“The warriors of the Islamic Emirate conquer the capital of the province of Farah [no norte do Afeganistão]. The governor’s office and government buildings have been freed from the mercenary enemy and are under the full control of the Mujahedin [combatentes islâmicos]. The enemy pursuit continues, and he will soon be expelled from the north of the country. “
Thus, a Twitter account with more than 50,000 subscribers reported, in Pashto, one of the official languages of Afghanistan, the capture on Tuesday (10) of yet another provincial capital by the Taliban, who are trying to take control from the country. by force.
“Thank goodness,” some people replied, and others called the group a traitor.
On social networks, supporters and spokespersons of the fundamentalist group recount in Pashto and Persian, as well as in English, the military offensive to recreate the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as the country was called at the time. between 1996 and 2001 when the Taliban was at the head of the government in Kabul.
Since the United States’ decision to withdraw its military troops from the country at the end of this month after 20 years of war, the Taliban have taken cities and could take the capital in less than three months, according to the American intelligence service, in an offensive that has left a trail of violence wherever it goes.
But the greatest violence is on the other side, according to Taliban social media.
In reporting the government’s counterattack to prevent the capture of the southern city of Lashkar Gah, a profile posing as a spokesperson for the Taliban was concerned to show the damage caused by the enemy .
“The American invaders bombed the city’s main hospital with a B-52 plane, wounding three and killing three medics. Most of the hospital was destroyed. The savage enemy therefore takes revenge on ordinary people,” he wrote. On the same day, he recounted attacks on a school and a market in the city.
The largest accounts identified by the report have 248,000 and 288,000 followers on Twitter alone, but there are much smaller profiles, with a few dozen followers, who comment on celebrating accomplishments, translate posts into English, and act as robots to distribute hashtags.
In an effort to change the dominant narrative and soften the group’s image around the world, these pages are keen to show that they have the support of the people of the cities they invade. On the 6th, an account of 27,000 subscribers, mostly writing in English, uploaded videos showing children and young people celebrating the arrival of the Taliban in Zaranj, on the Iranian border.
International relations professor Pio Penna of the University of Brasilia says these actions show that “the Taliban are not in the Stone Age. With the ease of the Internet and its global importance, things have changed, and these groups, they’ve created a media front, ”he says.
For the teacher, the initiative can both help and hinder the group. Indeed, while publicizing the rebel actions to a wider audience, social media profiles also provide ammunition allowing the Taliban to be monitored by opposing intelligence forces.
The profile with more than 27,000 subscribers, for example, posts photos and videos at all times, showing entry into cities that will take over and surrender of national forces, among others. He also has a channel on Telegram to broadcast the footage.
The effort is to reverse the fame that was left after the United States intervened militarily to remove the group from power in 2001, after 9/11, Penna says. “The image that was left with the world is that they were barbarians. Now, 20 years later, they are coming up with a media front to prevent this. It is one of their languages, supporting the main language , which is always strength, “says the teacher.
Despite the armed actions, Penna says he believes these profiles are not excluded from social networks. “It’s part of the political game. If we block these profiles, it’s the same as agreeing with Cuba’s social media blackout against the regime. It’s a media shock, and if you forbid it, it will go to totalitarianism, “he defends himself.
The professor also recalls that this expedient has already been used by the Islamic State to garner support around the world. The Taliban’s strategy still seems distant from the Iraqi Sunnis, who had social media pages and groups in different languages (including Portuguese), as well as sophisticated video production.