Did Sixty Minutes Engage in Deception in their Segment about Afghanistan?

Last Sunday, Sixty Minutes aired their clip of the 2001 defeat of the Taleban Government in Afghanistan. It was a good, positive clip that put to rest the false terminology about the US invading Afghanistan. This clip titled Ex-CIA Operative Comes Out of the Shadows featured CIA Henry “Hank” Crumpton who went to Afghanistan with a few people to topple the Taleban.

The story is what most people know. A few US CIA operatives assisted the local Afghan forces to fight the well-entrenched Taleban. How did they do that? The Afghan Northern Front was a veteran militia that knew Afghanistan and now they had US airpower. The Taleban forces were deployed out in open where they could be destroyed by American Air Force. It was like the Iraq war. The Taleban had no chance. So they withdrew, at least the Taleban leadership did into South Afghanistan or Pashtunistan, occupied currently by Pakistan. The US Airforce, the CIA operatives and the Afghan Northern Front could not pursue the Taleban into Pakistani-occupied territory.

The Sixty Minute clip also featured Amrullah Saleh, the previous chief of Afghan Intelligence. He cuts a very impressive figure and he is so by all accounts. So this Sixty Minutes segment painted a good, positive picture of the Afghan intervention.

Unfortunately, Sixty Minutes left out some key facts; like omitting the “whole truth” phrase from the oath one takes in court. They did not explain that the Afghan Northern Front was a minority militia, made up Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmen and many Pashtuns who were sick of the brutality of the Pashtun Taleban. But once Afghanistan was liberated, the US led coalition sidelined the Northern Front and awarded most of the power to the majority Pashtun. The US chose Hamid Karzai to lead the Afghan government.

The Afghan Northern Front did get a few key posts like the Intelligence department headed by Amrullah Saleh, a Tajik leader. Mr. Saleh was considered as a enemy by Pakistan and Pakistani supported Taleban.

In the recent rapprochement between Karzai and Pakistani Army, the Pakistanis demanded that Saleh be fired and Karzai fired him. So when Sixty Minutes showed this video last week, it became a misleading report. Sixty Minutes did not, at the beginning, inform its viewers that Amruallah Saleh was fired by Mr. Karzai and that he no longer has any role in Afghan government. Of course, once you know this, the entire segment loses its relevance.

The story of Saleh’s firing and his efforts to warn Afghans about Karzai’s dangerous gamble were reported in detail by the Washington Post on Friday July 23, a full week before the Sixty Minutes segment on August 1. The article titled Minority leaders leaving Karzai’s side over leader’s overtures to insurgents by Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post is a must read for any serious reader.

(Amrullah Saleh near his home in the Panjshir valley – Source WashPost)

Sixty Minutes also featured comments by Hank Crumpton that the tactics his team used in 2001 should be used now where the Taleban are hiding inside Pakistan. He expressed confidence that these tactics would succeed.

But Mr. Crumpton and Lara Logan of Sixty Minutes glossed over a major difference between now and 2001. Today, the US Airforce cannot operate inside Pakistani-occupied territory; it cannot bomb the Taleban forces inside Pakistan, the way it did in Afghanistan in 2001. Without massive US bombardment from the air, the Afghan Northern Front could not have succeeded in Afghanistan in 2001.

And today, without massive US bombardment from the air, no covert campaign against the Taleban entrenched inside Pakistan would have any chance of success. And the US airforce cannot bomb inside Pakistan without a war against the Pakistani Army. This, in short, is why the US effort in Afghanistan is at best a holding strategy and not a winning one. This is why today 40,000 US troops in Afghanistan cannot do the job that 8 CIA operatives did in 2001.

These facts were ignored by Lara Logan and Sixty Minutes. But then, that is how Commercial TV Journalism operates.

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