Changing the message: improving the prospects for conflict resolution in Afghanistan


  • Tim Foxley

Publish date: 2015-01-19

Report number: FOI-R--4050--SE

Pages: 44

Written in: English


  • Afghanistan
  • Taliban
  • ISAF
  • messaging


A Taliban-led insurgency has grown in strength and confidence from faltering beginnings after the Taliban regime was ejected in late 2001. International efforts to achieve military victory have failed and opposition groups under the Taliban umbrella remain in the field. With the withdrawal of international military forces now well underway and the conflict largely unresolved, there is a high risk of the civil war intensifying in the years to come. Peace talks have made little headway towards conflict resolution and the prospects for a political settlement continue to look distant - with neither side fully ready. The negative environment in media and other public information sources - communications, claims, announcements and propaganda - is significantly undermining the prospects for peace talks and reconciliation by creating distrust, disinformation and hostility. For talks to work, this messaging environment needs to be changed in order to transform the conflict. Somewhere between the poisonous and damaging propaganda war and credible political dialogue there is an unexplored area of communication and information dissemination for the international community to investigate. It involves engaging with the opposition groups, including the Taliban, on political, social and economic themes that might guide, shape, coax and encourage them to engage more constructively. Understanding what the various military and political groups want remains difficult and their communications hard to understand. But there are indicators of "reach out" on occasion and these should be engaged with intelligently and proactively by, for example, the United Nations, but also other neutral organisations. A combination of non-confrontational messages and confidence building measures suggested in this report are intended to act, not as talks in their own right, but as a precursor to talks, to make talks more effective - and sustainable - when they do take place. Public, intelligent and sensitive discourse with the armed opposition groups should aim to guide them away from the language and deeds of violence and to engage more on political, social and economic issues.