Taliban Twitter feed

The Afghani Taliban is using Twitter, a San Francisco-based technology, to brag – and perhaps coordinate – their victories, boasting that jihadists are killing American “cowards” in uniform.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, or Taliban, maintains a pair of Twitter accounts updating daily not only news and views from the front, but boasting in the numbers of U.S. and allied troops slain.

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For example, the Twitter account alemarahweb posts links to articles from the Taliban’s “Voice of Jihad” website with an updating news feed:

  • Posted Oct. 14, 2011: “NATO logistical convoy ambushed; 5 vehicles eliminated”
  • Posted Oct. 13: “Five U.S. invaders killed, two tanks destroyed in Wardag”
  • Posted Oct. 13: “15 U.S.-Afghan cowardly troops killed in Paktia battle; helicopter shot.”
  • Posted Oct. 13: “Mujahideen kill 3 puppets, seize vehicle”

  • “3 Afghan-NATO invaders killed, 5 hurt in clash Logar; blast kills 4 U.S. cowards.”

A second Twitter account, under the name ABalkhi, offers snippets of commentary and links to opinion pieces as well:

  • Posted Oct. 13: “I’m pretty sure we punked the cowards; 5 U.S. tanks eliminated in Washir”
  • Posted Oct. 12: “American terrorists detain 50 innocent civilians in Gerimsir”
  • Posted Oct. 7: A link to an article titled “40 Signs that America Is Rotting From the Inside Out.”

Τhe first account lists over 5,800 followers, while the second lists over 1,600.

According to a report in CNN, the Taliban Twitter feeds appear to be more propaganda than factual news reporting:

“If the tweets were to be believed, 81 ‘enemy’ troops were killed since the feed began publishing,” wrote CNN’s Doug Gross, only a few days after the account was launched this spring. “A U.S. spy plane, and 23 vehicles, including five U.S. tanks, also were destroyed by Taliban attacks, according to the tweets. … Military and news reports do not support anything approaching those claims.”

Though several media outlets – including CNN, Fox News, London’s Guardian newspaper and others – brought attention to the tweets as far back as May of this year, Twitter has done nothing to restrict or ban the feeds, nor does the company’s rules for using the service suggest it will.

According to “The Twitter Rules” posted on the service’s website, “Twitter does not pre-screen content and we do not remove potentially offensive content.”

The rules continue, “We respect the ownership of the content that users share, and each user is responsible for the content he or she provides. Because of these principles, we do not actively monitor user’s content and will not censor user content, except in limited circumstances.”

Those “limited circumstances” include copyright complaints, breach of privacy, pornography and other offenses, but requires violent content to include “direct, specific threats” in order to be restricted.

According to an analysis by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI, however, the Taliban may be using Twitter to fight not only a propaganda war, but also a physical war.

Twitter to coordinate attacks?

“The Taliban’s Twitter activity could be described as sophisticated;” MEMRI reports, claiming the jihadists are using services and apps, such as FeedTwit, that create multiple ways of communicating.

FeedTwit, for example, when connected to a cell phone’s short message service, or SMS, can send RSS feeds of information through Twitter’s direct message system to individual cell phones without ever appearing on a Twitter user’s “public” account. A central commander, therefore, could use Twitter and FeedTwit to discreetly send out information and instructions to jihadist fighters in the field, without leaving a trace through email or making a direct phone call.

MEMRI also translated an interview with Abdul Sattar Maiwandi, the Taliban commander in charge of the goup’s official web presence, in which he boasted of the strategic advantage of using America’s online tools against the West.

“Wars today cannot be won without the media,” Maiwandi told the Taliban’s Arabic-language magazine Al-Somood. “The media is directed at the heart … [and] if the heart is defeated, then the battle is won.”

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