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In January 2009, Pakistan’s Swat valley was fully under the control of a Taliban affiliate, Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi(TNSM), and its leader Sufi Muhammad had issued a decree banning female education in the area. Only a handful of schools there had escaped the Taliban’s destructive wrath. While fear gripped the entire valley, Malala Yousafzai, an eleven years old girl from Swat’s Mingora town, began telling the world her innocent tales of surviving the Taliban’s ban on education.

Sir Graeme Lamb is not fond of theorising. However, the former Director of the UK Special Forces can claim to have played an important part in the initiative that pacified large parts of Iraq after 2006. Much of what he argued for is now part of the official US counterinsurgency strategy. But while it is easy for academics and other observers to demand that armed forces should ‘reach out’ to insurgents, there is precious little guidance on the practicalities of initiating a meaningful conversation with the people determined to bomb the foreigners out of their homeland. Lamb shared his insights as part of Emma Sky’s seminar series in Oxford on 25 October, jointly hosted by the Changing Character of War …