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Smearing campaigns lead to Trust Crisis

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] P [/yt_dropcap]ropaganda was originally about propagating faith, a task given in the 17th century to a committee of Catholic cardinals, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. Gradually, propaganda became synonymous with biased information promoting a political agenda.

Over the 20th century, propaganda was charged with a new meaning, serving as a soft weapon for psy-ops. Today, armed conflicts have no start nor end. We live in some sort of permanent war where world powers fight for their place in a yet-to-be multipolar world. Consequently, all statements are considered as propaganda and have led to a Trust Crisis, directly impacting on elections world-wide.

More than words

The ‘raison d’être’ of any given language is to convey information. To do so, some languages do not used words. For instance, bees communicate the exact location of a flowers’ field by performing a figure eight movement. So far, we have no records of bees purposely transmitting wrong information to keep all the pollen for themselves or simply to crack a good joke on their fellow bees. A very different situation with human communication.

If words were a translation of reality, accounts of events would be the same. Unfortunately, for any given story, there are many different narratives. A story can be true or false. In 1938, historian Allan Nevis wrote that “a widespread and sleepless conspiracy exists against history”, as human beings tend to shape the past to benefit their own reputations. Many other historians and politicians corroborated his opinion: history tends to be written by the victorious power; or one’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist. Conclusion: It is all about a question of perspective!

The Power of Symbols

All leaders understand the power of words and narrative creation. Some do not hesitate to resort to dubious etymology to support their views, as epitomized by Muammar Gadhafi, who tracked the origin of Shakespeare to an Arab named Sheikh Zubeyr.

Propaganda relies on the power of symbols. It uses strong images and violent contrast to enforce ideas. Where best might a Soviet anti-religious propaganda museum be opened but in the Cave Monastery of Kiev, the cradle of Orthodox monasticism? How ironic is it that the word propaganda was first referring to propagating faith, when Soviet propaganda targeted faith!

Scientia Vincere Tenebras

In ‘Particles Fever’, a documentary on the Higgs boson, Savas Dimopoulos discloses the reason that prompted his decision to become a physicist. As a young adult, he says, he was confused listening to extreme-right and extreme-left politicians holding contradicting opinions, yet both claiming to be true. To solve this conundrum, he “decided to focus on a field where the truth did not depend on the eloquence of the speaker, but where the truth was absolute”. For scientists, nothing is taken for granted. A scientific theory is first tested and remains valid until demonstrated otherwise. Unfortunately, such a rationale approach cannot be applied to other aspects of social and political life where opinions and decisions largely depend on personal choices and beliefs. Information falls beyond the realms of science, or does not pass Karl Popper test of falsifiability.

Propaganda and Indoctrination

In January 2017, Brunhilde Pomsel passed at the age of 106. For three years, she had been a secretary of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda. Pomsel’s job was to doctor statistics and to her grave she went protesting her innocence, claiming she knew nothing about the extermination of Jewish people. Like many others, she believed in the rhetoric of the system and her views were truncated by propaganda blinkers that she contributed to shape. Ignoring or denying reality creates a comfortable environment of self-delusion and blind peace of mind. “Repeat a lie enough time and it becomes the truth”, as Goebbels used to hammer.

To be efficient propaganda needs to be in tune with its audience, to resonate in the minds of the gullible public and to keep feeding its mental map with logical – yet biased – viewpoints. The sad news is that we are all vulnerable to propaganda as we do not have the means to validate all pieces of information. Our brain accumulates information, gradually laying out a psychological print – ‘our’ truth. We might not recall the exact details of a story but we keep a residual broad understanding of a situation or a person.

Information Noise

The information Big Bang triggered by the internet has created a gigantic infosphere that keeps expanding. The positive outcome is that our access to information has never been so easy and free. The negative aspect is that the infosphere generates noise. Huge quantities of obstreperous information are being channelled in all directions on information highways. The infosphere resembles an open canvas on which everybody is free to paint. The resulting picture is a rather chaotic impressionist piece, made of millions of info-dots or pieces of information. When looking at this infosphere, we see little harmony and many contradictions. And if we want to be heard, it is not good enough to be right; one needs to be louder than others.

