Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


Taliban Enlists Video in Fight for Afghanistan

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, it banned television and even photographs of people, declaring them un-Islamic. Now, nearly five years after the fundamentalist movement was routed from Kabul, Taliban fighters are waging a guerrilla war against Afghanistan's government, with the help of technology they once renounced.

The Taliban is now distributing videos meant to further its cause of returning to power in Afghanistan. The videos show Taliban leaders in the battlefields, with fighters attacking U.S. and NATO troops.

Waheed Mujda, an Afghan journalist who was once a bureaucrat in the Taliban government, says the Taliban has made a technological and ideological leap with these propaganda videos, particularly in one DVD that shows footage of a man Mujda claims is the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. In it, he is preparing to fire a rocket from a mountaintop.


A spokesman for the U.S. military says it would be difficult to confirm whether it is Mullah Omar in the video, because so few photos were taken of him, even when he was in power.

Two or three years ago, Taliban guerrillas communicated their statements to the outside world by calling in to Afghan radio stations from undisclosed locations, or by distributing threatening leaflets.

But those methods have changed. Two weeks ago, a young doctor awoke to find a shiny DVD lying in the courtyard of his family's house.

Overnight, someone had scattered hundreds of DVDs around the village of Niyazi, which is less than three miles from the center of Kabul.

The video shows Taliban fighters beheading a teacher. It also shows a man wearing a national army uniform blow himself up on a motorbike.


This week, the girls' school in Niyazi was empty, the gates locked. Locals said the students were too scared to go to school after the Taliban threats.

In another Taliban video called "Spies," masked men use knives to saw off the heads of at least six alleged informants. The sequence concludes with the words "the result of spying!!!"

This grisly scene is very similar to those in videos shot by insurgents in Iraq. In fact, some of the more professionally produced videos appear to have been made not by Afghans, but by Arabs.

Some of the Taliban videos are produced by a group that calls itself As-Sahab Media, which has put out videos of al-Qaida leaders such as Ayman al-Zawahiri. These videos feature computer graphics -- and Arabic subtitles.

NATO and Afghan government officials agree that the Taliban's propaganda has grown more sophisticated, even as the fighting has intensified. This was the bloodiest year yet of the Taliban insurgency, with more than 3,000 killed, including about 150 foreign troops.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit