Page last updated at 08:06 GMT, Friday, 10 October 2008 09:06 UK

New media plan to combat Taleban

A British soldier in Afghanistan
Anti-Western propaganda being circulated among Afghans

A radical new plan is being considered by the UK government to counter growing Taleban propaganda in Afghanistan, the BBC has learned.

The programme involves using new media like mobile phones and the internet to empower ordinary Afghans to contradict the prevailing Taleban message.

Non-governmental organisations would distribute mobile phones to Afghans for them to make their own video diaries.

Anti-Western films already circulate on Afghanistan's estimated 6m mobiles.

These films are also distributed among the country's half a million internet users.

Propaganda war

The plan has been devised by an outside consultant. Although no decision has yet been taken, it is said by the Foreign Office to "have merit".

It envisages having up to 100 short films made by Afghans ready in time for a film festival next summer.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

Whitehall officials say the aim is to deprive the Taleban of its virtual monopoly on propaganda using new media.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said there was a growing realisation in Whitehall and Washington that the US-led coalition had been losing the propaganda war in Afghanistan to the Taleban.

The coalition's reputation was particularly damaged by the recent distribution of mobile phone footage showing the bodies of dozens of Afghan civilians killed in a US-led raid in August, our correspondent added.

On Sunday the UK's commander in Helmand said Britain should not expect a "decisive military victory" in Afghanistan.

Brig Mark Carleton-Smith said the aim of the mission was to ensure the Afghan army was able to manage the country on its own.

The number of UK soldiers killed on operations in Afghanistan since 2001 currently stands at 119.





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