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Taliban Employs Modern Weapons In 'War of Words'

Taliban fighters in Afghanistan have taken their war to the electronic media.
Taliban fighters in Afghanistan have taken their war to the electronic media.
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By Bashir Ahmad Gwakh
"Wars today cannot be won without media. Media aims at the heart rather than the body, [and] if the heart is defeated, the battle is won."

This conclusion, reached by Abdul Sattar Maiwandi in an interview published recently on the website Al-Emarah, is not groundbreaking. The importance of winning the "war of words," as Maiwandi describes it, to winning an actual war has long been understood.

But consider the source. Maiwandi is the editor in chief of Al-Emarah, which is an official Taliban website. And while the Taliban officially banned photography, movies, and the use of the Internet when it was in power in Afghanistan -- considering them un-Islamic -- today the militant group cannot deny the potential of such media as tools of propaganda and recruitment.

The Taliban employs a number of tactics on the modern media battlefield. The group has established an official "media committee" to oversee the effort, according to Maiwandi. He says a professional production studio called Al-Shahamat has been set up to produce videos.

From there they are distributed on Taliban websites, passed from mobile phone to mobile phone, and reach broader audiences through other outlets, such as Facebook and YouTube.

Danish Karokhel, director of Afghanistan's first independent news agency, Pajhwok Afghan News, says that the Taliban's media campaign is intended to affect the opinions of both Afghans and foreigners.

"They do [propaganda] to influence foreign nations to put pressure on their governments [to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan]. Also, they want to spread terror among people in Afghanistan through their videos," Karokhel says. The Taliban "want to scare people so they do not support the government. They threaten people. Whoever sees those kinds of videos will obviously be scared."

Taliban.com

Al-Shahamat features professionally edited videos depicting attacks on Western forces and other propagandistic material.
The Taliban websites alemarah-iea.net and shahamat.info are vehicles for the militant group to disseminate a variety of propagandistic material.

Al-Emarah, which is published in English, Pashto, Dari, Urdu, and Arabic, features a series of videos critical of projects funded by the United States and other Western countries involved in the war in Afghanistan. They explain how the construction of roads, schools, and clinics is poorly carried out and wastes money. The projects are characterized as examples of Western false promises and efforts to mislead Afghans.

Many of the videos offered by the two websites show suicide bombings carried out against Afghan and international forces, accompanied by audio of Koranic chants known as nasheeds.

In one clip posted on shahamat.info, a young militant in traditional Afghan dress drives a van into a U.S. military convoy. There is a blast, and the camera focuses on the ensuing blaze.

The video segues to scenes of the perpetrator prior to the suicide attack. He asks his parents not to cry for him; they should thank Allah that their son was able to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Another recently uploaded video shows a number of suicide bombers who, one by one, express their strong desire to "kill Jews and Christian forces and their rented Afghan army."

Attacks on U.S. and Afghan Army and police forces are shown, followed by beheadings of captured officials.

Militant Networking

Azmat Gharanai, an information-technology expert who operates an Internet service provider in Kabul, believes the Taliban uses the web to reach foreign sympathizers and financiers.

"I think they want to keep connected with each other. They may not be able to contact each other directly, so these [websites] could be used to communicate with their followers in another corner of the world and vice versa," Gharanai says. "I am 100 percent sure that these websites are their [Taliban militants'] centers for communication."

Gharanai says the Taliban effectively uses free video-sharing sites like YouTube and social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

The Facebook page of the Islamic State of Afghanistan
RFE/RL was unable to independently verify whether the Facebook sites are actually endorsed by the Taliban or are merely fan sites set up by sympathizers. As of this week, one Facebook account under the name of the Islamic State of Afghanistan had more than 1,600 fans.

The page's news feed keeps close tabs on the Taliban's activities through posted videos, articles, and photographs and provides links to friendly sites and contact information for Taliban spokespeople.

The page calls on visitors to support the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which has its own Facebook page with more than 1,000 fans. The emirate's info page lists its location as International Falls, Minnesota, and its administrator is listed as Muhammad Zaib Khan Mujhaid

Terrorist Texting

In his interview with Al-Emarah, editor in chief Maiwandi explains how the Taliban is taking advantage of another media tool -- cell phones.

He says news posted on the site is converted to SMS text messages, which are then sent to subscribers, who can then send them on to their own contacts. "Each of them sends it to his acquaintances inside and outside Afghanistan, and so a chain of dissemination begins," Maiwandi says.

Muhammad Zaib KhanMujhaid's Facebook page
Pajhwok Afghan News Director Karokhel says his reporters even get stories, pictures, and videos from Taliban insurgents via text message.

Gawhar, a young man in Afghanistan's eastern Khost Province, says messages and videos received by phone are an effective scare tactic.

"Today, everyone has a mobile phone and mobile phones that are able to run and record videos. I had it, too, and have seen people watching the videos of Taliban slaughtering government workers," he says.

