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Twitter – ISAF vs Taliban…

May 18, 2012

Today there was a children’s playground level of dispute between ISAF media and a Twitter addressee who seems to purport to be a Taliban media representative.  It isn’t the first time: see this and this and this.  It reminds me of the Al Qaeda claim that all they have to do is run a flag up with “Al Qaeda” written on it in some distant, fly-blown, fringe of the world to have the full might of US-led coalition forces to jump in with guns blazing.  Huge question marks as to whether “Abalkhi” is a genuine Taliban outlet, as opposed to a supporter who does nothing more than rebroadcast Taliban “website central” messages.  Huge question marks as to why ISAF should feel it needs to divert its extensive (and usually quite intelligent) resources into a tit for tat exchange at this level of immaturity.  “ISAF operational reporting does not support your claims of fatalities” is about as limp a riposte as you can get.  In doing so, ISAF treats Abalkhi as an equal partner – surely conceding a victory of sorts immediately – but one who actually has the initiative.  If you are going to get involved in an exchange with a Twitter addressee of perhaps dubious origins, perhaps it would be too much to expect ISAF to press them for an explanation of their understanding of what a “tank” is (I suspect they have probably claimed hundreds, if not thousands, over the years) and to invite them to produce photographic/video evidence.   As least say something beyond “nernernernerner”…

Abdulqahar Balkhi ‏@ABalkhi

Al-Farooq| 4 US tanks blown apart by IEDs yesterday in Sarwan Kala region, Sangin district (Helmand). 8 invaders reported dead, 9 wounded.

2h ISAF ISAF ‏@ISAFmedia

@abalkhi ISAF operational reporting does not support your claims of fatalities.

6m Abdulqahar Balkhi Abdulqahar Balkhi ‏@ABalkhi

@ISAFmedia Your operational reporting is obviously wrong. Re-check and then double re-check and keep checking until you find it.

2:15 PM – 18 May 12 via web · Details





4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2012 2:08 pm

    Have you noticed a (not so) recent addition to the Twitter chatter?!/ABalkhii
    It uses the imagery and layout of the pro-Taliban Twitter feeds, but with VERY different messaging:
    “@abalkhii Another girl school poisoned in Takhar province. Rise up Afghan people, this is the work of Taliban/ISI/pakistan”
    “You seek not to allow your son to participate in #Jihad but push the sons of #Afghans to fight for the ISI and Persians”
    “Yousuf Ahmadi. Zabihullah Mujahid. it is of you who have rejected the Truth and have gone astray, @abalkhi @alamarahweb”
    What a difference an extra “i” in the name can make ….

    • May 27, 2012 9:25 pm

      Tony – great to hear from you. Thanks for the sharp-eyed observation. I’d been aware of discrepancies in messaging and attempts to plant stories but not to the extent that you helpfully highlight. My sense is that attempts by “anti-Taliban agencies” (interpret that how you will) continue to make flawed and essentially ineffective attempts to undermine Taliban leadership, morale and command and control. IO ops against them have definitely made the Taliban cautious – it is something they are very aware of but largely able to guard against and recover from (eg, the posting of claims of Mullah Omar’s death). Once bitten, twice shy, as it were. I think their media/messaging organisms have evolved into something pretty robust, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t be “spooked” with rumours and counter-rumours about talks and deals, etc. Such IO attacks will therefore continue – but how helpful are they likely to be? In the widest sense, much depends now upon what the international community thinks it is trying to do with the Taliban – destroy it or talk to it. Doing both simultaneously is perhaps not working. What the West would like to do is not the same as what it probably ought to be doing. I am trying to write a larger piece about this…

      Lets keep in touch…


      • May 28, 2012 12:47 pm

        Good points.

        Fom a strictly communications/PR perspective, any message left unconfronted is more likely to be believed. That said, though, this rule generally applies in civilian marketing and communications, which I know is NOT the same as IO.

        Looking forward to the longer piece with more on the solution!

      • May 28, 2012 12:54 pm

        Agreed – but I’m still not sure how useful Twitter is for the Taliban and how many followers are influenced by it. I don’t think the effectiveness or otherwise of Taliban IO is really understood – increasingly high tech means, surely, but the content and impact of the message…?

        Ah, yes – “The Solution”. Better get cracking with that one!

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