Pentagon Report on War in Afghanistan – Different Takes by NY Times and BBC

Look at the headlines:

From the BBC: US says violence reaches all-time high
From the NY Times: Pentagon Report Cites Gains in Afghanistan

In its first paragraph the BBC highlights that the Pentagon reports an increase in viiolence to an all-time high and a four fold increase since 2007. And goes on to say that the report that progress has been uneven with only modest gains against the Taliban urgency.

The NY Times spins such that modest gains have been made in some key areas. Whereas the BBC use of the word ‘only’ in connection with ‘modest gains’ imparts a negative cast, the NY Times formulation is positive in the sense that modest gains have been made.

The BBC cites the report as saying that efforts to reduce insurgent capacity have not produced ‘measurable results’. The NY Times, with a completely different spin, says that the report, mirroring cautious statements made lately by Gen. Petraeus, said that there were signs of progress in “security, governance and development in “operational priority areas.”

The BBC thus casts the findings made by he Pentagon in a negative light where the efforts of NATO/US in Afghanistan as failling. The NY Times casts these findings in the light where the western war on Afghanistan is slightly succeeding.

Notably, the NY Times sees negatives in the reports citing of Pakistan’s reluctance to pursue insurgents in the border areas to Afghanistan. The BBC emphasizes the effect of the proclaimed pullout of NATO forces to begin in 2011 as providing the Taliban with reasons to convince the population that a Taliban victory is inevitable.

In order to set all that in a framework, see Juan Cole’s article, “Scammed in Afghanistan”. He reports

” The US gave a man claiming to be Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur, Mullah Omar’s number two, “a lot of money” to engage in talks. He also was flown to Kabul to consult with President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace (Karzai, terrified of looking like a laughingstock, denied the meeting).”

. The man was an imposter.

Cole says this shows that Afghani and U.S. intellligence on the Taliban is very poor and goes on to note that while both our 21st century Presidents have claimed that the U.S. war in Afghanistan is to fight al-Qaeda,

“But there is no al-Qaeda to speak of in that country, if by the term one means the mainly Arab Pan-Islamic International that sees Usama Bin Laden as its leader. US forces in Afghanistan are fighting disgruntled Pashtuns, for the most part. Some are from Gulbuddin Hikmatyar’s Islamic Party. Others from the Haqqani family’s Haqqani Network. The Reagan administration and its Saudi allies once showered billions of dollars on Hikmatyar and Haqqani, so they aren’t exactly eternal adversaries of the US. Some insurgents are from the Old Taliban of Mullah Omar. Still others are not so much terrorist cartels as tribes and guerrilla groups who are just unhappy with poppy eradication campaigns, or with the foreign troop presence (they would say ‘occupation’), or with how Karzai has given out patronage unequally, favoring some tribes over others. The insurgency is almost exclusively drawn from the Pashtun ethnic group.”

Such writing as Juan Cole produces, gives the lie to the Pentagon report which never, of course, questions the reasons for its occupation of Afghanistan.

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