The Taliban’s information warfare

A comparative analysis of NATO Information Operations (Info Ops) and Taliban Information Activities. by Warrant Officer Thomas Elkjer Nissen, Subject Matter Expert (SME) on Psychological Operations, Information Operations, and Strategic Communications. Faculty of Strategy and Military Operations (FSMO), Royal Danish Defence College (RDDC)

The Taliban uses propaganda, contact to local leaders, posture and sometimes assistance to the local population as means. In other words PSYOPS, KLE (Key Leader Engagement), PPP (Presence, Posture and Profile), and CIMIC-like measures, along with OPSEC and PA, supported by the use of physical destruction. The Taliban does not distinguish between the different activities, and they have specific no policies or doctrines for it. They just use the different measures to create the effects they want.

The Taliban often use “Night Letters” to intimidate and coerce. These are not like ISAF PSYOPS products, as they are not mass-produced newspapers, handbills or leaflets, but rather unique, often handwritten messages, delivered to a specifi c person with the intent of influencing his behaviour. The Taliban also use Radio broadcasts to infl uence strategically.

However most Taliban information activities involve KLE and PPP, especially face-to-face (F2F) communication with local leaders and elders to ‘persuade’ them not to support ISAF or the Afghan Government (GIRoA). Taliban PPP is unlike that of ISAF, which seek to send positive signals, whereas the Taliban signal their determination to act violently to intimidate those that do not support them, e.g. by executing locals perceived to have been supporting ISAF or GIRoA. The Taliban also use tapes, CD, videos and DVDs to get their messages across. These products are available across Afghanistan and in the wider area at bazaars and markets. The Taliban target the wider world opinion in general through the international media, including satellite and cable TV and the Internet, although many websites are in Arabic, Urdu and Pashto as opposed to English. They also upload video clips to YouTube.


This is good stuff, particularly this part:

the Taliban are often on international media with their messages within 60 minutes of a major event, considerably faster than ISAF can counter the Taliban’s messages, due to the requirement to investigate, confirm and gain approval through the chain of command before it can release a press statement to rebut or counter Taliban’s claims.

Time also has another role to play in regard to another of the Taliban messages, as they can simply say that “ISAF have got the watch – but the Taliban have got the time” and they are, probably, right. ISAF are working under the pressure of an “instant result culture” from its home audiences and political expectations of visible progress in Afghanistan. Both sides are aware that ISAF, and the wider International Community, has to produce visible results quickly whilst the Taliban have the luxury of time on their side, conducting “delaying actions” through asymmetric warfare in the hope that ISAF and the IC will run out of “political time”. The Taliban exploit this time by stating that they will still be there when ISAF and the IC pull out, causing a reluctance amongst local audiences to commit to GIRoA, ISAF and IC political projects. This strategy makes sense; ISAF have an “exit strategy”, whilst the Taliban have a “staying strategy”. The Taliban must keep local audiences on their side, or at the very least keep them neutral, until IC runs out of political time. In the end it comes down to who can win the support of the local population, which makes the population the centre of gravity for both sides.

You and I can speak out against the “instant results culture” and explain to the people within our circles of influence how our impatience empowers the Bad Guys. We can also point out to all who will listen every time the English-language Main Stream Media carries the Taliban’s water.

H/T:  Phil Taylor



Filed under PSYOP

2 responses to “The Taliban’s information warfare

  1. WO Nissen writes in English vastly better than I write in Danish.