All 4 entries tagged Afghanistan

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April 10, 2007

NY Times outdoing the broadcasters at their own game?

In a piece of video-journalism entitled ‘Anatomy of a Firefight’ C.J. Chivers of the New York Times shows up the typical 2007 television news bulletin for what it is: Froth.

Alastair Leithead, the BBC’s correspondent based in Kabul, has occasionally been given free rein to show what the war in Afghanistan is really about, most notably in a brilliant Panorama programme. But not regularly. And not properly within one of the BBC’s main news bulletins. These programmes, with the infrequent exception of the 10 O’clock News, only really treat Afghanistan as a news story when it affects the fortunes of British politicians and troops.

And yet on a daily basis there are fascinating stories coming out of the country, such as this day-in-the-life piece done by a newspaper journalist for the New York Times. I’ve seen C.J. Chivers’ work before, and it’s really good, both as a video and a written feature. It’s the sort of thing which television viewers should see much more often in Britain, but won’t while the bulletins remain so formulaic, nervous and ‘safe’.

By Tyler Hicks of the NY Times. Members of an Afghan squad and a Dutch platoon took fire from the Taliban insurgents in Uruzgan Province, an isolated area of Afghanistan.

November 20, 2006

Still deluded

Blair in Afghanistan

Here in this extraordinary piece of desert is where the future of world security in the early 21st Century is going to be played out.

When’s he going to realise a civil war in the Afghan mountains has nothing to do with the security of 60 million people he’s supposed to be governing?


September 02, 2006

14 British Servicemen killed in Afghanistan: withdraw or push on?

Afghanistan is one of the most troubled states in the world. Only a handful of African states fare worse because of the enormous death toll caused by civil war.

The government of Hamid Karzai only has power over a small part of the country, centred on the capital, while the rest of the country is largely lawless, run by warlords and drug dealers. Attacks on young girls haven’t subsided since the apparent fall of the Taliban, and liberalism is taking a long time to spread in parts of the countrry. Amongst the landmines, poppy fields and tribal fighting sit the NATO forces, many of whom are currently British.

The number of British deaths in the country has been running at a considerably worse rate than in Iraq, and the main reason Afghanistan isn’t seen as such a disaster is that there’s a sense that things were worse before we invaded in 2001.

Essentially the Afghan mission is seen as a noble one, which is why we will tolerate greater losses than we would in Iraq. But there are still questions about whether we can make a difference in Afghanistan. The mission may be noble, but it could well prove to be futile too.

A British general said last month that fighting in the country was more intense than anything the British have seen since the 1950s, and it’s possible to draw comparisons with what the U.S. found in Vietnam.

But the problems in Afghanistan aren’t just military ones. There’s the long-term question of how the country will be unified if peace can be brought to the country. The sad likelihood is that peace, if achieved, would only be temporary. As we’ve found in Iraq, killing insurgents only encourages more to join the fight. And while war continues, the economy suffers and opium production becomes more essential to the people of Afghanistan. The longer it takes, the more violent Afghanistan will become. But as with Iraq, and the ‘War on Terror’ in general, achieving victory will always be an unachievable objective.

We have to push on. The country will only get worse if we leave. But we shouldn’t expect it to be easy, quick, or particularly successful. NATO’s engagement in Afghanistan will be a long, arduous one, with complete success very unlikely.


July 05, 2006

Two sides to every story?

Are there two sides to every story?

Martin Bell's main point over recent days has been that the BBC put football above the deaths of soldiers in Afghanistan in their weekend bulletin

But what interests me more is whether Mr Bell (former journalist and MP) cares that for every British soldier that is killed in Afghanistan, many many more Afghans may have been killed in the firefight?

Evidence comes from Sunday Times reporter Christina Lamb, who while embedded with British forces in Afghanistan came under attack, and saw perhaps 25 Afghans killed in the process. But the deaths of those people went relatively unreported.

The same is happening in Iraq, where according to one NGO around 40,000 Iraqi "civilians" have probably been killed since the invasion began. Yet the number of US or British soldiers killed in Iraq is much more widely known (around 2500 and 115 respectively), and every milestone that's reached gets hours of coverage.

Similarly, in Palestine, around 4000 Palestinian citizens are thought to have been killed since 2000, although the number of Israeli deaths are thought to be far fewer (perhaps one–tenth the amount). Here again, suicide bombings are more widely reported than children killed at checkpoints.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of either side in any dispute, it seems clear that while there are two sides to every story, the reporting of each side is rarely balanced. And this very probably impacts on the way in which the story is interpreted by the public.

Another question is: how many deaths constitute a 'tragedy'? In the case of the London Bombings, it's clearly well under fifty (in fact IRA attacks which have caused no injury have received proportionately large levels of coverage). But in battles where we could perhaps be seen as the aggressor, the deaths of those on the other side are diminished by their under–reporting. Certainly, they may be harder to hear of, but websites such as Iraq Body Count prove that collecting such figures is possible, and they do most of it from newswires.

But for some reason, those newswires are being ignored by newsrooms who don't want to tell the British public about how many people our forces have killed. Even esteemed journalists such as Martin Bell seem to be more concerned by British servicemen's deaths than the considerably larger number of Iraqis and Afghanistanis who probably died on the same day.


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