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Vaughan Bell - The Observer

How to Win Wars By Influencing People's Behaviour

Social influence has traditionally been conceptualised as winning hearts and minds, but many military thinkers are now focused on a new approach informed by the behavioural sciences. A milestone in this approach has been the book Behavioural Conflict by Major General Andrew Mackay and Commander Steve Tatham, who co-ordinated influence-informed British military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The book has become a core text for a new generation of officers and argues that changing behaviour – not beliefs or perceptions – is the key to military influence. This is an alternative to the propaganda or public relations model that says that getting the target audience to share your beliefs and understand key information is central, despite well-established research showing that beliefs and attitudes are relatively poor predictors of behaviour.............

Scotland on Sunday

Mackay never intended to wind up trying to rebuild the Iraqi police force. He arrived in Baghdad in February, thinking he might stay a couple of months before moving back to Edinburgh. Somehow, along the way, he ended up with one of the most difficult jobs imaginable. The police force was in a mess when he arrived. Some officers preferred to sit around their stations eating food, drinking tea and fizzy drinks, and chatting. No-one had the faintest idea how many of them there were, or what they did. Many didn’t do very much at all.

Without an effective police force, coalition commanders began to realise, there was no hope of restoring law and order. They decided to set up a special unit to train a new Iraqi police service capable of taking on the job. And they turned to Mackay to run it................

Richard Bath, Scotland on Sunday

Behavioural Conflict is a blueprint for a new way to wage war, one based around the wielding of what Mackay and co-author Steve Tatham characterise as “influence”. This means that everything you do is designed to win over the civilian population rather than simply killing as many of the enemy as possible.

In an era of declining military spending, when the Western world moves away from expensive boots on the ground and surgical strikes, and towards working with domestic political movements and UN-led peace-keeping missions, the less-costly “soft power” first championed by Mackay, which measures success not in body bags but in friends won and peaces kept, is the new military zeitgeist. Or at least it is in America. The first e-mail of congratulation Mackay received came from the former commander of US forces in Afghanistan David Petraeus, while his predecessor, General Stanley McChrystal, contributed the foreword........

Profile at the Daily Telegraph

"Unless we retain, gain and win the consent of the population within Helmand, we lose the campaign," he previously said. "The population is the prize." He has been vocal in the past, claiming in March that a British failure to deliver economic development or reconstruction for ordinary Afghans meant that "one of the central tenets of counter-insurgency doctrine is failing."

He has also criticised troop equipment in the past - in a secret memo published in the book Operation Snakebite by Stephen Grey, he said much of the equipment was "tired, limited and failing regularly".

His troops were responsible for recapturing the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala in the north of Helmand in December 2007. From his "hole in the ground" on Roshan Hill, a high point above the town, he spent five days watching as the town was finally captured, an action later described as the "best operation to come out of Afghanistan in years" by the Pentagon. He played a personal role in the operation when he walked for nearly a mile across no man's land to reach the town and take up position on the Hill................

Scotland on Sunday by Kenny Farquharson

The Commander of the British Army in Afghanistan is standing on a scrap of waste ground in the centre of a dusty town called Musa Qala. There is an awful stench in the air. It comes from a dead dog, half-buried under a tree, its rotting head exposed to the air. "Shall we take a look at the bazaar," asks Brigadier Andrew Mackay, in the tone of voice someone might use when suggesting an afternoon visit to Jenners tearoom.

The brigadier's companions try hard to hide their alarm. "I'm not sure your BG (bodyguard] would like that idea very much, sir," says a nearby officer. The 6ft 3in bodyguard, who is called Dave, is impassive behind designer shades. There is a pause, and all eyes are on the brigadier. "Let's just take a peek," says Mackay, and walks down a narrow alley, its high walls made from mud and poppy straw, towards a metal gate that leads to the town's main thoroughfare.

A moment later, Mackay, 51, is wandering 200 yards down the main street of a town that until recently was the Taliban's urban stronghold in Afghanistan, before it was recaptured by Afghan, British and American forces on December 11..............

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