KABUL: A report released today by a Kabul-based think tank accuses international forces of misleading the public by calling military operations “Afghan-led” even in cases where NATO or US forces are the only troops on the ground.
The charge cuts to the heart of a public perception battle being waged in Afghanistan, where international troops are eager to showcase successes by Afghan forces and to downplay the role played by international soldiers as NATO draws down forces and hands over security to Afghan control.
The alliance wants to show that Afghans are up to the task so that the country does not descend into civil strife after 10 years of a NATO-led war against Taliban and al-Qaida militants.
“The desire to present accounts of events as favourably as possible is to be expected, but sometimes this slips into propaganda, half-truths and, occasionally, cover up,” said British analyst Kate Clark, the author of the report by the Kabul-based think tank Afghan Analysts Network.
A draft strategic partnership pact agreed by the US and Afghanistan earlier this week said after 2014, US forces will only fight in Afghanistan with the government’s approval.
The report entitled “Death of an Uruzgan Journalist” focuses on the case of Afghan reporter Omaid Khpulwak, who was caught in a TV and radio broadcasting station known as the RTA building in July 2011 when it was attacked by insurgent suicide bombers.
Khpulwak survived the initial blast but was shot by an American soldier who mistook him for an insurgent. The investigation also concluded that US troops were the only ones to enter the building and that Afghan forces on the ground did not issue commands to those forces. But a NATO news release a day later said: “Afghan commandos and a combined team of Afghan national security forces responded unilaterally to insurgent attacks.”
Clark argues in her report that the messaging put out by the Afghan government and NATO and US forces following the attacks in Uruzgan obfuscated the role of US troops, leading Khpulwak’s family and others in Tarin Kot to suspect an intentional cover-up.
The Afghan Crisis Response Unit has Norwegian and British special forces soldiers embedded in units and very few Afghans.
A spokesman for the Afghan Defence Ministry said about 60 per cent operations are now Afghan-led.