'Cultural Ignorance'

By Sebastian Sprenger / March 12, 2010 at 5:00 AM

As much as the idea of social network analysis is en vogue in defense circles, officials at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization still have a lot to learn in that department, according to the outfit's new boss.

Familial and tribal relationships in Afghanistan, for example, are “very, very foreign to most of us Westerners,” Army Lt. Gen. Michael Oates told defense bloggers today. “Fundamentally, our challenge with social networking in Afghanistan and in Iraq is still driven by significant cultural ignorance,” he said. “We have a long way to go.”

The assessment comes as U.S. coalition forces a face sharp increase in the number of IEDs planted on the roads of Afghanistan, Oates said. For JIEDDO, the point of using social network analysis techniques is to identify, track and neutralize individuals who are key in insurgent bomb emplacement operations.