Return of a King: A Cautionary Narrative for Afghanistan

by Steven R. Corman Here is a quiz:  In what South Asian war did a country invade to pursue its own interests, overthrow an existing government and establish a client regime, encounter effective resistance by local insurgents despite the superiority of its army, fight to a stalemate, and withdraw when resources and interest waned back home?  If your answer did not include the British East India Company (EIC) invasion of Afghanistan in the 19th century, […] Read more »

Narrating the Exit from Afghanistan

by Steven R. Corman With the United States and NATO set to withdraw all or most forces from Afghanistan in 2014, a key question is: How do we want to be remembered for our efforts there? The current narrative of the Afghanistan war is a mess. Yet the narrative of the war, as history tells it, will affect future domestic support for counterinsurgency operations and our credibility with local populations where conflicts take place. If […] Read more »

The Difference between Story and Narrative

by Steven R. Corman A presentation by John Hagel, Chairman of Deloitte, at the recent SXSW conference has been getting a lot of play in the blogosphere.  In it, Hagel advocates differentiating story from narrative.  While he is right to draw the distinction and gets some of the differences right, he misses some key features of narratives that explain why they can be so persuasive. In his presentation, Hagel notes the power of stories for […] Read more »

President Obama Speaks at the End of the G20 Summit

After two days of policy discussions and meetings with leaders from the world's major economies, President Obama held a press conference to discuss his takeaways from the G20 Summit. The ongoing economic crisis in Europe was a central focus ... Read more »

Extremists Rebrand the Conflict in Afghanistan

by Chris Lundry Indonesian extremist site Prisoner of Joy recently posted the announcement by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan that operations against the United States and its allies will now be named Al Farooq Operations. From the post: The invaders should be made aware that the names of these operations are not merely accidental rather they have a special meaning and interpretation. This new name, however, may carry broader connotations of conflict within the Muslim […] Read more »

“We are All Afghans” in Iran

by Jeffry R. Halverson The Arab Spring showed the world how social media can help organize mass political dissent. In the cases of Tunisia and Egypt, single issues coalesced online into far broader and diverse campaigns that toppled ruling regimes. Recently, outside of the Arab world, discriminatory government policies  in Iran against Afghans have come to light. Decried by critics as overt state-backed racism, it is a scandalous hot-button issue that the rulers of the […] Read more »

Cooking the Books

by Steven R. Corman The CSC has an article in the current issue of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism on casualty inflation by the Taliban in the Afghanistan conflict.  The abstract follows, and the full text is available here (subscription). Cooking the Books: Strategic Inflation of Casualty Reports by Extremists in the Afghanistan Conflict Chris Lundry, Steven R. Corman, R. Bennett Furlow, & Kirk W. Errickson Islamist extremists in Afghanistan and elsewhere are exaggerating their […] Read more »

The Aftermath of Another Affront

by Chris Lundry (with R. Bennett Furlow) It did not take long for the images of the US Marines urinating on corpses of Taliban fighters to go viral. A moment of lapsed judgment will circulate as long as anyone is interested in seeing it, certainly long after short attention spans move on to other things and the fallout – including, presumably, disciplinary actions for the soldiers – settles. Predictably, extremist sites have been all over […] Read more »

Ten Years Later, Our Narrative Remains Murky to Afghans

by Steven R. Corman Last Friday the always-excellent PBS Newshour ran a story that left me floored.  It featured interviews with several ordinary Afghans who were handed pictures of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. Of a dozen or so people asked, only one man (a police chief in Marjah) knew the story behind the pictures. All but one person said they had never seen the pictures before and did not know what they represented. […] Read more »