Afghan Leaders Sideline Spokesmen in an Escalating Misinformation War
Ahmad Jawad Hijri, the former spokesman for the governor of Takhar Province, was imprisoned and fired after three days after telling the news media about an Afghan airstrike in Northern Afghanistan that wounded children. Top officials from Kabul had stated that only taliban fighters had been killed in the strike, not children, promising to prosecute anyone who said otherwise. The government’s response to the October 22 strike in Takhar Province indicated the start of a declaration of tactics to deny and suppress information about deaths of innocent people.
The Afghan government has become afraid of criticism and does not want to admit to mistakes to its people. The communications war to win Afghan hearts has almost ceased on the government’s end while the United States and the Taliban continue to test communication methods in the country. The Taliban utilizes the Afghan airstrikes and any mistakes made for propaganda for an influence of public opinion. This has caused the Afghan government to more strictly control dialogue with the public, especially relating to civilian casualties. This causes spokesmen to face losing their jobs or being arrested and a delay in responses to the media.
The United States has started an operations unit called the Information Warfare Task Force-Afghanistan to counter the Taliban presence in the narrative told to the public. The force was created after the killing of the police chief of Kandahar in 2018 was attributed to the Americans due to rumors. The unit utilizes cybertools, intercepted communications and social media as a way to disrupt channels of communication between the Taliban and the country. Mr. Hijri continues to refuse the civilian casualties he saw on October 22.