The Pentagon Run-Down: Twitter Gives Taliban Free Rein


Shortly after the Marine Corps commandant declared, “We're the Mujahideen,” Task & Purpose’s Pentagon correspondent went full Charlie Wilson by calling out the Taliban on Twitter, but Twitter doesn’t seem to care that it is giving a platform to a violent extremist group.

The U.S. government has classified the Afghan Taliban as a “Specifically Designated Terrorist Entity” since 2002, a State Department official told Task & Purpose.

“As a result of the designation, all property subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which the group has any interest is blocked, and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them or to their benefit,” the official said in an email.

Yet the Taliban’s chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid is on Twitter – with 8,639 followers – and so are several fellow travelers. During a recent Twitter exchange over the commandant’s comments, one Taliban cheerleader suggested that this reporter doesn’t have a penis: “With all these gender movements in the US, I do not know if you actually are a man or some other weird creature.”

Lost in the name calling is a larger question: Why does Twitter allow the Taliban to continue to use its product when the company’s own policy bans “violent extremist groups”?

A company spokeswoman offered little insight, telling Task & Purpose on May 7, “I am unable to comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons.” The spokeswoman referred T&P; to Twitter’s policy on violent extremist group.

According to said policy, Twitter looks for indicators that an account is affiliated with such a group, including: “Stating or suggesting that an account represents or is part of a violent extremist group” and “engaging in or promoting acts for the violent extremist group.”

Zabihullah Mujahid’s home page says it is the “Official Twitter Account of the Spokesman of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” On May 7, Mujahid tweeted:  “Enemy CPs attacked overnight in Aheno, Maidanak & Lalezo areas of Qarabagh #Ghazni, 7 Arbaki militiamen including commander Yaseen killed, 9 wounded. Mujahid also martyred in op & 3 injured.”

Way to go, Twitter.

It looks like the Taliban will be tweeting for the foreseeable future, but your friendly Pentagon correspondent will continue to meet the bully on the middle school playground that is Twitter, reminding Zabihullah Mujahid that, “If I had a dog as ugly as you, I would shave its ass and teach it to walk backwards.”

Comments or thoughts to share? Send them to Jeff Schogol via email or direct message @JeffSchogol on Twitter.


Syrians threw potatoes and yelled at United States armored vehicles on Monday as U.S. troops drove through the northeast border town of Qamishli, after Trump vowed to pull U.S. troops from Syria.

Read More Show Less

(Reuters) - In the summer of 2004, U.S. soldier Greg Walker drove to a checkpoint just outside of Baghdad's Green Zone with his Kurdish bodyguard, Azaz. When he stepped out of his SUV, three Iraqi guards turned him around at gunpoint.

As he walked back to the vehicle, he heard an AK-47 being racked and a hail of cursing in Arabic and Kurdish. He turned to see Azaz facing off with the Iraqis.

"Let us through or I'll kill you all," Walker recalled his Kurdish bodyguard telling the Iraqi soldiers, who he described as "terrified."

He thought to himself: "This is the kind of ally and friend I want."

Read More Show Less

The winner of an Army competition searching for innovative technology for troops would let soldiers see their enemies through walls.

Read More Show Less

The U.S. military has pulled about 2,000 troops from Afghanistan over the past year, the top U.S. and coalition military commander said Monday.

"As we work in Afghanistan with our partners, we're always looking to optimize the force," Army Gen. Austin Miller said at a news conference in Kabul. "Unbeknownst to the public, as part of our optimization … we reduced our authorized strength by 2,000 here."

"I'm confident that we have the right capabilities to: 1. Reach our objectives as well as continue train, advise, and assist throughout the country," Miller continued.

The New York Times was first to report that the U.S. military had reduced its troop strength in Afghanistan even though peace talks with the Taliban are on hiatus. The number of troops in the country has gone from about 15,000 to 13,000, a U.S. official told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity.

Separately, the U.S. military is considering drawing down further to 8,600 troops in Afghanistan as part of a broader political agreement, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on Oct. 19.

"We've always said, that it'll be conditions based, but we're confident that we can go down to 8,600 without affecting our [counterterrorism] operations, if you will," Esper said while enroute to Afghanistan.

So far, no order has been given to draw down to 8,600 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. official said.

After President Donald Trump cancelled peace talks with the Taliban, which had been expected to take place at Camp David around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. military has increased both air and ground attacks.

In September, U.S. military aircraft dropped more ordnance in Afghanistan than they have since October 2010, according to Air Force statistics.

However, the president has also repeatedly vowed to bring U.S. troops home from the post 9/11 wars. Most recently, he approved withdrawing most U.S. troops from Syria.

On Monday, Esper said the situations in Syria and Afghanistan are very different, so the Afghans and other U.S. allies "should not misinterpret our actions in the recent week or so with regard to Syria."

DOHUK, Iraq/KABUL (Reuters) - The Pentagon is considering keeping some U.S. troops near oilfields in northeastern Syria alongside Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to help deny oil to Islamic State militants, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday.

U.S. troops are crossing into Iraq as part of a broader withdrawal from Syria ordered by President Donald Trump, a decision that allowed Turkey to launch an offensive against the SDF which for years was a U.S. ally battling Islamic State.

Read More Show Less