"These are very scary and anyone who saw them would not be willing to continue working with the government. These videos are hateful."

Gulab Shah, a resident of Paktia Province who has seen videos of suicide bombings and slayings, advises people who receive such videos to avoid watching them.

"I saw a video in which Taliban [militants] slaughter people. It ruined my mood. Afterward, I could not even sleep because I was just thinking of this scary video in which Taliban were slaying young men," he says.

"These kinds of videos have an extremely bad impact on people, and therefore I would like to tell people not to watch these videos. They do not need to watch them. It is unnecessary."

Some question why the dissemination of such information via phone is even allowed by the government. But when asked if this outlet can be controlled, Information and Technology Ministry spokesman Emal Marjan offers a simple "no."

"We give operation licenses to telecom companies so they can provide communication services to people. It is neither ours nor the company's responsibility to identify who uses the services for what purposes," Marjan says.

"It is up to people how to use the means of communication. Everybody can share his heart's secret or anything he wants. It does not come under any law."
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Comment Sorting
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by: Dark from: NY
March 16, 2011 20:33
Very well written and quite interesting. This is quite a research on such informative piece on how the Taliban are using media to communicate their messages through.

by: Zabihullah Noori from: Afghanistan
March 16, 2011 21:33
As usual, I enjoyed reading Mr. Gwakh's writing. I only have to say that as far as the Afghan Taliban mentality is concerned, it remains the same. No women in governmental and INGOs, and No internationals at all. As for the means, their vision has changed a bit, as this article also proved it.

Nice piece and different take to regular coverage of the same phenomena.

Independent Afghan Journalist,
Noori from Northern Afghanistan

by: A Dastagir from: KA - AFG
March 16, 2011 21:38
All is truth! 100%, Taliban is Doing all these activities & it's not the True Face of ISLAM, thanks to The Writer And this is very Appreciable

by: john man from: beijing,china
March 17, 2011 16:52
the taliban have changed alot since 2001 america should just leave who called them there,no one mind there own buisness they are causing more trouble than the taliban will do in a 10000 years they are the killers of innocents
In Response

by: cronaldo6666 from: bangalore
March 19, 2011 11:16
hw do u know they r destroyin have u EVER been in AFGHAN .....?
no i dont think so
coz AMERICA n thier BLOODY ALLIES r showing u wat they want to n u all asshole seeing it only one side of the coin
remember the coin has two side just try to look frm other side im not supporting them just telling that one shudnt be judged by the WHAT CNN, BBC says
we shud see through own eyes......!

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix AZ
March 17, 2011 17:57
Typical picture of "Taliban" losers, never been to school, never had a job, only know how to victimize people and steal. What a great future for Afghanistan.

by: Khairullakh Khairkhwa from: Kandahar
March 18, 2011 18:06
Talibans are national resistence force and already won against US and NATO no matter how much retention, surveillance or control we try to create. Why are we trying to alienate people from the reality that Western forces occupied Afghanistan and now is using it for their evil foriegn policies around the world. Let the people know who west is and what they want.

I am suprise the writers never express such a technical detalis of US war propaganda to hide their war crimes while they kills innocent people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and others part of the world.

by: Alkansa from: Afghanistan
March 19, 2011 03:57
America's have tasted the bitterness of defeat and NATO. Although the evolution of America, but it lost the war
Must be telling the truth when we want to talk about the Afghan issue

by: محمد ذبیح اللہ خان مجاہد from: افغانستان پکتیا ولایت
March 19, 2011 06:22
بسم اللہ الرحمٰن الرحیم
Taliban fight the world alone
Nice to see you wrote against us. Written in your report it seems a lot of lie sentences against us. its mean that you are not able to Research against us.
Strange made ​​videos of our hands to see you guys call it propaganda, it is sheer ignorance.
Why all Media hide thier loss in this war Alhumdulillah your loss are destroy your Economy and the world see the new Looser US like Russia Inshallah we goto heaven and you goto hell.
And to Allah belongs all honor, and to His Messenger, and to the believers, but the hypocrites know not.
In Response

by: Dr Mohd Dawood Danish from: Quetta
March 30, 2011 06:54
Aslam alekum,
Zabiu ALLAH you said that there is no another power with us to compete america we are also muslims and we do not want the success of Non muslims but why you are killing our muslims who are serving their nation. I am a doctor in Quetta Hospital here all afghanis are coming while they are less patient if i go to afghanistan the taliban also kill me because i am serving i apply you not to kill those muslims doctors , engineers leave them to serve the afghan nation

by: Abdullah Baloch Spy Agent from: Afshar-e-Bala, Kabul
March 19, 2011 13:57
first of all todays Jihad is an open Source so we have right for spread a jihadi news and every thing was related with Islam and you agent are just working for Dollar and we working for our right

by: Abdullah Baloch (I.P.A) from: Afshar-e-Bala,Kabul
March 19, 2011 14:35
if you are not afraid of us so do not ban this page its a open callenge all of you
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