The recent 26 March 08 RUSI conference, "Countering Asymmetric Taliban Strategies in Afghanistan", covered some interesting ground. Normally it wouldn’t take me so long to generate a post-event write-up, but events, as always, conspire. I’d also usually do a much more thorough job of it, but in this case, I spent more time listening than taking notes, and I missed the last session of the day. The speakers were all interesting, but I thought the briefs given by Antonio Giustozzi, Dave Sloggett, Ian Tunnicliffe, and Laura Winter were especially fascinating.
As with all RUSI events, the best parts were in the off-the-record discussions (which I won’t get into), and I think I learned as much from audience comments as I did from the speakers. The key messages that I took away from the day were that the Taliban are doing it better than we are, and that while all politics might not necessarily be local, the details needed to defeat certain types of problems certainly are. That might sound trite, but obviously the need is being felt to drive home the message – references to ground-level perspectives, granularity of information, and human terrain certainly reinforced the point.