Is the Taliban on a PR offensive? Based on interviews given to CNN and the New York Times, it seems as though they might be.
CNN’s intrepid Nic Robertson, a quintessential war correspondent, sat down with Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid for a short interview. Mujahid is clear that the Taliban remains strong and will continue to battle American forces and try to destabilize Hamid Karzai’s government. Here’s the video:
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on its conversation with a Taliban leader:
One Pakistani logistics tactician for the Taliban, a 28-year-old from the country’s tribal areas, in interviews with The New York Times, described a Taliban strategy that relied on free movement over the border and in and around Pakistan, ready recruitment of Pakistani men and sustained cooperation of sympathetic Afghan villagers.
His account provided a keyhole view of the opponent the Americans and their NATO allies are up against, as well as the workings and ambitions of the Taliban as they prepared to meet the influx of American troops.
It also illustrated how the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of many brands of jihadist fighters backed by Al Qaeda, are spearheading wars on both sides of the border in what for them is a seamless conflict.
The tactician wears a thick but carefully shaped black beard and a well-trimmed shock of black hair, a look cultivated to allow him to move easily all over Pakistan. He spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by his fellow Taliban members.
The Times’ anonymous Pakistani Taliban source echoes Mujahid’s (sort of) on-camera statements to CNN, the point being that the Taliban will remain strong and continue fighting the Americans, Pakistanis and Afghanis who oppose them.
The Taliban’s PR machine seems to be going in full gear, despite obvious fears of being assassinated. I suspect–but could be completely wrong since I have never been to Afghanistan, never spoken with the Taliban, and generally don’t know all that much about the situation there–that this is their response to President Obama’s plan to gain control of Afghanistan and the Pakistani border area. They want Americans to know that this war will not be easy so they should give up now. That’s why they go for CNN and the New York Times. As much as I may dislike the Taliban, I don’t think that they are stupid. And it seems like they are waging a pretty effective public relations campaign.