In the wake of Kabul’s fall to the Taliban last month, U.S. officials placed the blame on everything from faulty intelligence to corruption in the Afghan government. Although each of these claims is valid, there were other forces at work leading up to the coup that gave the Taliban control over Afghanistan for the first time in 20 years.
Taliban fighters had been using the internet to connect with local followers since the early 2000s, but their strategy changed once America’s exit became imminent. In February 2020, then-Taliban deputy Sirajuddin Haqqani wrote a New York Times op-ed that sparked a wave of fresh Taliban Twitter accounts. A BBC report revealed that many of those accounts were created explicitly for promoting Haqqani’s article to an international audience.