Taliban weapon: Ring tones

The Taliban have a sophisticated media network to undermine support for the Afghan government, sending threats by text message and spreading the militia's views through songs available as ring tones, according to a report released Thursday.

The International Crisis Group report comes as the Islamist militia that was ousted from power in Afghanistan by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion is making a violent comeback, particularly in the country's south and east.

Taliban propaganda exploits civilian killings by foreign forces and corruption in the U.S.-backed government to add to Afghans' disillusionment about their lives, according to the report by the Brussels, Belgium-based group. It said the Afghan government and its foreign allies should respond more quickly to their mistakes and highlight the Taliban's atrocities.

Many messages that have been distributed – apparently not always directly produced by the Taliban – come as songs, religious chants and poetry that appeal to Afghan nationalism and Islamic pride. Some of the tunes are available as ring tones for phones and cassettes, with such songs as “Let me go to jihad,” the report said. Some people reported they kept the cassettes as a form of protection in case they were stopped by Taliban.

The Taliban movement also has a Web site, Al Emarah, or The Emirate, which has various domain names due to attempts to block it. The Taliban also publish pamphlets and magazines, and their communications come in multiple languages, including English.

Because illiteracy is widespread in Afghanistan, and many Afghans have little to no access to the Internet or television, the Taliban also use traditional means of communication. They often send shabnamahs – fliers that are often distributed at night. Often the letters threaten people who work with international forces or the government, the report said.