Taliban Propaganda: Winning the War of Words?

Posted in Terrorism , Afghanistan | 26-Jul-08 | Source: International Crisis Group

A U.S. soldier keeps watch at the site where Taliban militants set fire to a convoy of supply trucks in Ghazni, southeast of Afghanistan.

Kabul/Brussels, 24 July 2008: The Karzai government and its international supporters must become much better at countering sophisticated Taliban propaganda if they are to defeat an insurgency that is driving a dangerous wedge between them and the Afghan people.

Taliban Propaganda: Winning the War of Words?,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the Taliban communication apparatus that is exploiting popular disillusionment with the government and the U.S. and other foreign troops. Using the full range of media, the Taliban is successfully tapping into strains of Afghan nationalism.

“Out of power and lacking control over territory, the Taliban has proved adept at projecting itself as stronger than it is in terms of numbers and resources”, says Joanna Nathan, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for the South Asia Program. “Both Kabul and its international supporters need to respond in a timelier, coordinated manner if they are to effectively counter Taliban allegations”.

The Taliban has created a sophisticated communications apparatus that projects an increasingly confident movement. It tries to wear out its opponents. Influencing perceptions at home and abroad is a vital component of this strategy. The vast majority of the material is in Pashtu, and a shortage of language skills in the international community means much either passes unnoticed or is misunderstood. The Afghan and other governments engaged in Afghanistan have failed to communicate robustly and honestly with their populations in a way that would help build and sustain popular will for a long-term endeavour.

The Karzai government and its allies must make greater efforts, through word and deed, to address sources of alienation exploited in Taliban propaganda. By building institutions and offering the services that give the Afghan people a better life, the government can gain public support, thus denying the insurgents opportunities to exploit local grievances and thereby gain a modicum of legitimacy.

The international community must provide the necessary support and pressure for improved performance, while also examining its own actions. The governments of countries contributing international troops must improve communications with Afghans on the directions and activities of the international engagement, including doing more to avoid civilian casualties.

“The Taliban is not going to be defeated militarily”, says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s South Asia Project Director. “Peace will only be possible if Kabul and the international community replace their fire-fighting approach with a long-term strategy of services and security”.

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1601

To contact Crisis Group media please click here
*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website: http://www.crisisgroup.org

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering some 60 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict