The UnNoticed Entrepreneur - how to overcome being overlooked.

US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan teaches these 6 PR lessons for CEO's.

August 31, 2021 Jim James
The UnNoticed Entrepreneur - how to overcome being overlooked.
US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan teaches these 6 PR lessons for CEO's.
Show Notes Transcript

31st August saw the last of the US and allied forces withdrawal from Afghanistan, and an objective look at how the Taliban handled the media provides 6 lessons for anyone managing regime change. 

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Hello, and welcome to this episode of the unnoticed entrepreneur today. I'd like to take the slightly unlikely subject of the American and allied forces withdrawal from Afghanistan. And use that to find some six lessons for the business owner for you when it comes to crisis management and to regime change. Today has been historic in that after 20 years. The foreign forces have left Kabul but it's obviously not the first time that foreign forces have left Afghanistan. And let's pray though that it is the last, so today's talk is not about politics, but I think there are some very interesting. Clues about the narrative around this, occupation of Afghanistan and how the Taliban have handled the recovery. Of Afghanistan. So let's just have a quick look, Afghanistan. Is no stranger to foreign occupation. all the way back in 1878. The Scottish Highlanders. Had marched 320 miles from Kabul to Kandahar. To defeat. The Emerati forces. So the British. Had a good go. Of course, we know that the Russians had also had a good, attempt and they pulled out in 1989. So we know that. Afghanistan has seen off more than its fair share of foreign. foreign forces. Let's call them that. Shall we? I don't want to be political about this. but what I do want to do is to look at some of the lessons that we can learn about how this story has played out. and what it has meant for the leadership on both sides. And indeed for a third party altogether. Why is this important? If you're running a business is important because there are some lessons about what you can do. To either. Take advantage of a regime change. If you happen to be on the positive side of that. And things that you could do to mitigate the circumstances. If you happen to be on the foul side of it. Now. We've just seen today. Photographs. Of the last American soldier. Taken. In an eerie green translucent light leading, leaving the airport. Now. According to the reports by brown university. America has spent some $978 billion just under a trillion dollars. In their 20 years. In Afghanistan. The UK. Has spent some 22 billion pounds. In Afghanistan. It's been a long and expensive campaign for all concerned. Let's not forget. Of course. That these wars cause grave damage. not just to those forces that go in, but to the domestic populations now just let's have a look at that. So we have. A war that was waged by, George Bush. On the pretext of getting bin Laden of course, was a Saudi, but was apparently hiding. In Afghanistan. And we know of course later on. That he was taken out by Obama. But the war. Of the Afghanistan, American campaign. Has resulted in some three and a half thousand American troops in some 20,000 us. Soldiers. Injured. Now, when we looked at the monument to the Highlanders. Edinburgh castle this weekend. On their campaign in 1878 through 1880. More men died of. Injuries casualties. That we're not war related, not gunshot related than actually died in the field of battle. And of course, this is again. What's happened in Afghanistan. Estimates vary. 60 70, 80,000 Afghan is apparently have perished as well. Millions more displaced. what I wanted to do was just look at some of the narrative though. On both sides that we as. The. The people that consume the media have been given. Now the. Interesting thing I thought was that. The Taliban. came on to the BBC. just last week was Suhail Shaheen talking to Yalda Hakim and speaking. Via phone. To the BBC live. Interestingly enough, he spoke in English. It was not a full press briefing. He had dialed in. And I did see pictures he's actually wearing. AirPods So there you go. Apple products are in Afghanistan. It wasn't a full mic set up at all. But he had some key messages. And he said that. The following one that they want a peaceful transfer of power to. They want people to carry on as they were three. They want no revenge on those who worked with. The Kabul Administration they'd like the embassies to remain open and offered assurances. And he said, we are the servant of the people in this country. He also said they would adhere to the US Deal of not supporting terrorism. And that women's rights would be guaranteed under Sharia law. Now, as we know, Sharia law is actually. Quite, conservative in terms of what women have to wear. and how they have to behave. But he did say that Sharia law would apply bear in mind. There are parts of Malaysia and the middle east as well that have Sharia law. what. Suhail Shaheen was saying was that. These are not Taliban rules. These are Islamic rules. So it was an interesting piece of reframing. From a PR technique perspective. He wasn't saying that we will establish Taliban rules. He was saying we're going to follow Islamic rules that other nations. Have, and then he pointed to Pakistan, which of course also has Islamic rules. And said, they want to have a new chapter of cooperation. With Pakistan. He had plainly got. very well scripted. List together. And I was interested that he spoke in English. not in a prejudice way, but I just thought that. It demonstrated their understanding of the need to speak, not through a translator. But in the language of those people that were going to be listening. I had a quick look. The social media posts. Now what we're seeing on social media. Taliban forces taking the airport and taking selfies in cockpits. Young men with beards and not looking very frightening, really, and certainly not in full combat gear. We then talked about. Seeing the Taliban leadership coming onto the tarmac. All wearing their trademark. If you like uniforms of a black hat and scarf or waist coat. A white shirt and trousers and simple shoes. There is a uniformity. In the. In the clothing. That shows a uniformity of purpose. And it was interesting that when we saw also some of the troops that also worn the same outfits, and this is this idea of an absence of hierarchy. Now what obviously the Taliban forces were able to do is to take up the American. Left behind combat fatigues, armaments, and you'll have read perhaps the most amazing number of Humvees helicopters. And millions of rounds of ammunition that have been left behind. Now. As part of the American analysis of this. one piece on CNN really did a quick review, 20 years in five minutes. And it was talking about how Obama. had gone in after Bush of course, with the view of destruction of Al Qaeda. And had spoken of the Afghans building their own nation. This is after George W. Bush having gone in and talked about building democracy in the middle east. So there was a sea change from building democracy. To destroying Al-Qaeda and of course it was Obama who then went in and.

Jim James:

With a small strike Killed bin Laden. Which is in his, biography. Trump then. Changes the narrative again and says that. we might be partners. But he then meets with the Taliban. In. February 29th, 2020. And comes, in front of the troops and says we're not nation building. So a complete about face to what Bush has talked about some 15 years beforehand. Biden. On the 31st of August, 2021. Has had to withdraw the troops because Trump had already agreed with the Taliban. that would be the date. So Biden really didn't have anywhere to go on it. But what we also saw was a declaration by Biden. in advance. Of everybody being ready on the ground. Certainly here in the UK, the British parliamentarians have been complaining about a lack of notice. To move all of the staff and all of the material. And that's why so much. Has been chaotic on the ground. And of course, why so many. pieces of equipment, hardware material, and of course people have been left behind. The people that have made the most of this, of course, other than the Taliban. Are the Chinese because on the 28th of July, a full month before the final withdrawal. Wang Yi (State Councillor) meets the head of the Taliban Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Tianjin. Now bear in mind that COVID restrictions do apply in very hard to get in and out of China, but a full delegation. Of course we're taken to Tianjin in the coastal city. An interesting choice actually, to go to Tianjin because geographically Tianjin is on the east side. And it would have been geographically much better if they'd gone. For example, to the west, even to Chengdu for example, But they didn't. I don't know why that is. But China is Afghanistan's largest neighbor. And what. Wang Yi We're saying, was that the message is. That China respects Afghan sovereignty. And he said that he supports when China supports an Afghan led. and an Afghan owned nation. He then went on to criticize NATO and the USA. For their role. I guess over 20 years, but also further withdrawal. Couldn't resist a little bit of a jab. Now it turns out there were some Taliban escorts for American citizens. I don't think the same courtesy was extended to the British or maybe it was. And we just haven't found out about it yet. But what we see over the pace of a really a very rushed. Withdrawal processes that the Taliban have conducted themselves. In a very smart. And by and large. Peaceful manner. What we haven't seen. Is looting. What we haven't seen is gunfire. By all accounts. It seems as though. The whole of Afghanistan fell really without any firefights at all. Much of course, to the annoyance of the Americans who then blamed the Afghani forces for not standing and fighting. And what would have obviously been inevitable bloodshed. So what the Taliban have been quite carefully saying to their domestic audience. Is that they want to have business as usual. They want people to carry on. They want embassies to carry on the Afghany people to stay and keep working. And yes, there'll be an Afghan led. Nation with Afghan principles. Which of course are not going to be the same as the foreign principles but there'll be Afghany ones. So we've seen a transition to power where the Taliban forces. Have taken power. But where the leadership has shown themselves to be. If you like fairly egalitarian or at least in their clothing. They seen themselves to be well structured in their messaging. And they seen themselves to be. Already engaging with. Other international powers. For all the benefits that will give them in terms of foreign aid, for example, And security around their land borders. So I mentioned there are six lessons. There are more depending on how deeply you want to go into this, but I thought maybe some interesting ideas now. If you're in a crisis. If there's going to be a handover of power between, for example, you and. The next. A CEO, for example. Or you're taking over