Taliban Uses Social Media to Usher In a New Era of Jihad

"Wars today cannot be won without media. Media aims at the heart rather than the body, [and] if the heart is defeated, the battle is won."

This statement could be from any public relations professional or university professor in America, but it’s not. This decidedly modern approach to public relations campaigning was made by Abdul Sattar Maiwandi, administrator of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan website, which is the media and communications arm of the Taliban. It is also known as the "Voice of Jihad.”

As America celebrates Osama bin Laden’s death as a victory in the war against terrorism, Taliban leaders have been busy at work, rallying the troops with greater speed and in greater numbers than ever before. The tenets of sharia law and Muslim extremism may find their roots in ancient texts and legendary leaders, but the old ways have quietly and stealthily been uniting with the new by embracing the modern age of the internet and social media.

The "Voice of Jihad” and its network of followers is no accident. While U.S. and coalition armed forces battled terrorist cells in Kandahar and Zabul, and covert intelligence missions combed the hills of Pakistan, a quiet revolution was brewing. It took years in the making, but the end of one era in the death of bin Laden has made way for another.

U.S. news shows and political commentators describe today’s Taliban as a shadow of its former glory, slowly worn down and weakened, its terror cells fractured, training camps demolished, and communications unreliable. President Obama has stated publicly that with “mission accomplished,” the time is coming to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

But a new war has been building; a cyber war of words, challenging the West to be better and faster at viral messaging -- emailing, texting, Twittering, YouTubing, blogging, and Facebooking. It’s pervasive, sweeping across terrorist breeding grounds in the Middle East and taking root right here among us.

In an interview with al-Samood monthly magazine -- an Islamic Emirate-Taliban publication -- Maiwandi proudly details the many ongoing activities of jihad in cyberspace:

Among other committees, the Islamic Emirates established a special media committee to spread (news) about jihadist activities in different fields and chase away the voice of the unjust enemy who, before the entire world, was distorting the image of the jihad in Afghanistan and was claiming false victories here and there over the mujahideen.

The website is as fully functioning as any user-friendly site, with handy links to movies, interviews, and all the latest news according to the Taliban point of view.

A recent sample headline reads: “10 puppets killed, scores wounded as enemy’s ten military posts attacked.”

Another from its May 11 homepage reads: “Informant police kills 6 invaders in Herat.”

At first glance, the headline could be one in any American media source, but it’s the content that betrays the source:

Wednesday, 11 May 2011 10:52 Qari Yousuf Ahmadi – HERAT – Mujahideen from Rabat-e-Sangi district say that 6 US invaders were killed when an informant police detonated a mine planted inside the invaders tank, blowing it to bits in Khalawak area at 07:30 am on Monday morning (May. 09). The wreckage of the tank is still lying at the blast scene which the puppet government officials attributed to a traffic incident.