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Taliban Launches Smartphone App to Recruit and Spread Propaganda

A Taliban recruitment gathering in the Khak-e-Safid district of western Farah province, from online Taliban propaganda outlet Shahabat.A Taliban recruitment gathering in the Khak-e-Safid district of western Farah province, from online Taliban propaganda outlet Shahabat.
A Taliban recruitment gathering in the Khak-e-Safid district of western Farah province, from online Taliban propaganda outlet Shahabat.Shahabat-English.com

The terrorist monitoring organization SITE reported on Friday that the Afghani Taliban has developed and released an Android application, making it available on Google’s Play store. The application is reportedly intended to enhance the reach of the Taliban’s public statements, but was removed from the Play Store on Saturday for technical reasons, according to a Taliban spokesman.

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The spokesman also told Bloomberg that the app “is part of our advanced technological efforts to make more global audience,” efforts which also include a Twitter (TWTR) account and an extensive website in English and other languages. Taliban outlets on social media have been frequently shut down, and an app could help them build a more stable communications platform.

The Taliban seems to be playing catch-up to its more technologically savvy rivals, the Islamic State, which has extended its presence into Afghanistan. On its initial release, the Taliban app was available only in the Pashto language, indicating, according to an expert interviewed by the Guardian, that its target audience is mainly local.

Experts have described the Islamic State, by contrast, as masters of the art of international online jihadi recruiting, using social media and chat rooms to influence young and disenfranchised targets in particular. Those efforts have fueled a steady flow of recruits and followers for IS, both those who travel to IS territory, and those conducting operations in their home countries under influence from abroad.

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The Taliban has long been primarily focused on building its influence within Afghanistan, and there remains contention over whether to characterize it as a terrorist organization. However, the Taliban is no stranger to international recruiting, such as in the (pre-social media) case of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh. A greater emphasis on digital outreach could draw more troubled youth into their ranks.