US General David McKiernan, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, is sick and tired of seeing headlines reporting how badly the war in Afghanistan is going. Sure, civilian deaths may be soaring, troop death may be at their highest level since the 2001 invasion, and the latest classified draft of the National Intelligence Estimate concludes that Afghanistan is in a “downward spiral” of corruption and violence, but is that really headline worthy news?
Rather, the General would prefer that the media shift its focus away from all the violence in Afghanistan and focus on things like an anti-Taliban protest in the wake of a bus ambush earlier this month which killed between 27 and 40 passengers. “That’s a rejection of the brutality of the Taliban by the people of Afghanistan, and that needs to be heard.”
Less important are stories like last month when Afghan President Hamid Karzai blamed the British government’s meddling for the resurgence of the Taliban in Helmand Province. Reports on the Taliban’s resurgence, comments from the Afghan government notwithstanding, are “just not true” in the commander’s estimation. All this negative reporting just gives the impression that this has become “the trend in Afghanistan.”
It is unclear if Gen. McKiernan is aware of comments made by Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Michael Mullen earlier this month, in which he said “the trends across the board are not going in the right direction,” before predicting that the situation in Afghanistan will be even worse next year.
Also unclear is why last week’s protest is more newsworthy than, say, the series of anti-US protests across Afghanistan in the wake of August’s Herat air strike or last week’s Helmand killings. The most recent UN study did indeed show that the militants have killed more civilians than the international forces this year, but it was hardly a landslide, and rather than a total rejection of the Taliban, reports suggest that they are seeing a growing number of defections from Afghan security forces and growing acceptance for their “shadow government” in places where their influence remains strong.