facilities close to the Palace and
diplomatic missions, and will transition into a new purpose-built
facility in about two years.

--------------------------------------------
Bringing UNAMA into the Equation
--------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) The third leg in the strategy involves integrating the
civilian assistance efforts now being coordinated by United Nations
Special Representative Kai Eide. Mr. Eide has already expressed his
strong interest in improving our strategic communication effort and
we intend to engage him shortly to introduce him more formally to
efforts already underway and to discuss ways we can best mesh UNAMA
capabilities into the larger ongoing efforts.

----------------
The Way Forward
----------------

5. (SBU) Improvements in our media results reflect the efforts of
the Afghan Strategic Communication team. The three-pronged approach
outlined above addresses the main challenges we face: The U.S. side
needs to up our communication game; the Afghans need to develop a
communication plan and assert leadership; and our UNAMA civilian and
Coalition military partners need to line up in support of the Afghan
lead, once that is more clearly established. Recent policy-level

KABUL 00001100 002 OF 002


discussions in Washington have highlighted the need for additional
military and civilian personnel to run this strategy. There are a
host of other practical issues, including higher priority for air
mobility for visiting journalists and Afghan government officials
and funds to sustain a steady stream of organized media tours along
the lines of the successful recent NATO journalist tours. We are
already reaching out to groups of Asian and Arab journalists to
invite them for similar experiences. There is merit in the proposal
to establish a senior U.S. military spokesman for Afghanistan. Our
intention over the next months is to consolidate each of the three
elements in our plan, and most importantly to establish a strong and
visible Afghan lead in communications which all can support.

WOOD

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