Conflict & Justice

The perils of seeing your reporting used in Taliban propaganda video


Saudi-born alleged terror mastermind Osama bin Laden is seen in this video footage recorded at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan aired by the Qatar-based satelite TV station al-Jazeera 07 October 2001.



Most jihadist propaganda videos out of Afghanistan and Pakistan have similar tropes — the blessings to Allah, prayerful music followed by shaky video and a long-distance explosion on what is claimed to be a U.S. convoy that kills many "infidels."

These videos have recently become more and more more sophisticated, complete with higher quality production values. In short, they appear, well, more "real."

The Taliban in Afghanistan have even begun tweeting their propaganda in the last year as they increase their media sophistication. See GlobalPost's Taliban embrace New Media: "Mobile phones, the internet, television — all of these were invented by the West, but Islam allows us to use it within the boundaries of our religion,” one Taliban fighter, speaking from Pakistan via Google Chat said.

This trend was epitomized by a gruesome video showing an up-close execution of 16 captured Pakistani policemen in June. They are gunned down in a row and each shot again for good measure. 

Also, it's a disturbing when your own footage is spliced into one of these videos.

A friend of mine, Simon Klingert, who's also spent months reporting in Afghanistan, sent me the link to this video today — "You can overhear your voice around 13:00," he wrote.

I couldn't resist. Watching the footage leading up to 13:00 scared the crap out of me. The insurgent fighters crouching in the mountains ready to pour RPGs down on a road that looks very similar to the treacherous highway in Kunar province that myself and a convoy of 1-101st Brigade soldiers were riding on in August 2010.

It's not the same attack of course, but (at 10:22) to see that Afghan Army vehicle disabled, stranded while RPGs continue to unload on it is gut-wrenching. A man literally cut in half is wreathing on the side of the road.

My footage is spliced next over the music (13:00) — a close-up shot of a U.S. platoon as they race to save a driver hit when a 107mm recoilless round pierced the front of their vehicle, shredding his arm in the process.

It sickened me to see how a video I thought showed the bravery and resilence of a platoon under fire, now showed the increasing effectiveness of the Taliban.

In fact, the platoon acted bravely, as you can still see, working in unison on the edge of the cliff-walled highway to stabilize a severely wounded comrade. That group, Gator Company of the 2-327th Brigade, had already lost at least eight guys to IEDs, suicide bombers and direct attacks on their base that summer.

(See the full video — A fire fight in Kunar Province.)

At the time I wrote — "It always amazes me how brave these guys are... Pvt. Jon Duran and Jesse Townsend were able to remove their severely wounded driver and wrap a tourniquet around his arm despite suffering smoke inhalation and concussions."

The idea that these men acted bravely doesn't discount the effectiveness of the Talib attack, nor why both sides might be proud to show the video. This is the reality of war.