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Taliban's war of words undermines Afghanistan's nation building

A successful propaganda campaign has weakened public support for the Afghan government and its international backers, according to a new report from the International Crisis Group.

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Arbitrary detentions by United States forces in Afghanistan and the aerial bombardment by the international forces has not only increased public discontent, it has also given the Taliban opportunities to cash in on a sophisticated media strategy, observers say.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) has pointed to the dangers of the Taliban's successful propaganda in a July 24 report and argues that the result is "weakening public support for nation building, even though few actively support the Taliban."

While Taliban propaganda is often rudimentary and crude, the ICG report says, the Taliban is adept at exploiting local disenfranchisement. Its use of local languages and traditional cultural medium like songs and poems give it greater outreach than that of international organizations and the government. The ICG report also points out that the Taliban has also begun using DVDs and photographs, which it had earlier prohibited.

International forces also face questions about the accuracy of their reports – such as a US bombing in Nangarhar on July 6 that described civilians attending a wedding party as enemy deaths. The questionable credibility is not just confined to the military forces but impacts the image of the entire international community.

And the lack of credible and effective communication could mean much more than a war of words – especially in a situation where, according to the ICG report, the Afghan population is increasingly "sitting on the fence or weighing options amidst a sense of insurgent momentum."

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