Winning the Battle for Hearts and Minds: Operationalizing Cultural Awareness During Stability Operations, Sholtis, Tadd, 9781288417032


While the US government recognizes the paramount importance of winning the cooperation of civilian populations where it is conducting stability operations, its military, has not maintained detailed knowledge of local cultures in potential areas of responsibility or widely disseminated cultural knowledge to deployed forces. A review of the current situation in Southwest Asia and a case study of US activities in Afghanistan before and after the Taliban’s fall highlights missed opportunities to fully engage the Afghan people through ignorance of their beliefs, customs and especially their tribal nature. This led to a resurgence of the Taliban in remote areas and difficulty for the Afghan government to consolidate power. Recommendations to resolve this shortfall in future operations include the need to develop a culturally relevant strategic communication plan disseminated to all echelons, the de-compartmenting of cultural knowledge, the incorporation of a cultural dimension in the intelligence preparation of the operational environment, dedication of intelligence specialists for the analysis of cultural considerations, wider training on specific cultures for deploying personnel, and the use of chaplains as cultural emissaries in stability operations. The cultural dimension has been an item of interest for conflict after conflict and yet the military seems to lack the ability to operationalize this fundamental concept until far too much blood has been needlessly spilled.

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