Media Spins Success in Afghanistan as Failure

American and Coalition forces have taken the initiative in Afghanistan, and have the Taliban on the run. Yet major American media outlets, to the extent they cover fighting in Afghanistan, are portraying the Taliban as "resurgent". Going on the offense and succeeding at it always increases violence.  But is being spun onto bad news/

The increase in fighting in Afghanistan is not a sign of a stronger Taliban, but rather a more desperate one. Despite all the media reports to the contrary it is we who are surging in the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Yet the media has continued to claim the Taliban is growing stronger as the Los Angeles Times just did

Canada, which has suffered a disproportionate loss of 78 soldiers from fighting in the Kandahar region of the south, has threatened to withdraw its troops unless other countries deploy more forces to help fight the resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda.[emphasis added]

That LA Times article included comments from Army Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the U.S. commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan. He also expressed himself in a Voice of America article published the day before the LA Times article, creatihg a different impression: 

"Those who use the increased levels of violence to try to make a case or an argument are generally going to get it wrong, unless they understand what is causing those increased levels of violence," McNeill said.

The LA Times referred to a "resurgent Taliban" the day after the senior military officer in Afghanistan, who was apparently interviewed for their article, said it was not resurgent. The VOA article explains General McNeill's position:

General McNeill says many experienced Taliban leaders were killed during last year's fighting season, and that while the group is trying to recruit new members the leadership will be difficult to replace.  He says the major offensive last spring and summer was by NATO and U.S. forces, and he says that will be true again this year.

The American general also disputed a statement by the top U.S. military officer,  Admiral Mike Mullen, who has said there is a "classic, growing insurgency" in Afghanistan.  In addition, two independent reports published in Washington last week say the international effort in Afghanistan has stalled.

General McNeill disagrees, but he also acknowledges that the Afghanistan effort is what the military calls an "economy of force" operation.

The General also said that the reason the violence is up is not because the Taliban is stronger, but because, as reported in this Associated Press article:

"They've stuck their noses in dark holes in which noses that were international have not been stuck before," he added.

"We exposed ourselves to a lot more things than the force has exposed themselves to in times past," McNeill said. "And that more than anything created the increased levels of violence that are so often referred to in the news, and that people fail to realize what caused those. (There) wasn't a resurgent Taliban." [emphasis added]

Even though General McNeill says there is no resurgent Taliban the LA Times still goes clings to the 'losing in Afghanistan' template. But to be fair they had company, or should I say accomplices. I did a search using Google News for the term  "General Dan McNeill resurgent"  (and other variations) going back thirty days to see how much play this important news received. The VOA and the AP got it as quoted earlier. The only other major American media to report this was the Air Force Times

I also searched for articles claiming a Taliban resurgence and found hundreds. In doing so I found this article in the India media  from February 4th, 2008:

KABUL: The Taliban insurgency is not spreading in Afghanistan and 70 per cent of the violence last year occurred in only 10 per cent of the country, NATO has said in a report that contrasted with more pessimistic assessments.

Lt Col Claudia Foss, a spokeswoman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said three-quarters of Afghanistan suffered one violent incident per week.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that the insurgent movement is being contained," Foss said yesterday at a news conference in the capital, Kabul.

Here again NATO is reporting that the Taliban is not getting stronger. So I searched for - "Claudia Foss" - and found a few reports in Canada and Australia. There was one AP article but zero coverage in the rest of the American media on her report.

Let's look at that again. No American media, except for the AP, not even the media that carries AP content, ran the story that NATO officially reported that the Taliban was not resurgent in Afghanistan.  Most of the American media buried General McNeill's statement as well while continuing to use the "resurgent Taliban" characterization. Why?

It should be painfully clear. To acknowledge that the Taliban is losing instead of winning is to validate the war policy of President Bush in the war against terror. When combined with a surge success in Iraq, the implications are dark for any Democrat nominee for the White House. A run against Senator McCain, who heartily endorsed fighting terrorists would be tougher if we were beating them. Especially when the only policy alternative of the Democrats is surrender.

It would be much better for a Democratic candidate if the media buried the fact that we are winning and they instead reported that Republican policies have failed, wouldn't it? I wonder if they can keep the illusion of defeat going until November.

Related Article: Whose Side are they On?

Ray Robison is co-author of Both in One Trench.
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