“Trust me, I’m lying”

Media strategist, Ryan Holiday unveiled the dark side of content manipulation and news creation. In his book “Trust me, I’m lying”, he reveals ways to create and spread information. To survive, blogs and news outlets need to generate traffic and accumulate more page views than their competitors. Ryan Holiday explains that news makers exploit poor bloggers by paying them to post information that will increase their visibility. When an information has gained large coverage in blogs and secondary media, it attracts bigger media. Then, the information piece moves to a higher stage. Validated by major media, the piece of information enjoys stronger credibility and touches a larger audience. In this layer of the infosphere, volume of data and fast information exchange act as an echo chamber for any propaganda campaign. Once an information is out there, it gets amplifies and cannot be contained. It’s viral!

The dialectic of ‘Fake news’

Such volatile environment has increased reputational risks for companies and politicians. Smearing campaign, documents leaks, trolling can cause serious damages and major profit losses. Campaigns to besmirch individuals and politicians are daily, especially during election times. So, when an information attack (true or false) is launched, PR departments embark on swift counter-attack operations to limit damages. There is no time for evidence-based explanations or law suits, too lengthy and too complicated to offer a serious defence mechanism in information wars, where the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is completely disregarded. To mitigate the risk, the only approach is to divert the negative force onto a particular aspect of the scandal. For instance, PR specialists will distract the audience from the scandalous revelations by focusing on the origin of a leaked a document. ‘Much Ado About Nothing” simply created a smoke screen to empty any topic of its true substance.

Alternatively, the old adage remains valid: If you can’t convince them, confuse them! The expression “Fake News” is associated with President Donald Trump’s assessment of many media outlets. But “Fake News” is also a project of anti-Trump counter-propaganda launched by David Brock. The former right wing commentator turned to an influential operative in the Democratic Party, masters Hegelian dialectic. Under the lemma ‘Fake News’, we have now to understand a thesis and an anti-thesis, two statements affirming opposite content. To make sure that everybody is confused, the glamorous leader of MediaWatch has launched a ‘Fake News’ campaign to fight President Trump’s fake news!

And the giant Facebook has stepped in with its ‘disputable hashtag’ to flag Fake news and encourage fact-based information. But this attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff is not tackling the core issue. People will dispute the validity of this hashtag as a mean to frame opinions. Facebook is a commercial organization after all.

StratCom: EU vs Disinformation

Individuals, companies, States are all vulnerable to information-related risks. In November 2016, the European parliament adopted a resolution on EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against Europe by third parties, namely ISIL/Daesh and Russia. The resolution states that hostile propaganda is a threat for the EU and strategic communication constitutes a defence mechanism in this information warfare. For instance, the EU East StratCom task force publishes a weekly Review on Disinformation.

The approach has long been known in Aikido teaching: revert the energy of the slam onto the face of the assailant. Thus, it is of no surprise that the EU team working on counter-propaganda is called the samurais!

The resolution was voted but as the minority opinion points out, there is a paradox in calling for independent medias supported by the EU.

The truth is out there

At the end of the day, civilians are the prime targets and the victims in this information battlefield. Permanent mesmerising resulted in a Trust Crisis, as the 2017 Elderman Trust Barometer showed. Propaganda and counter-propaganda are equally detrimental to the truth and furthermore, they polarize the population drawn in conspiracy theories. Today, ‘Fake News’ means one thing and its opposite. How confusing! And where is the ‘Real News’ then? Hopefully, the last Hegelian stage of synthesis is yet to come. To move away from the current ‘post-truth era’, we need to bring to light the intention of the speaker. The drivers of the speakers and the motivational forces behind the narratives constitute an analytical grid to decipher the content of any given account.

Human, All Too Human!

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Ethnic War a Newfangled Pakistani Forward-policy for Afghanistan

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According to the intelligence information, Pakistan’s ISI is trying to start ethnic and maneuvering war again in Afghanistan, of which distinct objective is to refurbish the age-old enmity between the Achakzai and Noorzai tribes in the southwest zone. Besides, they want to start an ethnic war among Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns across Afghanistan, and between the northern and southern directions, thus, the prominent leaders of the Taliban, who are led by the ISI, have been entrusted with the task. As in the east and north of Afghanistan, Pashtun Taliban militants are oppressing other Non-Pashtuns, raiding their homes; however, no high-ranking Pashtun Taliban officials are preventing them because the ISI network leads this strategy. In order to revamp a civil war in Afghanistan, score of influential figures have been summoned by the Pakistani military establishment. 

The latest examples are as follows: Two days ago, the Pashtun Taliban killed the former police chief and an influential tribal leader in Mandol district of Nuristan province, which caused many emotions against Pashtuns especially about southwest zone of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, in order to afresh the years of hostility between the Noorzai and Achakzi tribes in the southwestern region of Afghanistan, the ISI network raised the issue of a mass grave by several leading Taliban militants, especially by the current governor of Kandahar province and Noorzai tribe leading leader, Haji Mohammad Yousef Wafa.

Qari Aslam Noorzai call for by Pak security forces

At a time when the former leader of the Noorzai tribe, the leading smuggler of drugs and heavy weapons in Central and South Asia, and the financial supporter of the first Taliban regime, Haji Bashar Noorzai was released from the US prison in Guantánamo. The Noorzai tribe once again became twice as strong and dominant in Afghanistan, especially in the southwest zone.  Resulting threats towards the Achakzai people, on the other hand, ISI has started rapid efforts to recommence the years of enmity between these two tribes.

Hajee Feyzullah Khan Noorzai meets Pak military Intelligence

Recently, Pakistan’s intelligence network ISI, with the help of some leading social media and high-ranking Taliban officials, has kept the issue of finding a mass grave in Kandahar province in the southwestern zone of Afghanistan broiling, namely by inducing  the blame-game. Meanwhile, local tribal leaders and residents of Spin Boldak district claim that such a grave is the grave of those who were taken out of their homes by the Taliban after August 15.  Since, they were connected to Achakzai tribe and on the other hand, they served in the security departments of the overthrown Islamic Republic of Afghanistan that is why the Taliban night raided their houses, and massively killed them.

Moreover, mass murdering Hazaras at their educational institutions via suicide bombing and meantime blowing up the worship places of Sufi-Muslims, who preach the non-violent form of Islam, while calling for De-weaponization and De-politicization of Islam.

Consequently, by applying such a forward-policy, Pakistan will achieve its fancied strategic-depth in Afghanistan, while subjugating the Afghan Nation.

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Pakistani Intelligence Agencies ignite Tribal Conflicts in Pak-Afghan Region

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According to the intelligence information, Pakistani intelligence community supported by some international rings want to once again spread dispute and disharmony among the tribes in Afghanistan and Pakistan; subsequently the centuries-old evils and wars between the tribes will once more take a new color and become fresh. Recently, rumors of the discovery of a mass grave in Kandahar province in the southwestern zone of Afghanistan are spreading; the blame for this mass murder falls on the former police chief of Kandahar province and the former leader of the Achagzai tribe, General Abdul Razaq Achagzai.  In order to afresh raising the reaction of the Norzi tribe against the Ackzai and anew the evil and war between these two tribes. Even though the current governing body of Afghanistan is completely under the control of the Noorzi tribe, because most of the high-ranking leaders of the Taliban, including the leader of the Taliban, Sheikh Haibatullah, are related to the Noorzi tribe, so there is a greater threat posed to the Achakzi tribe.

Even now, in spite of such menaces, more than 6000 Achakzi families live in Kandahar province, whose members served in the security departments under the command of General Abdul Razaq Achakzi, a staunch opponent of the Taliban.  Currently, in such a tense situation that the Taliban administration has control over Afghanistan and the head of this administration is connected to the Nurzi tribe, the harsh criticism of General Abdul Razaq Achakzai’s mass killings is logical, which can cause international and internal outcries.  As a result, the major victims will be the youths and leading tribal leaders of the Achakzai tribe.

By the advent of Taliban on August 15, 2021, in the first four months, more than 600 youths and tribal leaders from the Achakzi tribe were killed in the southwest zone of Afghanistan, while applying night operations or raids by the Taliban. The most famous case happened to the family of Haji Fida Mohammad Achakzai in Spin Boldak district. Haji Fida Muhammad Achakzai, known as Haji Fida Aka, is a leading leader of the Achakza tribe of Spin Boldak district and had close relations with the family of General Abdul Razaq Achakzai.

 When Kandahar province fell to the Taliban before August 15, the two young sons of him were killed by the Taliban on the first night, unfortunately none of the Taliban officials took any action to prevent the tragedy. Nevertheless, this time, there is a plan going on at the international level to renew the age-old differences between the Achakzai and Norzai tribes, which the international media warmly supports.  If this time the internal differences and conflicts between the Achakzai and Norzai tribes in Afghanistan get sturdier, then it will have damaging effects not only in Afghanistan, but also, serious negative measures will be taken against the Norzai under the leadership of Mahmoud Khan Achakzai, the head of the Achakzai tribe, in the Pakhtunkhwa provinces of Pakistan.

