Saturday, October 20, 2007

Afstan: Babbling's main point made in Toronto Star

Rosie DiManno gets it:
Here are but a few stories from Afghanistan that you won't have read in the past couple of months:

New bridge built over the Kokcha River, connecting the only major road in Badakshan.

Dozens of injured civilians transferred by NATO helicopters to military hospitals after a massive suicide bombing in Spin Boldak.

Senior Taliban commander captured in Gereshk.

An orphanage for 200 children, boasting the luxury of running water, opened in Farah province.

Ribbons cut on three skills development centres in Khak-e Jabbar and Bagrami.

Raid of a massive weapons and drugs cache in Uruzgan.

Insurgent mortar position destroyed in Kunar province.

New hospital and separate health clinic completed in Tarin Kowt.

Village medical outreach services provided to civilians by the provincial reconstruction team (PRT) in Qalat.

Press releases of this nature, from the International Security Assistance Force, drop into my email basket every few days. They never make it into print. But accounts of Western soldiers killed, and most especially our own, are given elegiac cover, understandably so.

Military commanders and grunts on the ground are torn about this. They want sacrifices given proper respect. Yet they fret over how the tragedy of loss is disproportionately depicted, every death exploited in some quarters to undermine the mission.

Canada remains conflicted about the combat deployment to Kandahar, although public opinion appears to be slowly shifting as more people come to understand the complexity of the undertaking, how incremental and fragile the successes, what a long slog the reversal of Afghanistan fortunes is destined to be. As a wedge political issue, Afghanistan has also lost opposition party traction through some finessing of the portfolio by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Afghans are not conflicted.

That central fact – disarming critics – comes through loud and clear in an extensive and nuanced Environics Research poll released on Thursday...

NDP leader Jack Layton wants Canadian troops out now and Liberal leader Stéphane Dion wanted them out by early 2009 (although I'm not really sure what he favours at the moment). They've argued, from various perspectives – some informed, some not – that the assignment isn't working, the overall approach to Afghanistan ruinously unbalanced, the insurgency impervious to military intervention and the citizenry increasingly disillusioned, pushed by NATO further towards the neo-Taliban.

Anyone who's been to Afghanistan, spent time in the company of ordinary Afghans, knows this to be emphatically untrue. It's heartening that a detached poll has borne that out.

Afghans get it. Weary of war and the hard-fisted neo-Taliban, they yearn for something a little better for their children, just as Canadians do. They may not distinguish much between Canadians and Americans. But they know enemy and they know friend...
Licia Corbella also gets it in an editorial in Sun papers:
What's most surprising about a new CBC/Environics poll that shows that the Afghan people overwhelmingly want foreign troops to stay in their country is just how surprised the CBC is.

The CBC has had a steady stream of reporters almost constantly in Afghanistan since regular Canadian forces were stationed there in January 2002.

So why haven't CBC reporters reported on the thoughts of ordinary Afghan citizens before now?

On Thursday night The National's host Peter Mansbridge mentioned that viewers might be "surprised" by the poll results. No kidding.

After all, if those viewers primarily get their news from the CBC, most of what they've seen and been told about Canada's mission there and what Afghans say and think about that message, is negative...

Why weren't we hearing the real news out of Afghanistan on our tax-funded national broadcaster?

More importantly, why were we so often hearing the exact opposite of the real news?

The CBC's ombudsman should investigate how a news organization that is supposed to provide the country with unbiased news has so badly skewed it for so long.

Now that would be really surprising!
Update: Some indication of how the Afghans themselves are reporting things (h/t to Terry Glavin).


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