Ugandan military forces mature skills in psychological operation to counter VEOs
Combined Joint Task Force Djibouti-Horn of Africa
JINJA, Uganda –As violent extremist organizations (VEOs) continue to conduct violent acts in East Africa, the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UDPF) are working with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) to mature their use of psychological operations to counter these atrocities.
Since 2015, CJTF-HOA personnel assigned to military information support operations (MISO), an element under the information operations section, have been conducting a four-phase course to train the UDPF in a broad range of nonviolent means to secure objectives through influencing attitude and behaviors.
This training has empowered the UPDF by increasing its toolkit of capabilities as it continues to assist the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in its mission to successfully transition security responsibilities from AMISOM to Somali National Security Forces.
Each phase of training spans approximately one year, and under each phase are three distinct parts.
Most recently, Soldiers of the 346th Tactical Psychological Operations Company (Airborne), out of Columbus, Ohio, have been facilitating the third phase of the program for UPDF members at the Uganda Senior Command and Staff College.
“We increase AMISOM capabilities by certifying UPDF instructors on MISO, thereby creating a self-sustaining program in the UPDF,” said Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Hurst, the tactical detachment’s noncommissioned officer in charge. “We use a training program that takes the UPDF from being trained by U.S. forces to being trained by their own forces.”
According to Hurst, the goal upon reaching phase four, “is to have the UPDF be self-sustaining and able to teach and implement psychological operations in support of AMISOM, as well as other operations against violent extremist organizations.”
Each training cycle covers tactical MISO operations, including the product development and dissemination, as well as the military decision-making process to psychological operations.
“As UPDF teaches the classes, the U.S. assists with any questions and helps the instructors prepare for the course,” said Hurst. “Also, if there is something that requires clarification, we help to elaborate on that.”
The four phases of the military-to-military training program consist of the following:
- Phase one is U.S. led and U.S. assisted;
- Phase two is U.S. taught and UPDF assisted;
- Phase three is UPFD teaching and U.S. assisted;
- Phase four is UPDF teaching and UPDF assisting, while the U.S. serves as an observer, controller and trainer.
According to Maj. Allan Kitanda, UDPF Psychological Operations staff officer, “MISO is military information support operations; it’s a nonviolent aspect of warfare. Instead of destroying humanity, destroying buildings, destroying innocents, …you are able to soften the ground by convincing people to be on your side.”
Kitanda said that the U.S. contribution to the mission of neutralizing and containing VEOs like al-Shabaab and Boko Haram has been “immense.” He asserted that the U.S. government’s participation in cultivating the UDPF’s psychological operations is critical in preserving civility amid necessary kinetic forces used by AMISOM to battle VEOs.
The U.S. Department of State, CJTF-HOA, UPDF and the host-nation government are all active contributors in the training to bring the Ugandan forces to the self-sustaining fourth phase. U.S. forces project certifying all UPDF trainers by the close of 2018; but, the intention is for both nations’ militaries to continue training together beyond that date and learn from each other’s best MISO practices. As the region continues to contend with multiple VEOs, a sustained international working relationship will only further efforts of global stability.
Hurst stated, “This is an important operation because it drives a better understanding of the operational environment. Through this, we can better understand our adversary, as well as better help the neutral populous affected by military operations.”
The ability to understand the operational environment and work toward long-term solutions remains a critical component in deterring VEOs and other adversaries who create instability throughout the African continent.
As a subordinate unit of U.S. Africa Command, CJTF-HOA uses the tool of military-to-military programs and operations, coordinated with the U.S. Department of State, to assist African nations strengthen their defense capabilities. U.S. AFRICOM recognizes that reduction in security threats throughout Africa ultimately reduces the threat to U.S. citizens at home and abroad.
“Violent extremist organizations in East Africa have proven to be a viable threat to long-term stability in the world,” said Hurst. “Throughout the training, we work together with our partner forces – such as the UPDF – to create a more stable East Africa.”