Sunday, June 14, 2015

Islamic State winning the social media war, State Dept. says

By Kellan Howell - The Washington Times - Saturday, June 13, 2015

An internal State Department memo reveals that top officials don’t have confidence in the U.S. strategy against the Islamic State social media propaganda machine.

State Department officials have said that “countermessaging” the Islamic State is one of the pillars of the strategy to defeat the terrorist group. The memo concludes, however, that the Sunni radical group’s social media strategy has “trumped” U.S. efforts, The New York Times reported Friday.

The memo — composed by Richard A. Stengel, the State Department’s under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs and a former managing editor of Time magazine — was written for Secretary of State John Kerry after a conference of Western and Arab officials in Paris this month on countering the Islamic State.

It also reveals discourse in international discussions between American officials and other allies in the fight against the Islamic State. A “messaging working group” of officials from the U.S., Britain, and the United Arab Emirates “has not really come together,” the memo reads, The New York Times reported.

“The U.A.E. is reticent, the Brits are overeager, and the working group structure is confusing,” the memo says. “When we convened meetings with our counterparts, I am certain we all heard about various initiatives for the first time.”

The bleak assessment comes as the Obama administration faces broader criticism over a flailing military campaign in Iraq where Islamic State fighters recently took over the city of Ramadi and have occupied Falluja and Mosul for over a year.

State Department spokesman John Kirby told The New York Times that the memo “acknowledges what we’ve made clear in the past: We must do a better job at discrediting ISIL in the information space.”

“The memo is an assessment not of the larger counter-ISIL messaging effort, but how the small group of coalition members communicates internally and externally,” Mr. Kirby said, adding that Mr. Kerry would “take into consideration” the recommendations made in the memo, The newspaper reported.

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