Tactical Strategic Communication! Steve Tatham

Commander Steve Tatham profiles General Mackay’s approach with 52 Brigade in Afghanistan, and widens out to a discussion of ISAF, Al-Qa’ida and Taliban strategic communication, providing valuable insights into the competing approaches, and in particular efforts to engage with Arab media outlets and embedded journalists. Examining the case study of the battle for Musa Qala, he argues that communication must be a part of the commander’s toolkit, and that kinetic and non-kinetic approaches combined will always be more effective than the use of force alone.

He writes of Musa Qala:

Although influence permeated every aspect of the Brigade’s deployment, it was the town of Musa Qala that was to prove its testing ground. The eventual decision to take the town came as a result of Mullah Salam, a Taliban leader from the Musa Qal’eh area, contacting the Coalition with a view to reconciliation. Thus began Operation Mar Karardad. From the outset Operation Mar Karardad would be led by the Afghan Nation Army – reinforcing the idea that Afghans were providing their own solutions, assisted by ISAF. Operational Secrecy (OPSEC) was traded for influence. In advance massive efforts went into developing post-operations stability, in particular ‘quick win’ projects that would provide employment, income and demonstrable change. Concurrently the coalition began a gradual approach of psychological operations on the Taliban, including the phased deployments of manoeuvre units, beginning with Warrior companies, around the town, with pauses in between to allow information operations to take place and have an effect. Commanders undertook sustained shura activity with locals and tribal elders to inform them of what was happening and to begin the process of choosing a post operation Afghan district governor and council. As Stephen Grey notes, the British Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles told the Afghan President (already deeply concerned by the growing number of civilian casualties) that: “We are not talking here of a major military operation to take Musa Qala….The idea is to let the population of Musa Qala come to us”.

The article, entitled  ‘Tactical Strategic Communication! Placing Informational Effect at the Centre of Command’ was first published in the British Army Review, and then republished by Small Wars Journal.

The full article is available here.

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