The Corner

The Taliban’s Propaganda Coup

As I understand it, a core teaching of counterinsurgency doctrine is that winning hearts and minds in war zones requires a pervasive perception that the authorities will prevail. Ideology and aspiration matter, but few will be willing to risk their lives and those of their family for what they perceive to be a losing cause. In that regard, a new poll out of Southern Afghanistan brings sobering news:

Half of 17,000 men surveyed in April in southern Afghanistan “chillingly” said that they believe that the Taliban will triumph against NATO forces, a think tank said in a report Monday.

Eighty percent of respondents also said that they are preoccupied with trying to feed their families in the war-torn nation, according to the poll by The Senlis Council, an international think tank.

The Taliban’s “very clever propaganda” tells young Afghan men that NATO does not care about them, and is only concerned about waging their own war, said Norine MacDonald, founder and lead field researcher for the group.

Poppy eradication comes in for more severe (and deserved) condemnation. It’s fair to point out, by the way, that the survey findings would probably have been less depressing had women respondents been part of the sample. It’s telling, though, that they were not, or could not be.

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