Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

“The instability and large foreign presence in Afghanistan over the past 15 years make it difficult for young people to develop and appreciate Afghanistan’s cultural assets.”

“The instability and large foreign presence in Afghanistan over the past 15 years make it difficult for young people to develop and appreciate Afghanistan’s cultural assets.”(Photo: U.S. Army/flickr/cc)

Afghanistan: A Military Mission That Never Fails to Fail

How the U.S.-backed media masks the abject failures of American occupation.

Nick Turse

 by TomDispatch

Last year, an internal report commissioned by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the agency that oversees Voice of America and other U.S. government-supported foreign news outlets, examined the “perception of U.S. international media in Afghanistan.” This study, obtained by TomDispatch via the Freedom of Information Act, concluded that Afghans saw U.S.-backed media as “useful” and “essential.”  Far more intriguing, however, were the observations embedded in the responses of 60 Afghans from Kabul Province who took part in the survey.

You’ll recall that, in 2001, the Bush administration launched the Afghan War with a host of explicit and implicit promises to the people of Afghanistan: the vanquishing of the Taliban, the establishment of peace, the promotion of women’s rights, genuine economic development, support for education, and so on.  “We know that true peace will only be achieved when we give the Afghan people the means to achieve their own aspirations,” said President George W. Bush in April 2002.  He then invoked the patron saint of nation building from the post-World War II era as he offered an unambiguous pledge to Afghans that Washington would transform their country.  “By helping to build an Afghanistan that is free from this evil and is a better place in which to live, we are working in the best traditions of George Marshall.”

Fifteen years later, however, Afghans surveyed about two U.S.-funded news programs offered responses that hardly suggested halcyon days had arrived.  They talked little of “peace,” “stable government,” or the “education system for boys and girls” once invoked by Bush.  Instead, speaking about what she heard on the U.S.-funded news programs, a 40-year-old housewife mentioned coverage of “fighting and suicide attacks that are conducted in every province.”  Another cited “family violation[s] against women [and s]mall girls... given in marriage to old people for money.”  A 39-year-old woman discussed the utility of news programs that “increase our general awareness about different issues including fighting, confiscating ammunition... [and] drone strikes."

A 31-year-old woman spoke of the masses of Afghans that, thanks to such broadcasts, she had learned were fleeing to Europe and the perils along the way “which can cause them to be killed and their property lost” and went on to cite the coverage of International Women’s Day, noting that she learned how “even two-year-old children are raped. Women commit suicide by burning themselves.” She also referred to a program about the grim case of Farkhunda, a young woman brutally murdered by a mob in the streets of Kabul for supposedly burning a Quran (she didn’t), pointing out that “none of them [are]... sentenced or executed yet.”  Even the report’s authors got in on the act, noting the country’s “high rate of illiteracy” and the “limited economic and social opportunities available in rural villages, which is why some people are forced to resort to unsavory acts, such as selling girls to older men, familial rape, and narcotic addiction.” They also pointed out that “the instability and large foreign presence in Afghanistan over the past 15 years make it difficult for young people to develop and appreciate Afghanistan’s cultural assets.”

Read between the lines and those positive Afghan appraisals of U.S.-backed media are actually a grim primer on the broken promises and abject failures of the American project in their country.  But, for all the reasons mentioned in “Afghanistan Again?,” the latest piece by TomDispatch regular Ann Jones, author of They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars -- The Untold Story, there’s little chance it was read that way by the Broadcasting Board of Governors or anyone else in Washington.  Today-- In her latest piece, the always-intrepid Jones -- who witnessed the effects of the American war in Afghanistan firsthand over the better part of a decade -- takes stock of that once-and- future conflict and a military mission that seemingly never fails to fail.


© 2021 TomDispatch.com
Nick Turse

Nick Turse

Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com. His latest book is "Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan" (2016). He is the author/editor of several other books, including: "Tomorrow's Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa"  (2015); "Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam" (2013);  "The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyber Warfare" (2012); "Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050" (2012 with Tom Engelhardt); "The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives" (2009); and "The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan" (2010). Turse is currently a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. His website is www.Nick Turse.com

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'How Many More Deaths Must It Take?' Barbados Leader Rips Rich Nations in Fierce UN Speech

"How many more variants of Covid-19 must arrive, how many more, before a worldwide plan for vaccinations will be implemented?"

Jake Johnson ·


To Avert Debt Ceiling Calamity, Democrats Urged to Finally Kill the Filibuster

"The solution is to blow up the filibuster at least for debt limit votes, just as Mitch blew it up to pack the Supreme Court for his big donors."

Jake Johnson ·


Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·


PG&E Charged With 11 Felony Counts—Including Manslaughter—Over 2020 Zogg Fire

"PG&E has a history with a repeated pattern of causing wildfires that is not getting better," said Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. "It's only getting worse."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo