Argumentum Ad Captandum versus Unified Effort. An Examination of Strategic Narratives in ISAF

Led by Ida Dommersnes
Jan 2011 - Dec 2014

​​​​​​PhD project at the Department of War Studies, Kings College, London.

Supervisor at PRIO: Kristian Berg Harpviken
Supervisors at Kings College: Michael Rainsbourough & David Betz

​​Strategic narratives are "compelling story lines which can explain events convincingly and from which inferences can be drawn" (Freedman 2006: 22). They are fundamental to the conduct of contemporary operations as success depends on how effectively the strategic narrative communicates the purpose, course and conduct of an operation and how this is perceived by the public audiences and in theatre (ibid.: 93). In the age of global communication, strategic narratives "need to be identified and critically examined on their own terms, for they can illumine the inner nature of the war itself" (Vlahos 2006: 1). Yet, there is a severe lack of research on Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan and strategic narratives. This PhD project seeks to link the literature on the virtual dimension, strategic communication and doctrinal developments to the study of civil-military practices in Afghanistan. Research into this field would promote a better understanding of the civil-military interface, as it would examine the operational realities on the ground vis-à-vis the domestic realties that take place predominantly in the virtual dimension, which tends to be precluded in the existing literature. It is the aim of the proposed project to investigate if and how the PRT concept allows for multiple narratives of the same effort, and what consequences this has for the overall strategy in Afghanistan. This research is required in order to establish the degree of narrative incoherence. In turn, this would identify the possibilities to 'control the narrative', which is an important precondition for reaching the PRTs strategic objectives and thus essential for ISAF's strategy as a whole. Particularly, the proposal seeks to examine Norway, which would provide an interesting case for comparative analysis.

Freedman, Lawrence (2006). The Transformation of Strategic Affairs, Adelphi papers 379. London: Routledge for the International Institute for Strategic Studies).

Vlahos, Michael (2006). The Long War: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Protracted Conflict and Defeat, The National Interest Online, 2 April 2010.

Research Groups


Book Chapter

Dommersnes, Ida (2012) Viljen frigjør eller feller [Liberation or damnation from political will], in Dyndal, Gjert Lage; & Torbjørn L. Knutsen, eds, Exit Afghanistan. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget (177–185).

Report - External Series

Dommersnes, Ida (2011) Bringing War Home: The use of Provincial Reconstruction Teams by Norway and Denmark to construct strategic naratives for their domestic audiences, Security Policy Library, 1. Oslo: The Norwegian Atlantic Committee.