Mounting Kabul turmoil contradicts pro-Taliban narrative

KABUL: In the last few days, TV crews from Afghanistan’s Al-Emarah Studio, which produces pro-Taliban multimedia content, have been out on the streets of Kabul speaking to residents with reassuring messages about life returning to normal.

“How confident are you?” asked an interviewer with a Al-Emarah microphone in the city centre. “100%,” came the reply. “Security is good, there are no thieves, we are very happy.”

The message is in sharp contrast to the chaos in parts of Kabul since the militants swept in last Sunday after a lightning conquest of Afghanistan.

Thousands of people have swarmed around the airport, desperate to escape amid fears of reprisals by the insurgents now that they are back in power.

It has presented one of the toughest tests yet for the movement’s communications strategy, which has grown into a sophisticated operation in recent years and yet is struggling to calm widespread panic.

The Al-Emarah interviews were a tiny step towards trying to win back control of the message.

For the moment, Al-Emarah websites in five different languages have been difficult to access or apparently offline from Friday, for reasons which remain unclear. The clips could be seen on social media accounts, however.

On Saturday, several Taliban spokesmen took to television studios to reassure residents that the streets were safe. On the same day, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the top Taliban political leader in Afghanistan, arrived in Kabul to set up a police force.

‘IT’S ALL LIES’

Getting their message across has proved harder since the Taliban conquered Afghanistan than it was when they were fighting an insurgency against foreign and U.S.-backed local armed forces.

Over the years, it has often been a step ahead of the government, getting its message out with a mix of multi-lingual social media accounts, videos, photos and responsive, well-prepared spokesmen equipped with ready answers to reporters’ questions. – Reuters