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Taliban, ISKP weaponizing the internet in their escalating propaganda war

AT News

KABUL – Two years after the Taliban’s resurgence in Kabul, the Islamic Emirate remains a significant focus for the international community, particularly its neighboring countries. The transition from insurgency to governance has cemented the Taliban’s control, despite reduced violence levels in early 2023.

In the post-US withdrawal era, the Taliban has worked to solidify its political systems, often using X accounts to communicate their challenges in power-sharing dynamics. While they hold a monopoly on political power, ideological debates persist between the Taliban, Islamic State Khorasan (ISKP), and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). These debates extend to online publications, sparking a resurgence of online propaganda.

Scholars note an ideological battle between the Taliban and ISKP, with the latter questioning the former’s Islamic credentials. ISKP’s propaganda also leverages the Taliban’s Pashtun-centric approach to attract members from diverse backgrounds, including Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Uyghurs.

The resurgence of online propaganda poses challenges for tech companies, which must grapple with their stance on the newly established Taliban regime. Some incidents, such as Taliban accounts accessing ‘Twitter Blue’ services and expressing support for figures like Elon Musk, have raised questions about how these companies engage with the Taliban.

ISKP’s propaganda encompasses various topics, including anti-Taliban narratives and even sports, where they criticize the Taliban’s support for cricket. Scholars highlight ongoing efforts by ISKP and the Taliban to counter each other’s online propaganda and influence operations.

Meanwhile, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has adopted a deliberate and public approach in releasing materials, akin to Syria’s Hay’at Tahrir al Sham’s ‘Salvation Government.’ This approach aligns with their transition from insurgency to a ‘local authority.’

The Taliban, TTP, and other groups have developed models to achieve their individual goals and seek political recognition, often using online media to showcase their controlled regions.

The resurgence of Islamist propaganda ecosystems raises challenges for online platforms in countering this trend. While technological solutions are promising, the evolving political landscape adds complexity to counterterrorism efforts.

The interim Foreign Minister of the Taliban-led Islamic Emirate, Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, recently highlighted the challenge of defining terrorism, indicating the complexities of addressing this issue amid shifting geopolitical dynamics.

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