Twitter war with the Taliban
October 26th, 2011
09:59 AM ET

Twitter war with the Taliban

By Sr. National Security Producer Charley Keyes

Bits of information - not just bullets and bombs - are in the thick of the fighting in Afghanistan.

U.S. forces feared they were losing the information war to the Taliban and now are fighting back with Twitter - using those brisk 140-character messages to get out the other side of the story.

"The Taliban were just constantly putting out false information and propaganda," said Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings. "Some of it was so wrong we finally had to start engaging, and backing up our information with the facts"

This new reliance on all social media is quick and cheap.

"It allows us to keep our followers dynamically informed while also keeping the enemy's statements in check," Cummings said in an e-mail exchange with CNN.

It is easy to see this play out on any day. A Twitter account that frequently puts out news reports favoring the Taliban, , trumpets information of a major battlefield success. "Mujahideen bring down US helicopter in Kunar," says the tweet.

But over at International Security Assistance Force headquarters, the social media experts are on the case on the ISAF Twitter account.  "We have no reports of any missing helos. Take any Taliban reports with a block of salt," their tweet answers. And later, "Reports of a shoot-down are false."

Cummings jokes that the Taliban keep up a steady stream of wildly inflated reports. "The usual is every day we lose 20 tanks and 30 people, if you follow the Taliban. We pick and choose what we come back with."

And the turning point came just last month, with the attack on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul.

"Our guys were telling us about what the Taliban was posting," Cummings recalls. In addition to false claims about U.S. fatalities, the Taliban-leaning sites called the Americans cowards and invaders. "It was so false. It dawned on us, we have to engage, to get the facts out."

Cummings says he and the other members of the public affairs team work in a big room together at the headquarters of the International Assistance Force.  When one of the tweets comes in from the other side there is a group discussion on how to react and then the two military personnel who are totally dedicated to social media type a response and hit the send key.

"Being able to reach out and inform a younger generation is a key," Cummings said. "The younger generation here is one of the cornerstones to the future success of Afghanistan."

But some experts take a more skeptical view of the keypad duel between U.S. forces and their enemies.

Georgetown University's Martin Irvine says these "micro-community communications" can be hard to evaluate.  "There is so much noise on Twitter, it is difficult to know if any of that information is going to get through," Irvine said from his Washington office. He is associate professor in Communications, Culture and Technology and wonders how many people in Afghanistan have cell phones or internet-enabled computers.

ISAF claims more than 14,000 followers on its Twitter account, including, of course, the Taliban, local journalists as well as regular people.  And this hourly, if not minute by minute competition between U.S. forces and their enemies is just warming up, providing lessons now that can be brought to the next conflict.

"We believe so far we have been successful with our increased social media activities," Cummings said. "ISAF (NATO's International Security Assistance Force) will continue to grow and improve in this part of our communication realm."

Post by:
Filed under: Afghanistan • ISAF • Military • Taliban • Technology
soundoff (214 Responses)
  1. Jackie Chaudet

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a game where you can do anything you want. sl is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these sl authors and blogs

    May 10, 2021 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  2. Alvin Kuroda

    Very nice article. I certainly love this website. Keep it up!

    May 4, 2021 at 8:34 pm | Reply
  3. Buy Best Proxy

    some really interesting info , well written and loosely user friendly.

    April 25, 2021 at 4:55 am | Reply
  4. Buy Bulk Proxies

    I like the helpful information you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I am quite sure I will learn plenty of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

    April 21, 2021 at 3:56 pm | Reply

    Greek Mythology Book National Bookstore Science Technology And Society A Sociological Approach Pdf

    Also visit my web blog; ebook (

    April 21, 2021 at 1:07 am | Reply

    Vitalsource Bookshelf Chromebook Vocational Education Vs Vocational Training

    Feel free to surf to my web site – books (

    April 20, 2021 at 8:32 pm | Reply
  7. Herma Rameau

    Having read this I believed it was extremely informative. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this short article together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

    April 17, 2021 at 2:58 pm | Reply
  8. Yoshie Alhambra

    I just added this web site to my rss reader, excellent stuff. Can not get enough!

    April 17, 2021 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  9. Noriko Salvio

    Thanks for your post. One other thing is individual states have their own laws of which affect homeowners, which makes it very hard for the our lawmakers to come up with a different set of guidelines concerning foreclosures on householders. The problem is that a state has got own legal guidelines which may interact in an unwanted manner on the subject of foreclosure policies.

    April 14, 2021 at 12:03 pm | Reply
1 2

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.