The war against the Taliban has gone badly these last months, but Afghanistan’s national intelligence agency has devised a secret plan to reverse the tide of bad news.
In a coordinated action this week, the intelligence operatives drove up to TV stations and newspapers in muscular SUVs and dropped off an unsigned letter ordering journalists to report more favourable news about the government.
In particular, the letter said, they should avoid “materials which deteriorate people’s morale and cause disappointment to them.”
The security directorate’s letter also demands special protection for the feelings of the mujahedeen – veterans of the 1980s guerrilla groups that fought Soviet occupation. Many mujahedeen leaders are reviled in Afghanistan for destroying the country in civil war after the Soviet withdrawal – but they regained positions of power by providing the ground forces that helped the U.S.-led military coalition topple the Taliban in 2001.
They are not to be criticized or called “warlords” – a common term in Afghanistan for the more powerful among them, it specified. And Afghans called back by Karzai from exile abroad to take posts in the government are not to be called “westernized.”
And who is really behind such moves?
Whatever the incident may mean about the maturing skills of Afghanistan’s CIA-mentored intelligence community, it is just more bad news for the 4-year-old independent press.