A US military officer quoted in the excellent report by the International Crisis Group into Taliban propaganda operations released a few days ago says, "unfortunately, we tend to view information operations as supplementing kinetic [fighting] operations. For the Taliban, however, information objectives tend to drive kinetic operations … virtually every kinetic operation they undertake is specifically designed to influence attitudes or perceptions".
This is strategic thought of extreme novelty, and in no small way helps explain the relative success of the Taliban so far in Afghanistan. In terms of a communication strategy it certainly goes well beyond the clumsy international coalition efforts which have remained largely focused on the international audience. Western press officers’ ability to talk to the Afghan public is hindered by their minimal language skills and the cultural gaps that separate them, and remains very limited.
Equally, the idea that effect on populations and thus should be determined to a significant degree by the exigencies of modern media technology and by journalists is anathema to most western soldiers, most of whom see the press as a necessary evil at best.
The Taliban by contrast are quite happy to shape their military strikes according to the media demand. They know that spectacular attacks such as that on Kabul’s Serena hotel or the repeated attempts on President Karzai’s life are effective.