Taliban narratives (2019)

the use and power of stories in the Afghanistan conflict

in: Oxford scholarship online

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Why has the Taliban been so much more effective in presenting messages that resonate with the Afghan population than the US, the Afghan government & their allies? This text, based on years of field research & the assessment of hundreds of original source materials, examines the information operations & related narratives of Afghan insurgents, especially the Afghan Taliban, & investigates how the Taliban has won the information war. Taliban messaging, wrapped in the narrative of jihad, is both to the point & in tune with its target audiences. On the other hand, the US & its Kabul allies committed a basic messaging blunder, failing to present narratives that spoke to or, often, were even understood by their target audiences. Importantly, the text systematically explains why the US lost this 'battle of the story' in Afghanistan, & argues that this defeat may have cost the US the entire war, despite its conventional & technological superiority.