Why Another Blog?

I've decided to set up another blog, (my other one is called Writer's Musings), because there are some topics just too weighty for that blog.

So here it is. In this space I'll explore more serious issues in more detail. I do not expect visitors to agree with me in all cases.
In this forum feel free to take off the gloves, grab a handful of mud and fight for what you believe in.

Simple rules, rather like cage-fighting in the blogosphere:
No direct name calling. No excessive profanity. No whining when smacked in the face with mud.
Sling inuendo. Feel free to ask leading questions even if in a snide tone.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Powerful Taliban Weapon

The Taliban has a powerful weapon and they are employing it to help turn the tide against Afghan and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. Is it a new type of IED? Is it a new, deadlier rocket launcher or mortar? Is it Islamic fanaticism fueled by hatred of foreign invaders? Is it thousands of new dedicated and trained recruits? No, it is none of these things.

The Taliban’s powerful weapon is the Western media. Bored with peace seemingly breaking out in Iraq, the media have turned their attention to Afghanistan where a number of factors have contributed to a higher level of violence. It is almost as if, stung by their dire predictions and analysis proving false in Iraq, they feel compelled to try again in Afghanistan. A recent battle near the remote village of Wanat along the border between Nuristan Province and Kunar Province in Afghanistan is an excellent example of how the media twists facts to their defeatist world-view.

MSNBC screamed “Taliban Overrun US Base” on the Internet, however clicking on the link and reading the story we find out that this is not exactly true. The story was laced with statements by anonymous “experts” and “officials” making verification of anything more than a little difficult. The Associated Press soberly tells us, “Deadly raid raises doubts in Afghanistan: Attack highlights uncertainty about U.S. ability to turn back Taliban.” (AP, 14 July 2008) Does it really? Whose doubts are “raised” and who is “uncertain?” We are never really told because all their “sources” don’t want to be identified.

I understand the need to have attention-grabbing headlines, but “Deadly raid” in the context of combat between armed military forces is a bit ridiculous. Excuse me, but part of the exercise in fighting a war is to inflict casualties on one’s enemy. That’s the package, that’s what both sides are trying to do. So to hyperventilate over casualties strikes me as more than a trifle silly. Police attempting to arrest someone in a raid that turns violent and ends in fatalities deserves such a headline. A story about combat does not.

The AP goes on to say, “Violence has been increasing in Afghanistan, and many people are questioning whether the Taliban-led insurgency is gaining, not losing, momentum seven years after the hard-line Islamic regime was ousted by a U.S.-led invasion.” Many people? Who are these “many people?” We have done a proper statistically significant poll to determine this, no doubt. The AP leaned very heavily on the recently disgraced and recently fired former Governor of Nuristan Province Tamim Nuristani whose own ineptitude contributed to security problems in Nuristan.

Further down in the article, where few American readers will venture, are some cogent answers. Of course, the media know that most Western readers do not read more than the first couple paragraphs, so all the doom and gloom is printed there. Any intelligent analysis and reason lies toward the end of the story where it will be least effective in influencing public opinion.

Why was this particular base attacked and why now? It was not because the Taliban are that much stronger, which the AP leads the reader to believe in the first third of their story. The base was attacked because it was a new base with incomplete defenses. It looked like it might be an easy target. While sounding the siren call of defeat over “the most deadly attack on US troops since 2005,” the AP completely ignores the fact that the majority of US casualties actually occurred outside the main camp in a lightly secured observation post. The casualties were not due to the enemy “breaching the defenses” and engaging the defenders from within the perimeter.

What gets glossed over is that the bad guys threw their best punch and got the stuffing kicked out of them. The bad guys outnumbered the defenders by about 3 to 1 and ended up with a casualty exchange of 11 to 1. In military terms for our side, it was not a bad day’s work. The bad guys found this nut tougher to crack than they anticipated. It is guessed, even by the former governor, that there were about 600 Taliban/Al-Qaeda fighters in the area before the attack. Their numbers have been reduced by about a third in just one fight. The Taliban did exactly what we want them to do: namely, seek an open engagement with our troops. The Taliban will lose any such fight.

The media keep pounding the drum for the Taliban, emphasizing the fact of higher NATO casualties, specifically US casualties as compared to Iraq the last two months. What gets ignored, or placed in that “unread” portion of their reporting, is that our forces are going into remote regions where we have not yet had a presence. We are bound to have more contact with Taliban and Al-Qaeda as a result of patrolling their sanctuaries. We are doing the right thing by placing small units out in the country-side rather than hiding on our well-secured large base camps.

Using correct counter-insurgency methods increases our casualties in the short run, but helps us separate insurgents from the populace. Separated from the populace, insurgents lose their ability to hide and operate freely. Thus segregated, they are more easily drawn into combat and defeated. They lose their “street cred.”

Lastly there is the usual AP disclaimer at the end of virtually every combat or suicide attack report they file. “More than 2,500 people — mostly militants — have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press tally of figures from Afghan and Western officials.” The number of casualties changes as the year goes on, but the quick comment, “mostly militants” should make people sit up and take notice. If most of the casualties are the very people we are trying to kill, how is that an indicator of a resurgent Taliban?

4 comments:

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Well, anyone who's been a victim of our press knows to take it with a bucket of salt. I don't read MSNBC because they are so alarmist. I read BBC, which isn't perfect, but I've found in general, if they don't cover it, it wasn't worth discussing anyway.

I had heard on CNN, while half-asleep, that 8 (?) soldiers died in an attack. That made me very sad. People will wake up the rest of their lives without a son or father or a husband or a brother. That's what I meant by "rough day". "Knowing" someone there just makes it dig at my heart deeper.

J. L. Krueger said...

Sex,

I wish I had a comfort level on the rest of US society. Judging from blog comments on some of the news sites, I have my doubts.

As to the casualties:
US losses were 9 KIA, 15 WIA. Afghan Army losses 6 KIA, 4 WIA.
estimated Taliban losses 160 KIA, 40 WIA.

I do understand what you mean about "rough day". It is never good for the soldier who dies or his family...on either side.

Soldiers develop a fatalistic outlook in order to cope. Officers must look at the events with a wider view, otherwise they won't make the right decisions the next time.

On a personal level, every death hurts. Believe me, those 9 dead soldiers' buddies are hurting right now. I should say 15 dead soldiers.

You might be surprised at the bonds that have been developing between the Afghan soldiers and their American counterparts. We really are in the fight together as "brothers in arms."

Dawn Anon said...

Thank you for your blog.

I knew nothing about the military until my oldest son signed up. Since then, i've learned some about the military and alot about the media.

Now, both of my sons are army. One has been to Iraq and back. The other is there now. And I am becoming an angry person because I realize that our media tries to pass off opinion as fact/news. And even angrier because so many people believe what they see on the news.

I am not brave enough, strong enough, or selfless enough to be military. I appreciate those who are. Thank you for your service.

J. L. Krueger said...

Dawn,

Thanks for stopping by. Take a look at my "lighter" blog too. I'm trying to show the other side of Afghanistan.

I have often felt in the last almost six years that the media and I are in parallel universes. The war(s) I'm witnessing are not what the media is reporting. Most importantly, the issues are far more complex than the simple "us vs them" portrayals.

I was in Iraq during the "dark days" and it was never entirely as bad as the media portrayed.