New Blog in Kunar

by Joshua Foust on 9/15/2009 · 12 comments

The Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kunar has a blog. Straight from the horses’ mouths, so they say:

Provincial Reconstruction Team-Kunar engineers conducted a joint power assessment with local officials and operators in Dam Kalay village in Asadabad Sept. 12 to determine future power projects in the area.

The PRT is working with the regional government to validate power requirements before moving forward with a mini-hydro generator refurbishment project to provide reliable power to Asadabad.

Well, at least it’s targeted news, and they have some great pictures. But here’s something I’d like to know: why is the Kunar PRT on the web like this? Why are its officers so prominent in the media?

When David Kilcullen first began talking about how paving roads prevented IEDs—the start of a coordinated shaping campaign about reconstruction—he relied on the Kunar PRT to tell him that more roads equaled more security. Alison Blosser, a Pashto-fluent State Department officer, has been all over the media accounts of the area (and posts to the State Department’s “DipNote” blog). And the Kunar PRT is a favorite destination of the adventure opinion journalists looking to gin up support for the war.

So… I’m not complaining about more information being publicly available (trust me), but why is the Kunar PRT so out-in-front here? What is it about that PRT, and not the others, that makes it able to get a blog and be so well covered? Is it just luck? Do its officers just have more initiative? Or is there something about it that its superiors want highlighted? All very interesting to ponder.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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David M September 15, 2009 at 9:08 am

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/15/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

julie millard September 15, 2009 at 9:42 am

I think it is refreshing to see something positive that is going on – I’m sure there are great things going on in other parts of Afghanistan, but it’s great to see it through pictures on the blog! My husband is part of PRT-Kunar. I guess they just want to get word out that good things are happening over there.

I don’t get to talk to my husband very often (maybe twice a week if I am lucky), so it is very nice for me to be able to see his face in those pictures, and to know what he is doing over there.

Joshua Foust September 15, 2009 at 11:35 am

Me too. Like I said, I’m glad this is out there.

Capt Tony Wickman September 15, 2009 at 10:54 am

Mr. Foust, I’m the new Public Affairs officer for PRT-Kunar and wanted to express my appreciation for you taking the time to review our new site (we went live Sept. 13). With regard to your questions, we’re on the Web like this because it is a great way to get news and photos about our mission out to the people who are interested in what we do. Much like other social media sites, this is an opportunity to showcase what we do in a manner that is growing. The Internet has changed the way people communicate, as well as where they go for their news and information. I felt an obligation, as do most public affairs professionals, to tell my organization’s story in the spaces and places where communities are seeking information. That answers the why we are out in front here–just good old fashion desire to tell our story to those who are interested in it. As for why the officers are so prominent in the media, it’s because many of the technical experts we have working jointly with our host nation counterparts are in the officer pay grades. But, as you see more stories and photos coming out, you will see a mixture of officers and enlisted doing the mission of the PRT. Again, thank you for checking out the site, and I hope you continue to find the information useful and insightful.

Joshua Foust September 15, 2009 at 11:37 am

CPT Wickman: I’m really glad you decided to do this. I think a lack of transparency is one of the biggest reasons why certain memes about the war get started and spread around. At the very least, having more data coming in from real people doing real work (not some lame post from the JOC) will help things.

And I hope I didn’t come off as criticizing the PRT’s officers. I’m just curious why coverage and media tours have been focused there, is all. There are other PRTs doing substantial work as well, but all the embeds seem to wind up in Asadabad (or Helmand, now).

Capt Tony Wickman September 15, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Mr. Foust–You did not come across as critizing the PRT, quite the contrary. But, I wanted to make sure I provided a response to your question about the officers being out front on many of these stories.

As for why the media is covering Kunar (and now Hemland), the educated guess would be because that is the “front line” between Coalition Forces’ efforts to foster the Government of Afghanistan’s ability to strengthen security, enhance governance and increase development and Anti-Afghanistan Forces to thwart those efforts.

Again, I hope you find thse site useful and information and keep checking back on the progress of the PRT.

dennis September 15, 2009 at 11:48 am

a great story. we hope that much can be done in this must be a quit place. well done.

Madhu September 15, 2009 at 1:18 pm

“CPT Wickman: I’m really glad you decided to do this. I think a lack of transparency is one of the biggest reasons why certain memes about the war get started and spread around. At the very least, having more data coming in from real people doing real work (not some lame post from the JOC) will help things.”


This is great.

Shohmurod September 15, 2009 at 3:19 pm

For those of us looking for some positive news, Old Blue gives a pretty complete and optimistic view of developments in Afghanistan in the Slate Sandbox Milblog Index:

IntelTrooper September 15, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Fantastic. In one sitting, I already know more about that the Kunar PRT is up to than what my own PRT was doing in the year I was there.

zarathustra September 15, 2009 at 8:29 pm
Angi September 18, 2009 at 10:51 am

I am glad to see that there is a place to go and read up on all of the small details my wonderful spouse fails to inform me about. 🙂 My husband is the 1SG of PRT-Kunar, and for me to be able to go to a link and see him interacting with Soldiers is comforting for me.

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