NATO and their allies seem more and more scared because of a new evolution in Taliban strategy. If some decades ago, they were considered as modernity’s lost children (ie listening to music or watching TV were strictly forbidden), they are now massively entering digital era, deploying an efficient Social Media strategy.
For many months now, citizens or activists can follow Alemarahweb account, on the current fights from islamist troops vs American soldiers. We’ve also seen a true Twitter war between ISAF and Taliban spokeperson, which is a very interesting trend for next battles; giving live updates and controling the WOM spread is as important as earning new grounds. It is highly strong for Taliban as these social platforms endeavour their contact strategy with foreign opinion leaders. Websites pro-Taliban are sky-rocketing and it is linked to a “real” and daily pressure pattern on local populations. Not only through dangerous, violent and costly raids, but also through massive SMS sending, diffusing ideas and information on Jihad. Because it is sent at a very frequent pace, it could be compared to a digital minaret. Every channel used by international brand is also mastered by Talibans. It gives coherence and “form” to their ambition.
If we summarize: Bin Ladin implemented a TV-oriented communication. It had advantages (shock, expectations from media, fear…) but it lacked what the new digital strategy owns: resilience with their target groups.
It is to be approached as one of the most jeopardizing threat against NATO; because the vision is now kind of blurry, local citizens start doubting, whereas Talibans suggest a simple thus coherent platform.
Talibans managed to control again the communication funnel, as Thomas Ruttig explained in 2010 en 2010 : “Ces huit ou neuf dernières années, les Taliban ont réussi à diminuer le nombre de voix émanant du mouvement. Les premières années après la chute des Taliban, il y avait différents porte-paroles donnant souvent des versions différentes de la situation. Mais c’est terminé.”
Conquering new cash-flow providers in foreign countries + a necessary need to get direct responses capabilities in terms of influence were two priorities. Because the new generations are highly pervasive in Afghanistan; they’ve been raised with internet and with Afghan diaspora. Soft Power is not only great powers’ main asset; it’s now also widely relevant for niche groups like Talibans for 2 reasons: they move faster than big organizations; they have a will in which deat is also part of the programme.