In the meantime, the decision of the Pakistani government to hand over the Pashtun areas in Pakhtunkhwa provinces to the Taliban was approved and supported by the Nurzi tribe, conversely, this action of the Pakistani government was strongly condemned by Mahmoud Khan Achakzai and PTM leader Manzoor Pashtun.

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Afghan Zarqawi is shot dead in Panjsher valley of Afghanistan

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According to intelligence information, the leading Taliban commander Maulvi Habibullah Sheeran, who was known as Zarqawi, a resident of Zhrhai District, Kandahar Province, in the southwestern zone of the Taliban was killed in Panjsher battle.

Meantime, the intelligence report indicates, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, the general military officer of Panjshir and Andrab and the deputy of the Ministry of National Defense, was injured in Panjshir on Friday, September 16 at 3:25 p.m.

Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, who is considered one of the leading and influential war commanders in the southwest zone of the Taliban, has the support of about 4,000 low-ranking and high-ranking Taliban fighters. He is one of the Taliban military commanders who, during the first mobilization of the Taliban, formed the Taliban group with the support of Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahid, the founder of the Taliban, and attracted hundreds of young men from Helmand province to the Taliban group.

When the Taliban came to power for the second time in Afghanistan, due to internal differences among the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir left the Taliban for a short time and went to his native Kajki district of Helmand province. However, due to the many efforts of the Taliban, especially Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir’s assistant and the current head of security of presidential palace  Mullah Mutaullah Mubarak, He joined the Taliban again and was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Defense.

Taliban leaders made more efforts to reunite Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir with the Taliban, because he was an influential military leader, and on the other hand, Taliban leaders were receiving reports that Mullah Qayyum Zakir wants to join ISIS against Taliban. Nevertheless, when he joined with the Taliban leaders for the second time, he was assigned the position of Deputy Minister of Defense, So, for a period, he cooperated with the Minister of Defense Maulvi Yaqoub as a military advisor in the Ministry of Defense.

 When the rumors of the fall of the northern part of Afghanistan were spread and the fighting between the NRF or the National Resistance Front and the Taliban in Panjshir and Andrab intensified, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, based on the special permission of Sheikh Haibatullah, Appointed General Military Officer of Northern Afghanistan. In addition, from September 9, under his leadership, a special military operation named Al-Fath began in Panjshir and Andarabs to clear and liberate northern Afghanistan from the fighters of the National Resistance Front.

As a result of the operation, from September 9th to September 16th, dozens of NRF fighters were also killed but the casualties of Taliban fighters are methodically shown below, although scores of Taliban fighters were destroyed.

  • The bodies of 60 to 70 Taliban fighters who were killed in the battle of Panjshir have been transferred to Uruzgan province.
  •  The dead bodies of 50 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Kandahar Province.
  • The dead bodies of 33 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Helmand Province.
  •  The dead bodies of 22 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Ghor Province.
  • The dead bodies of 11 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Takhar province.
  • The dead bodies of 6 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Kunduz Chahar Dara.
  •  The dead bodies of 12 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Zabul province.
  • The dead bodies of nine Taliban fighters have been transferred to Wardag Province.
  • The dead bodies of 10 Taliban fighters have been transferred to Dandi Ghori in Baghlan province.  

Last Friday, September 16, in the bloody battle, Mullah Qayyum Zakir, the military officer in charge of Panjshir and Andrab, was seriously injured and eight of his bodyguards, who were residents of Helmand and Uruzgan provinces, were killed. Mullah Qayyum Zakir was transferred to the 400-bed hospital in Kabul at 10 o’clock in the evening on September 16, and former Taliban doctor Atiqullah was invited to Kabul from Al-Khair Hospital of Balochistan province of Pakistan for treatment.

There is a bloody war going on in the north of Afghanistan and around 300 al-Fatih forces are going to Panjshir from Kabul tonight and may reach tomorrow. Meanwhile, in Vienna, the plan for the formation of a new military and political movement was announced in a three-day meeting of the anti-Taliban political officials of the former government of Afghanistan. Moreover, based on that military plan, after dividing Afghanistan into five major parts, the political and military leaders of each zone will start preparing their organizations against the Taliban, and they will use such political and military tactics as the Taliban used against the government of the Republic of Afghanistan during the last 20 years of resistance.

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