Ayman al Zawahiri (left) and Osama bin Laden (center) hold a press conference in Afghanistan in 1998.
The Institute for the Study of War has a must-read analysis on the Taliban’s propaganda campaign that is designed to convince US policy makers the Taliban is not an external threat and is merely waging an insurgency to retake power in Afghanistan. From the executive summary:
As the world awaits the highly anticipated announcement of the President’s Afghan War strategy, the Taliban is actively trying to influence the debate in Washington through a sophisticated information campaign. Emphasizing the intractability of the conflict, the Taliban seek to dissuade the White House from investing more blood and treasure in a war that they contend will be a bloody, drawn-out struggle. However, there is little truth in the Taliban’s media blitz. It is a strategic mistake for decision makers in Washington to buy-in to the Taliban’s propaganda efforts.
The Taliban is aggressively attempting to rebrand their image and feed talking points to those in favor of de-escalation. Last month, the Taliban’s senior leadership released a statement claiming that, “[they] did not have any agenda to harm other countries including Europe, nor do we have such agenda today.” This release coincided with a New York Times story claiming that the Obama administration has begun to define the Taliban as a group that “does not express ambitions of attacking the United States.”
I’ve highlighted statements by leading members of the Taliban who openly profess their affinity for and links to al Qaeda to show that the Taliban is indeed a member of the global jihad. Those who are looking for the easy exit from Afghanistan ignore this evidence of the deep links between al Qaeda and the Taliban at our peril.
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