"Are you sure you want to poke the Taliban?"
The US Forces in Afghanistan's Facebook page lists almost 3,000 fans, some of whom offer prayers and well-wishes alongside press releases on operations and casualties. Its YouTube channel, launched in April, has only a few views, but solicits contributions from service members to give viewers a look at frontline operations. The Twitter feed from @usfora, launched in March, reads something like a police blotter of activities in the region, offering up rapid-fire 140-character updates like this one:
Afghan, coalition forces detain one suspected Taliban in Ghazni; blasting caps, chest racks, shotgun and rpg components found with him
It's part of an effort to give military updates a wider reach. "There's an entire audience segment that seeks its news from alternative means outside traditional news sources, and we want to make sure we're engaging them as well," Col. Greg Julian, the top US spokesman in Afghanistan, told the Associated Press.
This foray into social media isn't a first for the military – "the Air Force and Army have Facebook pages, as does Gen. Ray Odierno, the top commander in Iraq," the AP points out. "But the new effort in Afghanistan is the first in an active war zone to attempt to harness the power of social networking sites as a primary tool to release information."
Incidentally, this also isn't the first time this blog has covered popular civilian tech making its way into the hands of the military. In April, word came of US forces in Iraq using Apple's iPod Touch to smooth translations, make sense of cultural nuances, and even help with ballistics calculations.