Tal­iban of­fer gov’t work­ers ‘hot­line’ to de­fect

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Afghan Tal­iban have an­nounced a 24-hour tele­phone “hot­line” and email ad­dresses for any gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees wish­ing to de­fect to them, as the tech-savvy mil­i­tants try to bol­ster public sup­port.

“The Is­lamic Emi­rate will pro­vide safety to any­body who de­fects from the Kabul pup­pet regime,” the Tal­iban said in a state­ment on their web­site on Sun­day, us­ing their for­mal name.

“They can get in touch with us 24/7 through these phone num­bers and email ad­dresses,” it added, list­ing two for each.

The move demon­strates the Tal­iban’s ef­forts to boost public sup­port for their re­silient but un­pop­u­lar in­sur­gency fol­low­ing a string of de­fec­tions to the Is­lamic State group in re­cent months.

It marks a rare at­tempt by the Tal­iban to reach out to gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, fre­quently tar­geted in grow­ing in­sur­gent at­tacks that have sent ca­su­al­ties soar­ing.

When AFP called one of the num­bers, a mil­i­tant rep­re­sen­ta­tive who iden­ti­fied him­self as Mul­lah Jalid said they had re­ceived more than 20 calls from gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees since the state­ment was posted.

“They all said labayk (Ara­bic for ‘we are at your ser­vice’) to our in­vi­ta­tion,” Jalid said, a claim that was im­pos­si­ble to ver­ify in­de­pen­dently.

“This in­vi­ta­tion is for all the em­ploy­ees of the gov­ern­ment, mil­i­tary and civil­ian. They are welcome to come to us and we will pro­tect them from the in­vaders and the stooge gov­ern­ment.”

The state­ment, posted by the in­sur­gent group’s “in­vi­ta­tion and guid­ance com­mis­sion,” also men­tioned a ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tion code to help es­tab­lish con­tact with the in­sur­gents.

Once seen as un­e­d­u­cated thugs, the Tal­iban have de­vel­oped a media-savvy PR team who use dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy to reach out to au­di­ences world­wide.

When the Tal­iban ruled Afghanistan be­tween 1996 and 2001, al­most all elec­tronic prod­ucts were out­lawed as un-Is­lamic.

Pho­to­graphs of liv­ing things were illegal and own­er­ship of a video player could lead to a public lash­ing.

But the Tal­iban have avidly em­braced elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tion and so­cial media in re­cent years as a re­cruit­ment tool and to pro­mote their pro­pa­ganda.

How­ever their ef­forts pale in com­par­i­son to the Is­lamic State group, which has ac­tively ex­ploited so­cial media to lure thou­sands of for­eign fight­ers to Syria and Iraq.

The Tal­iban are seek­ing to halt de­fec­tions to the Is­lamic State af­ter some in­sur­gents adopted the IS flag to re­brand them­selves as a more lethal force as NATO troops de­part.

Last Tues­day the Tal­iban warned the leader of the Is­lamic State group against wag­ing a par­al­lel in­sur­gency in Afghanistan, af­ter re­ported clashes with mil­i­tants loyal to IS.

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