CIA planned to spin Afghan war for public approval

A leaked document shows that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has built a media strategy to garner popular support among Europeans for continuing the war in Afghanistan. The strategy was prescribed to soften public opposition to the war ahead of a projected increase in civilian and NATO casualties in Afghanistan this spring and summer.

The document outlines a plan to alter public opinion by dramatising the consequences for France and Germany of a NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. It deliberately seeks to place a positive spin on concerns previously expressed by the French and German public about the war. It also seeks to co-opt President Barack Obama's approval among Europeans in matters international.

The document, which was distributed today by information sharing website Wikileaks, is dated 11 March 2010. It outlines CIA concerns that "a bloody summer in Afghanistan" could turn "passive French and German dislike of their troop presence into active and politically potent hostility".

The report goes on to claim "tailoring messaging could forestall or at least contain backlash" by Western European publics.

Country-specific Information strategies are suggested to deal with a potential backlash.

The report suggests that the French public could be influenced by "Focusing on a message that ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) benefits civilians and citing examples of concrete gains could limit and perhaps even reverse opposition to the mission".

The report goes on to say "Such tailored messages could tap into acute French concern for civilians and refugees".

The report suggests "messaging that dramatizes the potential adverse consequences of an ISAF defeat for Afghan civilians could leverage French (and other European) guilt for abandoning them".

It is suggested that a German population "worried about [the] price and principle of [the] ISAF mission" might be influenced by "dramatiz[ing] the consequences of a NATO defeat for specific German interests [...] For example, messages that illustrate how a defeat in Afghanistan could heighten Germany's exposure to terrorism, opium and refugees might help make the war more salient to skeptics".

Describing a German "allergy" to armed conflict,  the report suggests "underscoring the contradiction between German pessimism about ISAF and Afghan optimism about the mission's progress could challenge skeptics assertions that the mission is a waste of resources".

The report also suggests that French and German confidence in President Barack Obama's "ability to handle foreign affairs in general and Afghanistan in particular suggest they would be receptive to his direct affirmation of their importance to the ISAF mission-and sensitive to direct expressions of disappointment in allies who do not help".

Download the leaked document here

More to follow on this story as information becomes available