Monday, November 7, 2016

Summary of Findings: Role Playing (4 out of 5 Stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University in October 2016 regarding Role Playing as an Analytic Technique specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use structured data.

Role-playing is a method that prompts the participants to assume a character within a given situation. The idea is that the participant will research the motivations and desires of one of the characters within the situation. This knowledge allows the participant to gain insight into how that character will act. This translates into a potential course of action for that character which could correlate with a real world outcome.

  • Has a lot of research that supports effectiveness
  • Allows analysts to better understand the motives of their target
  • Is flexible in the type of scenarios that can be simulated and analyzed
  • Is possible to perform in a timely manner
  • Relatively easy to set up with little cost

  • Dependent on adaptation of an individual to a role.
  • Exercise needs the right balance of giving enough information to describe internal motivations of characters being role-played, but not so detailed that the outcome is basically predetermined.
  • Must be structured correctly or results may go awry (must have proper nuances for characters or sufficient background to establish the role properly)
  • Requires a positive attitude of participants for exercise to be successful
  • Identify a topic of interest that requires study for which a basic understanding exists
  • Identify the roles that require analysis
  • Identify actors to participate in the role playing experiment
  • Provide the actors with their background information about their characters
  • Allow actors time to absorb their characters background info
  • Provide the actors with the scenario for which they are to act out
  • Act out the scenario as the actor believes their role player would act in real life
  • Complete the scenario and discuss the findings
  • Run the scenario again with different actions taken by participants
  • Complete and discuss findings
  • Repeat as necessary until results indicate which outcomes are most likely

Application of Technique:

The analysts were given literature prior to class about the Afghanistan opium trade, CIA and DEA’s operations in Afghanistan to begin conceptualizing what they needed to know about the issue to assess the relationship of increased violence between Kandahar and Kabul.

In class participants were given their roles: Taliban Warlord, a High Value Target (HVT) in Pakistan, an Afghan poppy harvester, a CIA Case Officer (CO), and a DEA FAST member. Each of the individuals learned their roles in five-minutes. Then for 15-minutes the participants interacted in their roles and gathered information for each other. Finally, at the conclusion of the role-playing timeframe the participants created a presentation and debrief a key findings to the proctors of the session.

See below for descriptions:

Afghanistan Drug and IED Events and US Countermeasures
To develop insight into how the relationships between each of the role-playing components respond to each other in hopes of teasing out further understanding of the Afghan drug trade and its relationship to increased violence between Kandahar and Kabul.
In the news recently there has been increased activity between US forces and the Taliban. This role-playing exercise looks to provide further understanding on how the different actors in the situation would respond to each other time with a realistic backdrop.
Exercise Parameters

        Time: 20 minutes
                                5-minutes to interpret identity and begin building persona
                                15-minutes to converse in their roles
                                5-minute presentation/debrief of key findings and possible link analysis
                                            -Afghan perspective
                                            -US perspective
This will work best if each participant has about a 3-4-minute conversation with each other in their roles about the situation they are all in. Remember the US forces (the CIA CO and the DEA – FAST officer) will speak to each other differently than the conversations that are had between the (Taliban Warlord, the Poppy Harvester, and the HVT).

Taliban Warlord
The “Taliban Warlord” has been building out a network of operators across a variety of settlements connecting Kandahar and Kabul. This same route has been frequently utilized for ground movements by conventional US forces. Increases in IED activity have been linked to profits made by poppy cultivation in Kandahar. The warlord is the chief in overseeing the poppy cultivation.
Poppy Field Harvester
The “Poppy Field Harvester” does not know of his fields’ attachment to the overall IED effort against the US conventional forces. He comes from limited means although worked as an interpreter for the UK military for a time in the mid-2000s. His ethnic identity is in direct conflict with the “Taliban Warlord’s” however, has never met the “Taliban Warlord” before.
Known High Value Target (HVT) in Pakistan

Located in Quetta, Pakistan the “HVT” has communicated on numerous instances (both in-person and over radio) with the Afghan located “Taliban Warlord.” The “HVT” has been known to use clan ties to cross the border easily. Is well respected in the region for his charitable work and has extensive access to a network of IED builders in Pakistan.
CIA Case Officer (CO)
The “CIA CO” has been stationed at the Kabul safe house and Bagram Airbase for just under a two-years. She runs four sources that have informed her that the “Poppy Field Harvester” works for the “Taliban Warlord.” Various other intelligence sources (i.e. – SIGINT, MASINT, GEOINT, etc.) have corroborated the fact that the “Poppy Field Harvester’s” crop has been seen being shipped to a network of settlements between Kandahar and Kabul.
DEA – Foreign-Deployed Advisory and Support Team Member (FAST)
The “DEA – FAST Member” is on his third tour under five years. On his second tour he was in charge of processing transportation running through the southern Afghan border. On one instance he interdicted a vehicle which was concealing IED components and had traces of poppy residue in the trunk. The seized cargo and communications equipment (i.e. – radios) tied back to the “HVT” in Pakistan. He continues his work as a Counter-narcotics officer and tactical police operations.

For Further Information:

Role-Playing Wikipedia:

World of Warcraft:

POD Network:

Dungeons & Dragons:


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