Monday 12 September 2011

Taliban propaganda goes from strength to strength

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has published a very good article by Bashir Ahmad Gwakh on the Taliban's internet strategy.  "Over the past decade, the Taliban has dramatically groomed its public relations skills", he says. "It possesses several Internet domains, which host official content and have backup domains in case of an attack on the main website. Taliban members also use e-mail on a daily basis to communicate with journalists."
Gwakh's article includes comments from Abdul Sattar Maiwandi, described as the web editor of a Taliban website, who tells him that the Taliban has an official media committee and a professional production studio called al-Shahamat, set up to produce videos. "From there, the films are distributed on Taliban websites, passed from mobile phone to mobile phone, and reach broader audiences through other outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube", Gwakh says.
The Taliban uses several Twitter accounts, including @alemarahweb, which is in English and followed by around 5,500 people and rising; and @alsomood, which is mostly in Arabic. Around 450 people follow Mustafa Ahmadi, who runs the official Facebook page for the Taliban. Ahmadi also adminsters the fan page for Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid, the Taliban leader, which is followed by around 200 people.
Gwakh laments the fact that the Coalition forces in Afghanistan do not seem to take Taliban propaganda seriously, even though it is a vital part of their war effort. I concur with him. Three years ago I was asked to comment on the extent of Taliban propaganda and ways of confronting it. I pointed out the way the Taliban circulated video by phone and the failure to combat their messaging. My comments were ignored. Three years on and nothing much has happened except that the Taliban's messages are much more coherent, more Afghans have access to social media and very few Afghans understand what foreign forces are doing in their country.

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