It floods local and foreign media with regular operational updates and video clips of troops opening schools and doing good works that are often broadcast on the main Afghan television and radio stations. They then transmit cassette tapes of songs and religious exhortations. The Afghan government appears to be running a distant third behind the International Security Assistance Force and the Taliban in getting its message out to the world and its own citizens.
Following the release in February of a United Nations report blaming insurgents for some three-quarters of all civilian deaths last year, the Taliban responded with a mild statement saying it was a pity that the UN "distorts facts in order to please Washington. He said he and his reporters regularly receive text messages and statements from insurgents, but little in the way of pro-active statements from local officials. Last month, after hundreds of prisoners broke out of the Kandahar prison through a Taliban-carved tunnel, the group was the first to spread the news to journalists and helpfully provided cellphone numbers of men it said were escapees. The Afghan government appears to be running a distant third behind the International Security Assistance Force and the Taliban in getting its message out to the world and its own citizens. Comments In the propaganda war of words and images, the Afghan Taliban are getting more sophisticated. And the Taliban keep track. It floods local and foreign media with regular operational updates and video clips of troops opening schools and doing good works that are often broadcast on the main Afghan television and radio stations. Its Facebook page was shut down earlier this year after just 20 days. It provides cassettes to compliant or intimidated mosque preachers and tribal elders. In January, seven armed men broke into one of his stations and destroyed all the equipment. Its website features videos aimed at boosting the morale of its fighters and recruiting new ones, featuring smiling young men who say they are on their way to carrying out suicide attacks and Taliban footage of coalition trucks exploding in thick clouds of dust after hitting roadside bombs. They are also overtly menacing. They also got repeated threats by phone from insurgents angry that his stations broadcast an ISAF-produced package of news and features. Nearly all statements from the office of President Hamid Karzai, for example, are issued only in Pashto, just one of the country's official languages. But the Taliban has started sending out its statements as tweets from two Twitter accounts. Now it has two sites, with statements available in English, Arabic, Urdu and the two main languages of Afghanistan. They offer streamed Taliban radio programming, a news ticker at the top of its web page and a selection of videos - some conveniently supplied with English subtitles or narration for non-Afghan viewers. In one, Tooryalai Wesa, the Afghan-Canadian Governor of Kandahar province, is mocked as a "servant of Canadians" and warned that "slaves face a dangerous fate. They then transmit cassette tapes of songs and religious exhortations. Late last year, the Wall Street Journal bureau in Kabul received an e-mail from a spokesman for the group complaining that the paper printed only 10 per cent of Taliban statements. These days, they not only make their fighters available for phone interviews, quickly e-mail their version of news events, produce slick self-glorifying videos and faithfully update their multi-language website. To reach ordinary Afghans - most of whom are illiterate and have no Internet access - it relies on more rudimentary methods. It operates radio stations in parts of four provinces where its control is solid. Some of its fighters carry mobile radio equipment consisting of little more than wire strung through tree branches and beat-up antennas held together with electrical tape. Story continues below advertisement The insurgents' information output still pales in comparison to the volume of information produced by the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, as the NATO-led coalition is formally known. Those themes differ little from the blend of theatre and propaganda that has become the standard agitprop of Islamic extremist groups across the world, glorifying suicide operations against "infidels" and "invaders.
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