The Taliban has rejected Afghan press reports that one of its commanders was captured in the eastern province of Paktika while wearing a woman’s dress. Additionally, the jihadist group denied reports that its forces clashed with a rival faction in southwestern Afghanistan. The reports and Taliban denials are part of an ongoing information war being waged by both sides as security in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate.
Today, the National Directorate of Security – Afghanistan’s intelligence service – claimed it captured a Taliban commander, known as Khizar Ali, in Paktika’s Bermal district as he was “dressed like a woman.” The claim was published on the NDS’ Facebook page; included were photographs and a video showing Ali in a colorful woman’s dress [see photo above]. Oddly enough, Ali is handling an AK-47, with a magazine inserted. The NDS report of Ali’s capture was picked up by Afghan news outlets, including Khaama Press.
Also, yesterday, 1TV Afghanistan reported that more than 30 Taliban fighters were killed as forces loyal to Mullah Mansour, the emir of the established Taliban, clashed with followers from Mullah Rasul’s breakaway faction in the Nawa district in Ghazni province.
The Taliban issued a statement yesterday on Voice of Jihad, its official propaganda outlet, rejecting the capture of Ali as well as the report of infighting with Rasul’s forces.
“The provincial officials of the stooge Kabul regime alongside their notorious intelligence agency have been claiming since yesterday of infighting between Mujahideen in Nawa or Maqur districts of Ghazni province as well as arresting a commander in Bermal district of Paktika province today,” a statement attributed to Zabihullah Mujahid read, one of the group’s official spokesmen.
“We strongly reject this propaganda and state that no such incident has taken place in any of the areas and neither has a Mujahideen commander been detained anywhere,” Mujahid continued.
Mujahid described the reports as “rumors,” “fabrications,” and “propaganda” designed to “boost the morale of its dispirited troops who are facing a trashing at the hands of Mujahideen everywhere.”
The back and forth between the Afghan government and the Taliban is nothing new, as both sides are attempting to gain the upper hand and convince the Afghan people and international community that they are winning the war.
It is often difficult assessing each side’s claims. For instance, the Taliban is often more credible when it comes to reports on its operations, including the seizing of districts in Afghan provinces. The Taliban claimed at the beginning of the year that it controlled more than 30 districts and strongly contests scores more. Afghan officials have only admitted that four districts are under Taliban control. A study by The Long War Journal shows that the Taliban control at least 38 districts and strongly contest another 40.
However, the Taliban often exaggerates the effects of its operations, for instance by overstating Coalition and Afghan casualties. The Afghan military and Ministry of Interior also inflate the number of Taliban killed in its operations.
With the Western media losing interest in Afghanistan and the Afghan media under assault by the Taliban and even at times by the government, it becomes more difficult to assess the validity of reports such as the captured Taliban commander wearing a dress and jihadist infighting.