As the caliphate crumbles, Taliban steals ISIS' tactics to target women

Photo illustration by CNN.

(CNN)A glossy women's magazine has hit virtual newsstands, its front cover splashed with the image of a woman, veiled from head to toe, walking off into a yellow-hued desert.

But, unlike other fashion or beauty publications, this one has a niche audience in mind: would-be female jihadists.
The English-language magazine -- which debuted online but in a print-style format -- was published by the Pakistani Taliban, Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), earlier this month without much fanfare.
    The first edition of Sunnat E Khaula, which harks back to a seventh-century female Muslim warrior named Khaula, calls on "like-minded jihadi sisters" to organize "secret gatherings at home," arrange "physical training classes" and "prepare for martyrdom operations."
      "We want to provoke women of Islam to come forward and join the ranks of mujahideen [holy warriors] of Islam," an opening editorial reads.
      The TTP's women's magazine -- the first of its kind -- takes a page out of the ISIS propaganda playbook to target women. And the timing of its release isn't accidental. As ISIS' self-proclaimed caliphate crumbles in Syria and Iraq, the Taliban has seized on an opportunity -- offering an alternative for radicalized women willing to shift their loyalties.
      "The first thing I would think of with a piece of propaganda like this coming out is that they [the TTP] are trying to replicate efforts by Islamic State, particularly now that the caliphate is in decline," Nikita Malik, a senior research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, told CNN.
      Malik, who has studied women and radicalization extensively, says that while the Taliban has used women before, the magazine signals a change in strategy. Despite the group's historically violent subjugation of women -- whom they have killed, barred from attending schools and forced into marriages -- it seems they're trying to attract a new audience.
      "It is definitely an attempt, especially as it's the first one, to reach out to a different audience, to reach out to different recruits," Malik said, adding that it's unusual for the TTP to actively seek out women to take up arms.
      The 45-page magazine features a lengthy article, entitled "Time of martyrdom has come," that looks at ways women can assist the TTP in waging jihad. Among various action points outlined, the piece calls on women to "train yourself in weapon handling, self-defense." The text is overlaid on photos of women dressed in niqabs, carrying assault rifles.
      Photo illustration by CNN.