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Facebook Tensions on the USA-Taliban Line

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After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a new state that is based on Western values was established in Afghanistan with the support and pressure of the United States of America (USA).

In this context, dozens of visual and written press organs have started to operate with the funding of the West. Apart from that, it is known that the social media platforms that offer services at the global level operate without the censorship by the Government of Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has stated that the most tangible success of his 13-year government is the freedom of the press and expression and dozens of media organizations.

The Taliban, which was overthrown as a result of what the United States called “Operation Eternal Freedom”, did not admit defeat in the process, resorted to various tactics and strategies and continued its war against coalition forces and the Government of Afghanistan.  One of the tactics the Taliban has developed in the last 20 years has been to utilize social media platforms by using the environment of freedom of the press and expression in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has announced its attacks on foreign forces and the Afghan Army of the time to the people of Afghanistan and the world through the press and has considered this situation as a show of force. In addition, the Taliban shared the actions of the coalition forces against the civilians and Taliban soldiers which violate the law of war with the public and the press, and gained support from some of the Afghan people against foreign powers. In other words, the Taliban has taken advantage of the freedom of the press to convince some regional states and a significant part of the Afghan people that the coalition forces are the invading element.

In the context of social media platforms, the Taliban has used Twitter the most. A Canadian research center CAIDAC has announced that Taliban utilized Twitter as a strategic tool while it gained control over Afghanistan and this played a role in the success of the aforementioned organization. It is also known that the Taliban has tried to recruit fighters through social media tools.[1] In this sense, the Taliban’s good analysis of the freedom of expression environment and its professional use of social media is one of the important factors that caused it to dominate Afghanistan again.

As it is known, the Taliban regained control over Afghanistan in August 2021 after 20 years of war.  Thus, the Taliban has also taken control of the media institutions of the ousted regime. It is known that the Taliban is trying to reach people by making shares through the social media accounts of official institutions of the state. Recently, the Taliban organized the Mullahs’ Meeting and shared the statements of the mullahs who spoke in their favor through the social media accounts of the official institutions of the state.

Due to the fact that the Taliban has turned these accounts into a propaganda tool, Facebook/Meta has announced that it has closed the social media accounts of Afghanistan’s national Radio and Television Channel and the official news agency Bahtar.[2]

Following Facebook’s decision, Ahmadullah Vasik, the head of the Afghanistan Radio and Television Channel appointed by the Taliban after Facebook’s decision, stated that “Facebook’s decision is contrary to the principles of freedom of the press and the press institutions whose pages have been closed are the voice of the Afghan people.[3] At this point, it can be stated that closing the accounts of Taliban-controlled institutions will have significant effects.

First of all, since Facebook is A US-centered company, it reflects the approach of the Washington administration towards the Taliban. As is known, the United States, citing the Doha Treaty, demands the establishment of an inclusive government in Afghanistan in accordance with the wishes of the international community.

In this sense, the main goal of the Washington administration is to make the Taliban accept the wishes of the international community and restore its prestige with the logic of “If it does, the United States will do again. However, despite the fact that 11 months have passed, the Taliban leadership has not taken the steps that the United States expects, and Washington is gradually trying to deconstruct this organization, thinking that nothing will change without putting pressure on the Taliban. As a matter of fact, the United States has previously imposed a travel ban on three Taliban officials through the United Nations Security Council. Facebook accounts that have been closed are the accounts with the most followers.

Taliban opponents in foreign countries state that they welcome Facebook’s decision positively and that more sanctions should be imposed on the Taliban. In this sense, there are some who advocate the closure of the Twitter account. As a matter of fact, the opposition Afghans have also done a social media study titled “Shut down the Taliban (#BanTaliban)” on Twitter.[4] Because it is known that Twitter is the most used platform of Taliban leaders.

Taliban officials say that the closure of the pages of government agencies by Facebook is a double standard of the West, calling the process a violation of freedom of expression and suggesting that the West uses freedom of the press against others as a tool. If Facebook and the Taliban cannot reach an agreement in the oncoming period, there is a possibility that the Taliban administration will ban Facebook in all of Afghanistan. It is known that currently 4 million Afghan citizens have Facebook accounts in Afghanistan. In the past, the Taliban had previously announced that Voice of America and the BBC had suspended their broadcasts in Afghanistan.

As a result, the United States has revealed that it is closely monitoring Afghanistan-based developments and the actions of the Taliban with the decision of Facebook and will increase the pressure on the Taliban. This is because the Taliban does not want to create an inclusive government in accordance with the expectations of the international community, especially the United States; on the contrary, it argues that the current government is already inclusive. But it should be noted that when the social media platforms that the Taliban often use are closed, the Taliban will also have difficulty announcing their activities.

[1] “طالبان از تویتر به عنوان «حربه» کار گرفته اند”, Shafaqna, https://af.shafaqna.com/FA/527383, (Date of Accession: 22.07.2022).

[2] “میتا می‌گوید که بر اساس ‘پالیسی‌های سازمان‌های خطرناک’ صفحات رادیو تلویزیون ملی طالبان مسدود شد”, VOA, https://www.darivoa.com/amp/meta-closed-rta-account/6666608.html, (Date of Accession: 22.07.2022).

[3] “واکنش طالبان به بسته شدن صفحات فیسبوک تلویزیون ملی و آژانس خبری باخت”, Azadiradio, https://da.azadiradio.com/a/31953039.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 22.07.2022).

[4] “کارزار کاربران افغان در شبکه‌های اجتماعی: صفحات توییتر طالبان بسته شود”, Afintl, https://www.afintl.com/202207219856, (Date of Accession: 22.07.2022).

Ahmad Khan DAWLATYAR
Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar, 2013 yılında Kunduz Üniversitesi Hukuk ve Siyaset Bilimi Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Siyaset Bilimi Anabilim Dalı’nda “Türkiye Cumhuriyeti ve Afganistan İslam Cumhuriyeti Anayasalarında Güçler Ayrılığı İlkesi Üzerine Karşılaştırmalı Bir Analiz” başlıklı teziyle 2019 yılında almıştır. Çeşitli bilimsel etkinliklere katılan Dawlatyar, Afganistan sorunuyla ilgili bildiriler ve makaleler sunmuştur. Bu kapsamda “Afganistan Sorununun Dini ve İdeolojik Nedenleri” başlıklı sunumu yayınlanmıştır. Halihazırda Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. ANKASAM bünyesinde yürütülen çalışmalara katkıda bulunan Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Afganistan ve Pakistan’dır. Dawlatyar, anadil seviyesinde Farsça, Özbekçe, Türkçe ve Peştunca dillerine hakimdir. Ayrıca orta düzeyde İngilizce bilmektedir.