US struggling to counter Taliban propaganda

Kabul, Oct. 2 (ANI): The U.S.-led coalition is finding itself on the defensive in the media war against the Taliban.

American officials and Afghan analysts say the Taliban has become adept at portraying the West as being on the brink of defeat, at exploiting rifts between Washington and Kabul and at disparaging the administration of President Hamid Karzai as a "puppet" state with little reach outside the capital.

According to Washington Post, the group is also attempting to assure Afghans that it has a strategy for governing the country again, presenting a platform of stamping out corruption and even protecting women's rights.

"It's been getting better. It's become increasingly complex. It's definitively something we worry about," senior American official said.

It has forced the NATO to step up efforts to counter the Taliban's multi-million-dollar, Pakistan-based propaganda effort by translating some of its press releases into Dari and Pashto and by condemning the group for its frequent attacks that kill and maim Afghan civilians.

"These days their (Taliban) propaganda has changed," said Afghan political analyst Jelani Zwak, who has studied Taliban propaganda for years.

He added: "They are not only talking about the occupation and civilian casualties. They are acting like an alternative to this government."

A U.S. intelligence official, who agreed to be quoted on the condition of anonymity, said he believes the reference to women's rights was an attempt to mitigate the bad publicity from a recent Time magazine cover story.

"Broadly speaking, Karzai, under the foreign domination, is heading a puppet multidimensional administration whose members are morally, politically and financially corrupt," said a Taliban statement released in response to a Washington Post report in August.

The Taliban continues to rely heavily on decentralized, conventional propaganda efforts, which U.S. military officials say is the crucial battleground. These include the distribution of leaflets with threats or pleas, sermons in mosques and clandestine radio stations.

Rear Admiral Greg Smith, NATO's communications chief in Afghanistan, said: "They've used that narrative locally very effectively." (ANI)

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