World

Taliban getting public relations advice: expert

The Taliban's increasingly sophisticated use of media in Afghanistan is likely the result of public relations advice from al-Qaeda, says an expert in international relations.

The Taliban'sincreasingly sophisticated use of media in Afghanistanis likely the result ofpublic relations advice from al-Qaeda, says an expert in international relations.

"I think al-Qaeda has been coaching them," Doug McArthur, a political scientist at B.C.'s Simon Fraser University,told CBC News. "They are getting expert advice.… No question they are working together."

The now-ousted Taliban regime banned all forms of modern media — even photographs— butthe militantIslamistgroupisnow recording messages on video which it posts on the internet.

Some of the same Taliban leaders who ordered televisions smashed on the grounds that modern media is a satanic innovation are now giving their phone numbers to selected journalists and routinely assigning cameramen to record roadside bomb attacks.

McArthur says the new media strategy is working.

"It's happening quite quickly and they are getting a big payoff for their efforts," he said.

Last month, for example, the Taliban filmed a graduation ceremony for suicide bombers in which a Taliban commander urged scores of young men to launch attacks on four Western countries, including Canada.

The footage was given to American television network ABC to guarantee maximum exposure in the West.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Daysaid last week theABC report was a public relations moveby a terrorist group that knows it's losing the fight in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda's in-house production company, ah-Sahab, has begun uploading footage shot by Taliban cameramen to the internet and slickly produced recruiting DVDs are readily available in the bazaars of northwest Pakistan.

In one video, Taliban fighters gather on a hillside and fire 20-metre-long rockets into an American military base. The videos are recruiting tools that depict Taliban fighters as heroes fighting the hated Westerners.