The Obama administration is starting a broad effort in Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban from using radio stations and Web sites to intimidate civilians and plan attacks, according to senior U.S. officials.
As part of the classified effort, American military and intelligence personnel are working to jam the unlicensed radio stations in Pakistan's lawless regions on the Afghanistan border that Taliban fighters use to broadcast threats and decrees.
U.S. personnel are also trying to block the Pakistani chat rooms and Web sites that are part of the country's burgeoning extremist underground. The Web sites frequently contain videos of attacks and inflammatory religious material that attempts to justify acts of violence.
The push takes the administration deeper into "psychological operations," which attempt to influence how people see the U.S., its allies and its enemies. Officials involved with the new program argue that psychological operations are a necessary part of reversing the deterioration of stability in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Taliban and other armed groups have carried out a wave of attacks in the two countries. U.S. officials believe the Taliban enjoy an advantage by being able to freely communicate threats and decrees.
In Pakistan, Taliban leaders use unlicensed FM stations to recite the names of local Pakistani government officials, police officers and other figures who have been marked for death by the group. Hundreds of people named in the broadcasts have later been killed, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.
"The Taliban aren't just winning the information war — we're not even putting up that much of a fight," said a senior U.S. official in Afghanistan. "We need to make it harder for them to keep telling the population that they're in control and can strike at any time."
The new efforts were described by an array of U.S. officials, several with firsthand knowledge of the technologies and tactics used to block the radio stations and Web sites. The Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment.