Air Force says it’s sorry about linking the viral Yanny vs. Laurel debate and a Taliban attack

The Air Force issued an apology Thursday for a tweet that linked a bloody Taliban attack in Afghanistan with a viral Internet meme that mushroomed in the past few days under the hashtag #YannyLaurel.

The message was published at 8:44 a.m. in Washington on the main Air Force account, ostensibly to draw attention to the U.S. military response to an attack on the Afghan city of Farah. A-10 attack jets targeted Taliban fighters with their seven-barrel 30mm cannons.

“The Taliban Forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard #Yanny or #Laurel than the deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10,” the tweet said, using another popular hashtag in the military to describe the noise the A-10 cannon makes. It included a link to an Air Force Times story about the operation.

But at 1:28 p.m., the Air Force tweeted again that it had removed the tweet with an apology.

“We apologize for the earlier tweet regarding the A-10,” the message said. “It was made in poor taste and we are addressing it internally. It has since been removed.”

The initial tweet appeared to be an attempt to garner attention using a hashtag that has generated a large Internet audience in the past few days. It centers on a debate on whether a short audio clip is saying “Laurel” or “Yanny,” and not much more than that.

But the background of the battle in Farah is stark. The Taliban has launched several attacks in the city in western Afghanistan in the past few days, prompting the United States to launch airstrikes as Afghan forces fight to hold ground.

The Taliban has claimed that it has taken control of the city, but the U.S. and Afghan governments deny that. The U.S. military headquarters in Kabul said in a statement Tuesday that Afghan troops are “bringing their full capabilities” to bear on the situation with U.S. backing.

“As we have seen over the last couple of days, the Taliban are unable to hold terrain during such isolated attacks and their unsuccessful raid attempts on district centers in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Faryab and Zabul,” the statement said.

At a news conference Thursday, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said that she had not seen the Air Force’s tweet, but that it “shouldn’t be forgotten in any of this” that Afghans are “dying to secure their own future.”

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