Monday, January 25, 2010

$250 Million to Counter Extremist Voices in Af/Pak Region

This one is extracted from the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Af/Pak Regional Stabilization Strategy (January 2010) released last week:

The Taliban and al-Qaeda use information as a weapon, dominating the information space. While our previous strategy focused largely on traditional public diplomacy and communications tools, we are now elevating our communications efforts in importance and innovation. New programs will empower Afghans and Pakistanis to challenge the extremist narrative and offer their own vision for Afghanistan and Pakistan’s future. A sustained media and outreach strategy will set the record straight, highlight key civilian efforts, and explain our larger strategic rationale for the fight in Afghanistan, as well as our strategic support for Pakistan, to the Afghan and Pakistani peoples.

Key Initiatives

Expanded Media Outreach: We will respond more quickly to misinformation, serve as a source of credible information for journalists, conduct polls on key issues, and expand training of Afghan and Pakistani journalists in the United States. We will actively build our partnerships with all parts of Afghan and Pakistani society, including youth, civil society and nongovernmental organizations, and political actors and institutions at all levels.

Building Communications Capacity: Our support will help the Afghan and Pakistani governments communicate effectively with their people, and help people better communicate with one another. We will also leverage new technologies to support people with SMS services, mobile banking, telemedicine, and mobile micro-finance. And we will help build media infrastructure (radio, television, and cell towers) to carry communications into underserved areas dominated by extremist voices.  
  • In Afghanistan, we are supporting the expansion of the Government Media Information Center in Kabul and an additional 16 provincial satellite offices. We will also enhance communications capabilities in core ministries by providing mentoring, public affairs training, and exchange opportunities for communications personnel. 
  • In Pakistan we have helped launch Humari Awaz, Our Voice, the first mobile based social network empowering Pakistan’s 95 million mobile users with a voice. Our Voice mobile users harness mobile phones to instantly share news and information with a network of friends and followers via SMS messages. In five weeks, 20 million messages were sent and over 150,000 people enrolled, with an average of 3,000 new followers joining daily.

Taking Back the Airwaves: We are empowering indigenous voices to drown out extremist propaganda. We will expand local radio coverage and support creation of public, private and university radio stations. Using local partners, we will support distribution of content on all media, and use cell technology to help people build communities and get critical information.

Strengthening People to People Ties: Strengthening ties between all aspects of American, Afghan, and Pakistani society will deepen our long-term partnership. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, we are enhancing educational opportunities, including teacher training and English language training. Secretary Clinton’s three-day visit to Pakistan in October 2009, much of which was covered live on Pakistani television, underscored our new approach by engaging broad segments of Pakistani society in honest dialogue. This approach will be reinforced with a new public diplomacy and communications effort that will feature: greater engagement with Pakistani media; increased academic and business exchanges; and more robust outreach to the Pakistani-American community through the American Pakistan Foundation and similar organizations. We are also increasing professional, educational, and cultural exchanges.

  • 24-hour cell coverage is restored in areas of the South and East of Afghanistan. 
  • Afghans and Pakistanis utilize radio and other media platforms to criticize extremists and hold government officials accountable. 
  • Enemy propaganda is significantly decreased – in quantity and effectiveness – by July 2011. 
  • The number of people-to-people exchanges is doubled by 2012. 
  • U.S. disapproval ratings in Pakistan decrease, with Pakistanis’ increasingly convinced that the United States is committed to a long-term partnership on an array of issues, not just counterterrorism.

Resource Requirements
Resources available to meet requirements from FY 2010 and prior year appropriations: approximately $250 million.

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