ANALYSIS: Taliban, Insurgents Wage War On Twitter Amid Intelligence Blackout


Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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With the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan complete, government officials, foreign policy observers, and journalists are struggling to gather information from the country’s rural areas.

Poor intelligence-gathering hamstrung the later stages of the war effort, with American officials underestimating the strength of the Taliban and missing its rapid spread across outer provinces.

Less than a month before the terrorist group took Kabul, President Joe Biden declared that Afghanistan was not at risk of falling to the Taliban. He claimed that a report saying the”intelligence community has assessed that the Afghan government will likely collapse” was “not true,” although the Wall Street Journal later reported that multiple intelligence agencies believed the country could fall in six months.

Shortly after Kabul fell, former government and military officials like First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, and Ahmad Massoud formed the National Resistance Front (NRF) to oppose the Taliban. NRF leaders have used Western and social media to spread their message of defiance and declare military victories, while Taliban fighters have shown off weaponry abandoned by the U.S. and issued threats to their enemies.

Saleh announced on Twitter that he was legally president of Afghanistan under the country’s 2004 constitution after Ashraf Ghani fled to the United Arab Emirates. He claimed that he was “reaching out to all leaders to secure their support [and] consensus,” adding that he would “under no circumstances bow to d Talib terrorists.”

Massoud declared that he had “stores of ammunition and arms” as well as the support of “soldiers from the Afghan regular army who were disgusted by the surrender of their commanders” in a Washington Post op-ed.

Both the Taliban and NRF forces have declared victory in a few battles in the Panjshir Valley region, but dueling social media posts ensure that outside observers will struggle to determine casualty numbers and the winning side.

“If the Taliban is really successful, we would see videos,” Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Daily Caller. He addressed a report from Aug. 22 that the NRF blocked an entry in Panjshir and trapped Taliban fighters in the Salang Pass, describing the move as “within their capabilities.”

A Taliban spokesman denied the report.

Observers were once again forced to assess dueling claims on Thursday, after Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told NBC News that his group entered Panjshir and captured eleven “important” positions. (RELATED: REPORT: Afghan Rebels Kill 7 Taliban Fighters In Panjshir Valley Skirmish)

“We started operations [on Wednesday] after negotiation with the local armed group failed,” he added in a statement to Reuters. “They suffered heavy losses.”

Other reports claimed that the Taliban surrounded the Panjshir Valley and are preparing for a siege.

An NRF-aligned Twitter account asserted just the opposite, however. It said that the Taliban suffered more than 350 casualties, and left weaponry amid its retreat.

“The resistance claims appear to be credible,” Roggio said. “If the Taliban was successful and took districts inside Panjshir their supporters would be crowing about it.”

However, he added, “this is difficult to assess.”