Taliban's propaganda war in Afghanistan – 16 Oct 07

When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan before the 2001 invasion, entertainment of any kind was banned. But ironically, in their attempt to regain control of the country, their propaganda is now being disseminated using television, videos and music. And as Hamish Macdonald reports, tapes like those received by Al Jazeera can be quite revealing.

This conflict is largely viewed from the side of Nato and US forces. Media access is regularly granted and journalists often travel to the frontline. Rarely though do we see these battles from the other side. The Taliban, in an apparent attempt to display its resurgence has delivered 14 tapes to Al Jazeera. We cannot be certain when or where these images were filmed.

Among the footage are attacks on Afghan police vehicles. The tape shows one person trying to escape, before being shot. The cars are then set alight. Another tape shows Taliban fighters proudly displaying what they discovered last year at an empty US military out-post. They appear particularly intrigued by the night-vision goggles.

Waheed Mozhdah, former Taliban foreign ministry adviser, said: “The Taliban like to show powerful himself and show the enemy weak. I don’t know how much the people believe that in the villages.”

The Taliban carried out a month-long campaign of suicide bombings and roadside attacks during Ramadan. These tapes demonstrate some of the techniques being used.

Nato and US led coalition forces here say they have made major gains against the enemy during recent months. The Taliban though claims its securing support in a growing number of provinces. But with so much propaganda being disseminated from all sides, its difficult for anyone here to know just how much of it is true.

One tape, showing Taliban pushing live donkeys off cliff, provides an insight into the mindset of those fighting this conflict.

And from the US side as well. These images from a Dutch television documentary were among the tapes sent to us by the Taliban.

The desire to gain the psychological advantage has meant that armed groups here and across the Middle East have now embraced propaganda in a big way. On all sides of the Afghan conflict there is an awareness that while the battles are important, the message may help win the war.

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