"Cyber-warfare" usually refers to high-level hacking, but this gives the phrase a whole new meaning: a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force has been dueling on Twitter with a spokesman for the Taliban about their respective treatment of Afghan civilians, tactics and strategy, and prospects for winning the war. Although it seems unlikely that Twitter pissing matches will take the place of actual combat, the microblogging service does provide an entertaining (and non-violent) forum for opposing sides to voice their differences.
The Twitter exchange came on the heels of a 20-hour Taliban assault on the diplomatic "green zone" in Kabul which left nine dead and 23 injured. The Twitter account for the ISAF spokesman, @ISAFmedia, unwittingly triggered the Twitter throw-down by posing this rhetorical question in response to a defiant statement from a Taliban spokesman issued via traditional channels: "Re: Taliban spox on #Kabul attack: the outcome is inevitable. Question is how much longer will terrorist put innocent Afghans in harm's way?"
To ISAF's surprise, a Taliban spokesman identifying himself as Abdulqahar Balk, Twitter handle @Abalkhi, responded in good text-ese: "@ISAFmedia i dnt knw.u hve bn pttng thm n ‘harm's way' fr da pst 10 yrs.Razd whole vllgs n mrkts.n stil hv da nrve to tlk bout ‘harm's way'."
With a rare opportunity to debate the opponent in public, if only virtually, the ISAF spokesman fired back: "Really, @abalkhi? Unama reported 80% of civilians causalities are caused by insurgent (your) activities http://goo.gl/FylwU."
The Taliban spokesman was not impressed, however, pointing out that ISAF -- which operates under a U.N. mandate -- was citing data from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan... or in other words, itself: "@ISAFmedia Unama is an entity of whom? mine or yours?"
Later the Taliban spokesman registered a disdainful "LOL" in reference to a report from CNN titled "Pentagon: Afghan insurgency ‘less effective' this year." For its part, @ISAFmedia wasn't about to cease fire either: when a news report showed the NATO commander visiting his troops after the attacks, the ISAF spokesman mocked the insurgents, whose leaders are elusive to the point of invisibility: "Hey @alemarahweb, does your boss do this? http://goo.gl/9XpYn #Kabulattacks #ISAF #COMISAF."
"Curiouser and curiouser," said Alice.