Dr Mike Martin
Dr Mike Martin is a former British Army officer trained to fluency in Pushtu who pioneered, designed and implemented the British Military’s Cultural Advisor programme (profiled here in The Sunday Times). This programme took Pushtu-speaking British officers and trained them to build relationships with local notables and then leverage those relationships to understand and influence the society in which the UK military was operating. During this period, he also worked as an advisor to four commanders of the UK’s Task Force Helmand, advising them on local national population dynamics.
Mike subsequently read for his PhD at King’s College London in War Studies (his undergraduate degree was Biological Sciences at Oxford). He wrote an oral history of the conflict in Helmand province, Afghanistan from 1978-2012, which he later turned into a critically-acclaimed book, An Intimate War (published by Hurst/OUP). An Intimate War tells the story of thirty-five years of conflict in Helmand Province, Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of the Helmandis. It describes how the UK and the US completely failed to understand the socio-political environment in Afghanistan.
Since leaving the army in 2012, Mike worked in Somaliland and Burma/Myanmar for a risk management company as Research Director. There, he set up a new division for the company that focussed on helping multinational clients understand and navigate the social, political and cultural environments in emerging markets. Mike then held two senior global management positions in the cross-cultural leadership development NGO Common Purpose.
In-between times, he conducted the first motorised crossing of the Congo river basin since the 1960s.
Mike is currently a Visiting War Studies Fellow at King’s College London, where he writes and speaks on conflict, and comments in the international media, often about the causes of conflict, or about Afghanistan.
He lives in London, and his third book, Crossing the Congo, was published in 2016. Mike’s fourth book, called Why We Fight, and which explores the evolutionary psychology of warfare, is available now.