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US Leaflets Target Afghan People - 2001-11-10

U.S. air forces operating over Afghanistan are dropping more than just bombs and emergency food rations. They are also dropping leaflets and broadcasting special radio messages to the Afghan people.

Since the U.S. air campaign began just over a month ago, over seven million leaflets have been air dropped into Afghan territory during some 20 special flights.

Among the latest leaflets is one showing a Taleban soldier beating a group of women with a metal rod. The inscription, in both Dari and Pashto, asks: "Is this the future you want for your women and children?"

Another is split into two groups of images - one group depicting the execution of a woman, a starving child and terrorist leader Osama bin Laden while the other group shows smiling families, a child holding a bowl full of fruit and women studying. The simple message sandwiched between the images is "You Choose." These leaflets - together with similar radio messages broadcast from special airborne radio stations - have been crafted by a small team of Afghanistan experts with the U.S. Army's psychological warfare unit at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

In a radio interview, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says it is impossible to measure the effectiveness of the effort thus far.

But he does note U.S. bombing has taken Taleban radio off the air.

"We're not very free to take public opinion polls in Afghanistan, as you know, so it's hard to measure those things," Mr. Wolfowitz said. "I think we're pretty confident that we're the only ones doing the broadcasting now. We've been able to take them off the air. That is a good thing."

But Mr. Wolfowitz also calls for patience, noting the effort to sway opinion in Afghanistan is heavily linked to events on the ground.

"I would say it's just too early to tell, but one has to recognize that the best information campaign in the world is also going to be influenced by facts on the ground; I think as the opponents of the Taleban begin to make more progress, you will begin to see more people get off the fence and move over to the side that we want them to be on and that's another reason why this takes time and takes some patience," he said.

In the meantime, the special U.S. radio broadcasts and leaflet drops will continue. Pentagon officials note over 16 million leaflets have been printed so far and fewer than half that number have been dropped.