ABC News’ Obsession With Afghan Nightlife

by Joshua Foust on 2/10/2010 · 1 comment

In September, I highlighted a disturbing story about how cute ABC News found their $50 dinners at Westerner-only restaurants in Kabul. It was condescending, insulting in how bland it considered discriminating against Afghans in their own country, and so on. Now, it seems, ABC News has moved to the south:

It’s back. Now Zad even has a nightlife.

Oh my God. A single family playing music together and eating rice is a night life! But really, what an incredibly deceptive piece: a tiny number of people have filtered back into Now Zad, and some kids have gone back to school, and suddenly Now Zad is back. There are, of course, caveats to the Marines’ relentless success-mongering:

Insurgents still control Bar Now Zad to the north and Salaam Bazaar to the south of the Marine’s area of operation. In simple terms that means the Taliban still effectively control the flow of goods, services and people into Now Zad.

Anything headed here is routinely held up, raising the prices for everything from bread to fuel. One can get through Taliban checkpoints if the right bribe is paid.

In other words, even the Marines’ own resupply trucks are funding the Taliban, along with all other commerce in the town.

In addition to the dangers of dealing with the Taliban, unaffiliated criminals also wait for opportunities along the rough dirt roads.Now Zad District remains a mix of wild-west-like threats.

At about 265 strong, Lima Company secures most but not all of the district. In the next few months they will hand over duties to a much larger force, a battalion that will double or triple the number of Marines currently on the ground. Those forces, combined with a growing Afghan Army and police force, should easily be able to establish complete control over the district.

Still it raises the question of whether the Taliban will simply move their checkpoints elsewhere. It raises another question of why so much money and effort was spent on a town where no one lived.

I suppose it’s also good that the questions it raised weren’t troubling. I also saw no references to opening rare windows, so it’s not hopeless, right?

Anyway, this is the situation the Marines, through ABC News, declare a “surprising success.” And ABC’s kicker, the ending thought meant to drive the point home, is a single family eating dinner together as evidence of “night life.”

Make sense? Victory is right around the corner, just as soon as the Taliban stop extorting everyone who goes past it.

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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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{ 1 comment }

reader February 13, 2010 at 8:53 am

It’s called our version of Pravda. I mean, come on, you know this is meant as a mild form of psych-ops.

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