Strategic communication has been one of the significant priorities for the international Jihadi terrorists. Al-Qaeda and Taliban have been using media and other means of communication to propagate among the mass of their aimed audience categorized as Muslims and the western world. Following the 9/11 attacks and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorists have been increasingly dependent on strategic communication and propagation in mass media. Al-Qaeda even established its broadcasting unit under the brand name of Al-Hasab, which aired regular statements of top Al-Qaeda leaders, attacks on foreign forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Suicide bombers used to tape their “message” before leaving to the “divine mission”. Top Al-Qaeda leaders have been emphasizing that media war is not less important than the military war against the “infidels”.
With the passage of time, experience and knowledge of the latest technology, terrorists started releasing video tapes including statements and footages of attacks on their “missions”. Initially they used to communicate their videos and messages through media, print and electronic broadcasting. But with the pace of time, they used to more depend upon online resources. Internet once became on the most significant mean of propagation and “expression” for Jihadi terrorists. For the first time in around 2005 an online Jihadi terrorist magazine was published. Following this, many Jihadi groups other than Al-Qaeda and Taliban, started using media as part of their strategic mean for an effective propaganda.
Whenever there is a civilian causality, terrorists use such incidents as a tool for their propagation among masses to legitimize their activities and recruit human resource. There are five Jihadi websites. Taliban have their own website operating in five languages. Al-Qaeda has its own. They release messages and videos. In a recent move, Taliban terrorists have published large copies of a booklet “Code of Ethics for Mujahideen” which includes guidlines for Taliban fighters.
The recent video of the kidnapped US soldier, in which he was asking his fellow Americans to pressurize the Government for withdrawal of forces was an example of terrorists’ propagation to influence their western targeted audience.
In response, there is not much efforts from the Afghan Government, or other forces fighting in Afghanistan. They should have run a media campaign to show masses the brutality of Taliban. It can influence the mindset of people and win hearts and minds.
A recent poll shows a sharp increase in the public opinion against Taliban in Pakistan. The polling project by the University of Maryland says 81 percent of common Pakistanis view militants as a serious threat to their country. In response to questions regarding Afghanistan and Taliban, 87 percent thought Taliban fighting against the Afghan Government should not be allowed to establish camps and bases.
The NATO and Afghan Government should highlight the propagation of Taliban and there should be a stronger counter media attack. People should know the fact that Taliban have killed larger number of civilians. The U-turn in Pakistani public opinion is due to the extensive media support of the military offensive. TV channels’ anchor persons and programmers repeatedly talked about the atrocities of Taliban, thus the vast perception of the mass population about the war was totally changed against Taliban. A similar effort is needed for Afghan media outlets, TV channels and newspapers. Such sources should educate Afghans about the brutality of Taliban and their devilish aims.