from someone. Have the key messages, prepared. The Taliban plainly had continuity. Of the country as an overall key objective. And that's what's come across. Secondly. Have the team in uniform. I know, it seems a strange thing to say. But what the Taliban have done is use photo opportunities to look like a United front. They will know that most people around the world. Will not understand. The language that they speak in the Cyrillic text. For subtitles, they understand that. what they've done very carefully is to make sure that they're all looking very clean. Their uniforms are all looking. Smart. And they're looking disciplined on the tarmac. Third. In short photo opportunities with allies. So by meeting with the Chinese a month, a whole month in advance of the withdrawal, not after the withdrawal, but in advance when they knew something was going to happen. They got photo opportunities with allies to show that. Regardless of what happened with America. And the other forces. They had already in their pocket. A main piece of support. So that means that if, for example, you're transitioning, can you have a photo opportunity with a client, a customer. Or some key partner. Number four. What we saw was the Taliban reached out to the BBC and other channels. They reached out to the key media to provide legitimacy. They didn't have a media blackout. They didn't have a media press briefing either. Because I would imagine partly because the English language was good, but not possibly. Up to having a full on press briefing. And also of course, from a practical point of view, the media at all. Left but reaching out to key media to establish legitimacy has been a key part of their work. Number five, speak the language of the audience. What I mean by that is that the rest of the world. Understands English or Spanish or Mandarin. Those are the dominant languages. And they knew that. Most of the opinion leaders in the world would understand if they spoke English. Now. To a final one. Which is number six is an old Chinese saying, which is the enemy of my enemy is my friend the Taliban knew that. The Chinese are currently. perhaps along with Russia. In a camp of their own when it comes to international diplomacy. But of course, China lends a huge amount of weight militarily. Politically just geographically. And of course, financially, And they are the counterweight to America in the way that the Russians formerly with the counterweight. During the cold war. We've been witnessing history. Today in the withdrawal of the American and the European troops from Afghanistan. Let's think about some of the lessons that we can learn. Because when we look at it as an event, And a handover of power from one group to another. That happens. More often than we think. And there are some key lessons that the Taliban hav e taught us just by observing what they've done. This is not a. Compliment. This is not a political statement in favor of anybody. It's just an objective observation about how a transition of power. Can be handled. My name's Jim. James. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the unnoticed entrepreneur. And I do hope that you've enjoyed it. If you'd like to listen, please do tune into the rest of the episodes here on iTunes or Spotify and all the main players. I've also launched my book, the unnoticed entrepreneur, which is available on Amazon now and Barnes and noble. And are available in both print. And Kindle format. So can I invite you to look for me, Jim James on Amazon or Barnes and noble, any other player? And I would love it. If you would be willing to buy the book, read the book and I'm sure you'll get something from the 50 interviews. That I've conducted with leading entrepreneurs and thought leaders. Around the world. Thank you so much for listening and in the meantime until we meet again, I wish you the best of health. And the profitable business and that you keep on communicating.