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Taliban film 'a perfect propaganda image'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 12 August 2010

After Channel 4 News broadcast a rare film of Taliban fighters on the Afghan frontline, Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces, analyses what the footage reveals about insurgent tactics.

Colonel Richard Kemp analyses a rare film showing Taliban fighters on the Afghanistan frontline

This is the Taliban as they would like to be seen. Brave fighters confronting foreign invaders in an unequal fight with the rudimentary weapons they have to hand. Between battles, hardy, family-loving mountain folk, playing with the kids and letting off steam pitching rocks in good-natured makeshift games.

There is a moving scene in which we are told that a Nato strike missed the commander while killing two of his children. If true, this is yet another in a catalogue of extremely sad Afghan tragedies.

But no less sad are the 176 children killed and 389 injured in the first six months of this year across Afghanistan, mainly by the Taliban, according to a report issued this week by the United Nations.

Despite a significant reduction in deaths attributed to pro-government forces, this represents a horrific 55 per cent increase in child casualties compared to the same period last year. Most have been the result of improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks.

And this is of course the reality of the conflict in Afghanistan – a reality that the Taliban would not want filmed. Stealthily digging IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) into the side of dirt tracks under cover of darkness. Sniping from behind the protective shield of women, children and old men. Forcing young boys to hurl high explosive grenades at patrolling Nato troops in the densely-packed rat-run villages of Helmand. Indoctrinating the vulnerable to strap on suicide vests.

The visit shown in the film of a Taliban judge is a chilling reminder of the young woman recently ordered to have her nose and ears cut off for running away from her husband, and the widow sentenced to be flogged and then executed for an elicit affair.

Living with the Taliban on the Afghan frontline
Even if I did want to do it, I would not be allowed to by ITN. Nor would anybody here. But out there in the wide open world of the freelancer, Paul Refsdal did it. He did it brilliantly well, writes Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson.

He has emerged from Afghanistan with footage the like of which has not been seen I will bet, in nine years of war. It all starts with the moment when you move beyond the point of return.

Unsmiling, heavily armed fighters suddenly materialise and then there you are, out there, on your own, with nothing but trust to keep you going. From behind their turban-masked faces they are smirking, saying quietly to each other, "He's really scared of us, isn't he?" And so it went on for the whole of the first day as they trekked back up to their command post.

Read the article in full here

This is the means by which the hard core Taliban maintains order in the areas of Afghanistan under its control, and the barbaric way in which it would again run the whole country given the chance. Such vicious oppression of millions of people can be witnessed every day in the border regions of North West Pakistan.

In Kunar Province, most of the attacks on Nato forces – and the civilian population – have been carried out by Gulbuddin Hekmatayr's al-Qaida and Taliban-linked Hizb-e Islami, striking out from their safe havens across the border in Pakistan. Roadside bombs and suicide missions are their preferred means of attack. 

The insurgents in this fascinating film, seen ineffectually blasting away at the distant Nato convoys, are most likely a local group. This is not to underplay the true bravery of journalist Paul Refsdal, whose personal exposure to danger was underlined when he was taken hostage after shooting the film.

Colonel Richard Kemp is the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan

But he has captured a perfect propaganda image of determined freedom fighters protecting their homes, rather than the callous terrorists, careless of death and destruction among their own population, that make up the hard core of the fighters in the Afghan conflict.

Colonel Richard Kemp is the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and the author of Attack State Red. Follow him on Twitter @colrichardkemp

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