by Tony Alva, SMACC Student Analyst
Background: Earlier in August the United States finalized their troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. After 20 years of conflict the decision to remove the U.S presence was finalized by former president Donald J. Trump prior to his departure from the White House. Assuming this transition is Current President Joe Biden who has been ridiculed for the haphazard withdrawal and removal of U.S soldiers leaving behind U.S citizens, and Afghan nationals that have aided the United States throughout the 20-year conflict as the Taliban assume command and control of the country once again nearly 30 years ago. These events are similar to but not by comparison of the withdrawal of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the institutionalized government that once resided in Afghanistan prior to Soviet occupation.
Methods: The primary technique used to obtain the data and create graphical visualizations was the Meltwater media monitoring web-based application. This application collects and houses data from several different social media and news outlet data sources. This specific dataset encompasses the month of August 2021 throughout the dashboard except the media exposure section, which observes a year over year comparison (2021 compared to 2020). Key terms used to identify this world issue surrounded the former and current President of the United States, withdrawal, and refugees.
The dashboard visualizations focused on nine separate topics including, trending themes, social reach vs. social volume, topic momentum, sentiment, sentiment score, media exposure (year to year comparison), top sources for social media posts, top posters among the top social media posts, and top languages those posts are comprised of.
Additional external research has been completed at leisure to stay aware of the situation unfolding and are obtained through secondary and tertiary news sources not directly associated with Meltwater.
|Findings: Observing variance as a metric, or the number of keywords relevant to the social media search, the search has identified that the topics selected for research has increased significantly. After initiating the search on these key terms, Biden, Trump, withdrawal, and refugee the media exposure Afghanistan has received over the last month is over 6,000% more than the previous year. When the date range was shifted back an entire year, to Aug 26, 2020 – Aug 26, 2021 relevant to the year prior, the topic of Afghanistan was increased by 913% (Figure 1).|
|Moving on to volume as a metric, the social media platform Twitter possesses the major of social media interactions in relation to the four key terms used throughout the data collection. Twitter possesses approximately four million tweets in the month of August related to the four key terms used throughout the search (Figure 2). English resides among the primary languages that have circulated throughout the topic. However, the Spanish / Castilian language is among the top six languages discussing the Afghanistan situation (Figure 3).|
Lately, observing valence, or the sentiment which implies the overall tone of emotion that is associated with the overall key terms used throughout the data search, has been mostly if not all negative. The most negative sentiment has totaled approximately 94% on August 16, 2021 (Figure 4).
Analysis: A brief analysis of the dataset focuses the variance, volume, and valence of the situation ongoing in Afghanistan. Highlighting variance from the dataset, Afghanistan has been known as the forgotten war, it has been stated through media headlines and some social media outlets. Given the current situation it has made its way to the forefront of headlines once again. A significant amount of media coverage has been focused on what is transpiring within the country with an emphasis on the safety and security of U.S personnel and Afghan nationals seeking asylum, refugee status, or efforts to obtain visas to flee the country.
Considering the volume of the dataset, Twitter made up the majority of the information relative to the dataset given that there may be an easier way to retweet, share, and partake in multiple conversations at once within the application (Figure 5). Additionally, fake accounts may be inherently easier to create throughout the platform that does not require an individual to log out of their primary account thus, justifying the overall negative distaste and uproar for President Biden’s mishandling of the ongoing situation in Afghanistan. However, the lack of coordination and communication among the United States military, Afghan Military, local population (relative to AFG), and the general public regarding the withdrawal has been viewed as a haphazard employment of forces. Furthermore, the volume of differing languages stood out specifically the Spanish / Castilian language which was made up of over eight thousand tweets. These tweets from the Spanish language may be associated with their acceptance of the Afghan women’s robotics team into their country along with several other thousand Afghan refugees.
Lastly, noting the valence of the dataset, the overwhelming majority of the information collected, specifically from Twitter resulted in negative sentiment (approximately 94%) was discovered on August 16, 2021. This overall negative sentiment is very likely a result from the public statement from President Joe Biden to the people of the United States regarding the ongoing situation in Afghanistan about their decision of the withdrawal of troops and reduction of U.S personnel. It is likely that the general public was unaware of the aggressive timeline and withdrawal of U.S presence that was previously negotiated by the United States Former President.
Implications: The implications of the situation with Afghanistan will reverberate throughout President Biden’s occupation in the White House and may discredit his ability to perform swift military operations that arise and may be necessary throughout the globe. These actions however, would also impact any President’s credibility and as the withdrawal is being finalized, several early warnings and indications should have been noticed by the Afghan public and the media.
Additionally, there may be incremental increases in reporting periods throughout various media channels given that Afghanistan is now governed under a regime that has a long history of aggression, war crimes, and strict religious guidelines. Although, this Taliban regime is not the same it once was nearly 30 years ago and should be considered more progressive to some extent. There has been a news headline circulating around that Taliban senior leadership recommend that women stay home or indoors as their soldiers do not understand how to respect women. It will be necessary to monitor the ongoing situation and adjust the assessment accordingly.
Lastly, looking at the implications of the sentiment from the public statement President Joe Biden made on August 16, 2021 there seemed to be a lack of concern and contingency plans to ensure the safety of the Afghan community left behind the U.S footprint in major cities, specifically Kabul from the United States government. The social outcry took to their social platforms and have called for an increase in refugee programs and refugee aid as the Taliban start to form and outline their government plans. This influx of Afghan nationals being dispersed throughout the world could impose additional stress at the local economical level. This economical stress could be exacerbated by the ongoing recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic.