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US: US military releases Afghan news over Facebook

Tue Jul 7 04:46:15 EST 2009

WASHINGTON, July 6 AFP - The US military used the social networking site Facebook to announce new tactics for its forces in Afghanistan, long before it issued the news through a standard press release.

The announcement of new guidance for troops in Afghanistan first appeared on the Facebook page of US forces in Afghanistan at about 1000 GMT (2000 AEST, Monday) while a press release came hours later.

Although the Pentagon has made a point of distributing information over Facebook, Twitter and You Tube to reach a wider audience in and outside the military, it was unclear if the move was planned or merely a technical glitch.

A spokesman for US Central Command, which oversees the region, said the US and NATO-led contingents in Afghanistan have previously faced technical delays with e-mailed press releases.

"I do know it is not uncommon for there to be some server problems" for US forces in Afghanistan, Major John Redfield told AFP.

He said usually press releases are sent out at the same time as information is posted on Facebook or Twitter and he did not think there was a new policy to release information first through social networking sites.

The announcement on tactics for Afghan operations was later posted on the website of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

A Pentagon spokesman said the announcement on Facebook "was less by design and more by resources that they have and where they have people and how they're doing their operations".

"It was not the only means to get the information," spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

The "revised tactical directive" from the US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, reiterates his warning that US and coalition troops must exercise restraint in using lethal force or else risk alienating the Afghan people.

"We must avoid the trap of winning tactical victories -- but suffering strategic defeats -- by causing civilian casualties or excessive damage and thus alienating the people," according to the directive.