New York: Seeking to regain popular support and deepen their presence in Afghanistan, the Taliban is reportedly undergoing an image makeover.
According to the New York Times, Taliban spiritual leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, had issued a lengthy directive late last spring outlining a new code of conduct for the Taliban.
The dictates include bans on suicide bombings against civilians, burning down schools, or cutting off ears, lips and tongues.
The code, which has been spottily enforced, does not necessarily mean a gentler insurgency, the NYT says in a report.
However, what must be kept in mind is the fact that the Taliban was responsible for three-quarters of civilian casualties last year, according to the UN.
Afghan villagers and some NATO officials added that the code had begun to change the way some midlevel Taliban commanders and their followers behaved on the ground.
Several brutal commanders have even been removed by Mullah Omar to ensure success of the new code, they add.
The Taliban’s public relations operation is also increasingly efficient at putting out its message and often works faster than NATO’s.
American and Afghan analysts see the Taliban’s effort as part of a broad initiative that employs every tool they can muster, including the Internet technology to win popular support.
Bruce Riedel, who led President Obama’s review of the administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy, described the information war as critical.
“You have to respond in the propaganda war in a very quick time cycle; you can’t put out a statement saying, ‘We’re looking for all the facts before we comment,’ ” Riedel said.
Creating a code of behaviour is one thing, enforcing it another.